Review: Logan

Eliza Dickinson 9 March 2017

In a world of blockbuster Marvel ensemble pieces and parody Lego superhero movies, Logan stands out as something strikingly different. Unlike the most recent X-Men films, there is no big threat to the world, no city-destroying battle scene, and no big romance. It is a smaller film, but all the more powerful for it, as its characters grapple with love, loss, and tragedy.

Rather than focusing on Wolverine, the X-Men comic book hero, the film focuses instead on Hugh Jackman’s Logan, the man struggling with the deterioration of his health as his own body betrays him. Similarly, Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier is presented not as the all-powerful Professor X, but as a man whose age has caught up with him, with illness turning his brain into the world’s most dangerous mind.

The two mutants are stagnating at the beginning of the film, trapped by their own design in a hideout just over the Mexican border, with only the light sarcasm of Stephen Merchant’s Caliban to lighten the mood. Logan drinks to hide from the fact that his wounds don’t heal like they used to, while Charles resents being imprisoned in the hideout for a crime he cannot remember. But with the arrival of Laura, a young mutant played by Dafne Keen, action and life is immediately thrown into Logan’s quiet world.

It is revealed that Laura is running from the scientists who made her: Boyd Holbrook’s harsh and manipulative Pierce, and Richard E. Grant’s creepy Dr. Rice. This returns to a common superhero theme – the engineering of mutants for dubious purposes. It is a subject that is revisited in a big way later in the film, with the genuinely shocking introduction of Dr. Rice’s ‘weapon’ in the second half.

The relationships between Logan, Charles, and Laura make up the bulk of the storytelling, with Logan and Laura being far more similar to each other than either had first anticipated. The film is gritty, but it is also very emotional, and Hugh Jackman is really able to show off his acting prowess as Logan’s tough exterior is gently peeled back over the course of the movie. Laura is also very endearing, as the girl raised in a lab is finally able to express herself and find a family.

Of course, there are still plenty of dramatic fight scenes (and a lot of swearing), even if they are not the main focus of the film. They’re fantastically choreographed, with a particular highlight being the stretch-limo car chase as Logan, Charles, and Laura attempt to escape their pursuers. The film’s climax is also especially intense, as the audience is aware of the toll that its events have taken on the ailing health of Logan, and the sacrifice that is involved.

Logan presents an unforgiving world, but also one in which there is a glimmer of hope. While the older mutants are past their prime, there is a new generation who are able to carry on their legacy. Having escaped from their lab, Laura and the younger mutants are a breath of fresh air in the X-Men franchise, which has been saturated with the same characters for too long.

This is a film that was designed to be different, even choosing to eschew the traditional post-credits scene (much to the amusement of the roughly 25 people who chose to remain in our seats in the cinema, only to be greeted by a blank screen at the end of the credits). It shows that there is still a place for small emotional journeys within the big superhero franchises, and hopefully its success will encourage the studio bosses to make more films like Logan.