Is Logan yet another Marvel movie catering towards the easily pleased masses? Or is it an example of superhero storytelling finally done right? Rebecca Orton guides us through the immortality of Hugh Jackman's performance.
Set in a dystopia where ‘mutants’ are nearly extinct and the infamous Wolverine is an alcoholic limo driver who needs reading glasses, Logan is a moving film with a storyline that resonates more closely with our hearts than most previous films in the X-Men series. This is no typical superhero movie, director James Mangold pushes the boundaries of the genre to construct a slower-paced film with themes of love, family, and the inner turmoil that often comes along with them.
Hugh Jackman’s performance is powerful as always. Jackman is Wolverine but, in Logan, he is a dying Wolverine being poisoned from the inside and struggling through daily tasks. Recently, in T2: Trainspotting (2017), we were faced with the arduous subject of ageing, a theme which also recurs conspicuously throughout Logan. As a topic that is generally avoided in conversation (who really enjoys talking about death aside from Wednesday Adams?) these films teach us to accept mortality for what it is. Wolverine is a shell of himself compared to his imposing dominance of the previous X-Men films, and for the first time in the franchise I feel like the audience is truly left uncertain as to whether or not he will survive each fight. He resents his immortality miserably, as Tithonus does from the Greek myth; begging and waiting for death. He cries “Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long.”
Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) himself is battling dementia and it is shocking to see one of the most omnipotent fictional characters suffer with a devastatingly common mental disease. The relationship between Xavier and Logan in this film is, for me, the most memorable part. Logan cares for Xavier like a son cares for his sick father. The relationship is one that remains intense yet familiar to so many people, with significant weight being added to its emotional punch when they are joined in their journey by child mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen).
Refusing to remain in the sizeable shadows of Wolverine and the Professor, Laura is a badass in her own right and Keen’s portrayal of her is duly outstanding. The intensity with which she pulls off such a deep character, despite her lack of dialogue, is both touching and memorable. Although unquestionably unique, Keen’s performance does provide an eerie echo of Lina Leandersson’s powerhouse display as the young vampire, Eli, in Let the Right One In (2008). The bond the three main characters share offers a touching and realistic representation of family love, with the majority of the film’s interest stemming from how this familiar sense of love is relocated in a dystopian world filled with fantastical challenges. It is this combination of realism and fantasy which sets the film apart from others in the same genre. Superhero movies are generally accused of being a tool of escapism, especially today where special effects and superpowers are nigh unavoidable at the cinema. However, Logan differs in that it does not provide an escape from reality: it forces us to face it. We are encouraged to love, with this being a much more significant message for modern society than the ‘chosen-one’ trope seen in so many films.
I recommend this film to both lovers and haters of Marvel movies alike, and if this truly is the last we see of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine on our screen: then I can happily say he has done the character justice and left on a rather triumphant note. This is a film about struggle and triumph, about life and death, yet it still stays true to the genre with truly exhilarating action and epic fight scenes. Logan is full of exciting action sequences guaranteed to significantly increase your heart’s beats-per-minute. And with its equally powerful emotions: it might just break it, as well.