It’s a time weary, sobering thought that Huge Jackman has been playing the popular Marvel comic book character of Wolverine for 17 years. Through something like eight films, since the initial inception of this titanic cycle of millennium activated Superhero franchise movies that have dominated modern Hollywood cinema his cameo appearances (I can’t be bothered to research the specifics at this point, we have bigger prey to pursue) and starring roles have forged an indelible association between an actor and a vivid popular culture character, although I think he has managed to evade the typecasting that usually shadows such symbiosis. Being some sort of twisted wreck I quite liked the last Wolverine picture, it worked as a molecular mustering of comic book yore, rather than an automatic feed of the franchise beast which director James Mangold has returned to for this serrated swan song that definitively closes this curious cinematic cycle. That said I wasn’t particularly enamoured of this film from it’s previews, I like Jackman in the role that he has inhabited with a necessary ferocious intelligence for almost two decades, but since I have enjoyed previous issues and with time to kill before another exhausting stint at the BFI I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about. Bub.
Good Galactus groaned grief true believers, what a sombre and glum film, where the marginalised and oppressed are yearning to flee America rather than seek their freedom under liberty’s enveloping wing, make of that what you will under the current Asmodeus attuned administration. Professor X (Patrick Stuart) is writhing in the middle stages of dementia, nursed by glum albino Caliban (Stephen Merchant, surprisingly effective) in a scorched Mexican industrial estate, complete with oppressive Border barricade, while Logan works as a Chauffeur to fund the acquisition of the black market pharmaceuticals that can dilute his mentors murderous mania. Logan has his own demons to grapple with, he’s drinking like a docker on a December pay-day, while his own healing power appears to be waning in what is subtly suggested as a 2029 future world where the mutant threat has been slowly extinguished via some slow, yet irrevocable epidemic. The antagonists are engineered by a secretive government cabal known as The Reavers whom are intent on capturing their incendiary intellectual property in the form of Laura, an advanced future generation X-Weapon (Dafne Keen, deviously destructive) whose paths cross with Logan during a particularly clumsy screenwriting symbiosis. Prof X sees her as a potential saviour, Logan ain’t convinced and resists the initial mission, with the inevitable thawing of treatment….
Once this future world is uncertainly established Logan cantors through a quest narrative, of reaching that elusive El Dorado sanctuary with the villains nipping at our heroes heels, so as such it is evidently a Western graced with a superhero simile, rather bluntly blasted through images of texts such as Shane and other traditionals of the Western genre grammar – a saving of the innocents, navigating new moral and mortal pathways, an inevitable, saviour sacrifice along the pioneer path. This blunt force narrative trauma aside I did admire how the attention was focused on character and development rather than somersaulting a script through to the next set-piece carnage, and tellingly the villains are non-descript (this is a Marvel picture after all) as the emphasis is firmly placed on the dying of the light, with a new generation of mutants, of ‘others’ being shepherded to solace, and the sacrifice required by the current generation in achieving a new nirvana. Still, Logan was however rather jagged and erratic in its storytelling in the early acts, a little uncertain and uncomfortable so I was much more exasperated than excited in seeing where this story – which instantly reminded me of one of those one shot What If Marvel series rather than canon cemented certainties – could do justice to these characters and their complex histories. Seeing a damaged, fractured Prof X and Wolverine engaged in a smaller, focused, daily domestic struggle is quite another experience than the usual world threatening melee of this genre, and curiously works far more emotionally due to its smaller intimacy.
Being an R rated film – again kudos to Jackson, Mangold and the team who insisted on the more adult attuned algorithms which one assumes wouldn’t have melded with the studio until the international success of Deadpool – the movie is fairly ruthless on the impact of admantium claws on mere mortals, with all the beheadings, eviscerations and chaos soaking the carefully coloured set pieces like a crimson chaffed grenade chain detonated in a charnel house. When little Wolverine gets to strut her stuff, a genetically manufactured cyclone of aggression I was amused, with no lip service paid to the catastrophic carnage that her quest leaves in its wake – the young are understandably aggravated. Finally, there is one little touch, a little moment which was very nicely done, just a little adjustment which made me grin as it respectively mourns the symbolism of the past 17 years of character lore. Some UK Marvel fanatics have had their noses punched out of joint due to the lack of the post credit Marvel stinger which has been excised from the European cut – I didn’t see it either at this screening – but please, get a fucking life, as expressed through this picture, is too fucking short. Heck, I’m quite surprised I’ve wrangled an entire review out of this, I wasn’t particularly engaged through 65% of this movie, but as I’ve put this together I’m more appreciative of Logan’s ambition and final resolution of this phase of Marvel’s cultural continuum. Recommended, but not Xssential;