James Mangold’s Logan is one of the greatest superhero films ever made, telling a tragic, mature story about one of cinema’s most iconic characters.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been going through a massive comic-book phase, trying my best to read everything notable that I’ve missed out on over the years. One such comic that had somehow eluded me for years was Mark Millar’s “Old Man Logan” (2008-2009), a brilliant post-apocalyptic western that takes the classic character of Wolverine and turns him into a pathetic shell of his former self, giving us a mature and tragic alternate universe story. The comic would go on to become one of the defining Wolverine stories of the 21st century, eventually leading to the titular “Old Man Logan” crossing over into the mainline Marvel universe, so it was only a matter of time before it got adapted for the big screen. In 2017, it finally happened with the release of Logan, the third and final film in the Wolverine trilogy.
Rather than fully adapt the dystopian world featured in “Old Man Logan,” an impossible task given the sheer amount of Marvel characters that feature in the story, Logan decides to instead draw influence from Millar’s comics whilst also doing some of its own things. From its source material, it takes the initial premise of ageing Logan (Hugh Jackman) up and placing him in the Western genre, a striking choice that immediately separates the film from any of its contemporaries in the superhero genre. Like the comic, the film opts for a darker and more mature tone than past entries, resulting in a far more grisly and violent affair, complete with arms being sliced off and heads being decapitated.
Logan is not your typical superhero film, and I will admit to being taken aback slightly at the first sight of blood. It’s odd how standard superhero fare has conditioned me to expect these films’ fights to be so clean and polished, that when a film chooses the slightly darker route, it just feels odd, and the violence weirdly feels out of place. The violence luckily manages to never feel gratuitous or over-the-top though, typically being used very effectively to create some genuinely chilling scenes. That first fight, as low-stakes as it is, caused a genuine shiver in me simply due to how shocking the violence was.
Directed by James Mangold, the film follows the titular ex-superhero, now an aged taxi driver caring for his ill mentor Charles (Patrick Stewart), as he is reluctantly brought back into the superhero business, tasked with escorting a mysterious young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen) across the country. It’s a painfully depressing story, featuring several of these characters at their absolute lowest points. Charles Xavier, once a brilliant leader, can now no longer care for himself, suffering from an unknown brain disease that has caused his telepathic abilities to become unstable and dangerous. Logan himself is no longer the bad-ass action hero he once was, drinking himself to death simply just to numb the chronic pain caused by his weakening healing factor. A story as tragic as this would have been so easy to mess up, but every aspect of Logan combines together to tell it beautifully.
Hugh Jackman is the star of the movie and rightfully so, giving us a truly moving performance that deserved genuine Oscar consideration. This movie serves as his farewell to a character he portrayed for seventeen years, and he taps into everything for this performance, giving us a Logan who has seemingly given up on life itself but still wishes to do the right thing for the people he cares about. He sheds the character of his more pulpy, action-hero traits, instead converting Wolverine into an old badass, someone who the audience can genuinely take seriously and so as a result, take the rest of the movie seriously, which allows for the brilliant emotional beats to hit so much harder.
On top of Jackman’s phenomenal work, both Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen also give fantastic supporting performances. Stewart provides the film with some much-needed warmth and humanity in its colder, slower moments, whilst Keen is simply spectacular from start to finish. She manages to do it all here, not only playing a character who can’t speak for the majority of the film but also then completely nailing the more dramatic and emotional scenes in the film’s climax. It’s truly a breakout performance that establishes her as a force to be reckoned with, delivering scene after scene of not only tear-jerking dramatic work but also some brilliant physical comedy to cap it all off. She’s truly a jack of all trades and I cannot wait to follow the rest of her career.
Where I think the film does falter, though, is with its antagonists. Boyd Holbrook is having a lot of fun portraying the calculating Pierce, and he’s joined at the end of the film by Richard E. Grant’s Dr Rice, but they’re always consistently the least interesting part of the story, and it results in a climax that is, unfortunately, underwhelming whenever it isn’t focusing on the relationship between Logan and Laura. There are a few creative and exciting action scenes in the film, but there’s also a good amount that fails to leave any kind of impact. Logan is at its best when it’s focusing on its main three characters and the relationships between them, thanks to the phenomenal performances and the brilliant Oscar-nominated screenplay.
Logan takes the best aspects of Millar’s original comics and refines them, resulting in a heart-breaking and mature take on Wolverine that ranks among the best superhero movies ever made. It’s the perfect send-off to an iconic character, and I desperately hope that the upcoming Deadpool 3 (2024), which is confirmed to feature Jackman reprising his role as Logan, does nothing to taint its masterful ending. The film may not be completely devoid of shortcomings, but its screenplay may be the best to come out of the superhero genre. There’s truly nothing else quite like it.
Logan is now available to watch on digital and on demand.