The Wolverine always disappointed me.
I wanted him to be this rage-ball character, turning the screen crimson with the corpses of his enemies, in full 18-certificate glory. Instead, he’s spent too much time with his spandex-men pals. Too many hairdos. Too many silly names.
In Logan, he finally gets a shot at redemption, in what amounts to a Western – with adamantine claws and genre sauce.
Hugh Jackman has played the weaponised mutant for 17 years now. The actor is pushing 50 himself. So it’s fitting we find the character in 2029, washed out, alcoholic and racked with pain; living in what appears to be an old factory on the Mexican border. He is driving an Uber (!) to pay for Charles Xavier’s (Sir Patrick Stewart) meds.
Old Professor X is in his 90s, his once all-powerful mind both frail and likely to kill people closest to him through deadly seizures. Bizarrely, the ailing old heroes are looked after by an albino nurse called Caliban, played by Stephen Merchant in his normal English accent. Fans of Merchant will find this a bit like seeing Ricky Gervais turn up in a Superman film, jarring at first. Sound casting in the end, to be fair to the actor from Gloucestershire.
The set-up is simple. A mysterious young girl (Dafne Keen) comes into Logan’s life, bearing signs of rather familiar mutant qualities; and in dire need of help. Of course she is pursued by sinister figures from the military, led by a tattooed douchebag with a robotic hand (Boyd Holbrook).
James Mangold directs proceedings, which is an excellent choice. He’s both a heavyweight with actors (after Oscar-friendly credentials in Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted), and someone who really gets the Western aesthetic. I was reminded of Cop Land, the New Jersey-set thriller that puts up Sylvester Stallone as a John Wayne figure, in a terrific turn. Jackman is the better actor of course, but Mangold encourages him to do more with Wolverine and gives the film uncanny visuals, and a grainy look which really sets it apart from the chrome dullness of many X-Men films.
Logan feels refreshing, even when the final act grips you with a sense of grim foreboding. This one works on a character level, even if the mutant lore and super-antics are not your bag. It even has some of the rage and gore I was after.