|Rating: 9.6/10 (2,303 votes)
Director: James Mangold
Writer: James Mangold (story by), Scott Frank (screenplay), James Mangold (screenplay), Michael Green (screenplay)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook
Runtime: 135 min
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Released: 03 Mar 2017
|Plot: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.|
The X-franchise has been a bit of a mixed animal. Back in 2000, when the first film launched the franchise, and it could be argued kicked off the wave of comic book films that now dominate the big screen, it got off to a strong start. With a great cast, including the legends that are Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, one stand-out role became the linchpin to tie all the future films together – that of Wolverine, played deftly by Hugh Jackman, despite being around 1ft taller than the comic book character he was based on. The second film came and was stronger than the first, both in story, and in technicality – the cast all settled into their roles well, the director (Bryan Singer) now adept at catching the action. Then came the third film….and what a mess it was. The franchise was soft-rebooted, and the new films followed a similar flow – first good, second better, third awful! Meanwhile a sub-franchise had developed, casting light upon the character of Wolverine. In a bizarre twist the first of these films was awful, the second was not as bad, but still wasn’t a good film by any stretch of the imagination. Now, given the track record of the films’ third entry being the worst, this latest entry into that sub-franchise could have been a disaster. However, instead it is the best entry into the series, and possible the best X-film overall to date!
Set in the year 2029, mutants are all but extinct after a virus has wiped out the X-gene, and those who remain are a pale shadow of their former selves. Logan (aka Wolverine for those not clued in) is trying to eke out a simple life as a limo driver, raising the funds to get medication for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who is losing his mind, and his control over his powers. Hints at a devastating, and traumatic event in the recent past explain why they are hiding away in Mexico, with mutant outcast Caliban (Stephen Merchant) assisting them. However, their quiet existence is shattered when a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) enters their lives, pursued by the deadly Reavers led by the cyborg Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
Loosely inspired by the recent Old Man Logan comic book series, which portrayed an aging (and failing) Logan, the film also draws upon classic westerns such as Shane (which is directly referenced during the film), and has a tone and style to it which sets it apart from the core X-films. Gritty and sombre in tone, yet with some playful humour carefully inserted, the film is a road-movie, albeit one closer to Mad Max than Sideways, although with a touch of Little Miss Sunshine thrown in for good measure. More importantly it is a character piece, with some fantastic moments on screen for Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman to work together. We have only had hints of the relationship of pseudo-father and son aspect to the two characters in previous films, Xavier’s genuine care for the sometimes-feral Logan, and the underlying love and respect the pair both have for each other. In this film, we get to see how much the two really mean to each other, and the interplay between them is brutal, emotional, amusing, and full of a genuine bond. Patrick Stewart has always been good through the series, but here he is on perfect form, angry, confused, and determined. He plays the troubled, 90-year old Xavier with all he can throw out, his frustration at his failing powers leading to him lashing out at those who are closest to him, all the while trying to prepare Logan for when he is gone. The new player to the mix, the young Dafne Keen as Laura, a mutant with abilities very similar to Logan’s, could have easily been lost in the presence of these two greats. However, she not only matches them in on-screen presence, she manages to steal a lot of scenes out from under them. Serving as the heart of the film, the one which will give Logan a reason to care again, the character of Laura is tweaked for the screen in a different manner to the comic-book inspiration that spawned it, and for the better.
Anyone worried about action can breathe a sigh of relief as the film marks its territory from the offset when it comes to delivering the thrills, in an opening scene that sees Logan take on a gang who are trying to steal the wheels from his limo. In that opening segment we not only see how fluid the direction of the action is, but how brutal and feral it is. Gone are the clean cut-aways, and quick slashes to keep a low rating. Here we have full-on berserker fury, bloody, brutal, and deadly. Throughout the film, action crops up in beautifully choreographed ways, and should please those for who the slower pace of the rest of the film is a little too much.
After the vacuous, CGI mess of last-year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, this is a film that shows how engaging simple characters could be, and if this is indeed the final film outing for Jackman as Wolverine, then he can proudly walk away knowing he saved the best ‘til last.