Logan, Cert: 15, 137 mins approx, 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios.
It’s easy to forget that with today’s veritable menu of superhero or franchise blockbusters (my favourite genre) and their innumerable extrapolations of sequel, prequel, reboot and cinematic-universe crossover etc - it all began with X-Men. Since the early Superman films, they’d been lacking in popularity. That changed in 2000, when original X-Men director Bryan Singer, (helming four to date), made a surprise hit, reinvigorating audience anticipation. Its figurehead, was Hugh Jackman’s grouchy, adamantium-clawed Wolverine.
Logan is the ninth installment, as well as the latest of three standalone chapters, which focus primarily on his character, with Jackman having long-stated this is his last appearance in the role.
Critically lauded as the most impressive addition in recent years - it’s an almost radical departure: stripped-back, gritty, edgy and visceral. The saga’s tone has never gone this dark and daring before. While most audiences probably find this sudden change refreshing, with the cast saying: ‘It hardly felt like an X-Men movie at all’ - for me, that’s precisely the problem.
The regular X-Men films, canonically, not only feature all the mutants collaborating together, but also have spectacle, humour, action set-pieces laden with CGI, and consequently were so much more fun. I prefer them lighter and brighter, with more zip, pace, and that vital fantastical element foregrounded throughout.
Instead here, much of that is jettisoned, in favour of being so serious, paired-down, and extremely violent. Maybe not gratuitously so, but certainly unnecessary. Wolverine’s trademark slicing-and-dicing is still intact - but didn’t need quite so much blood - and occasional decapitation. It didn’t bother me personally, but the much publicised 15-rating is fully justified. Director James Mangold’s conscious choice to include both only intermittent action, and the briefest glimpse of super-powers, will suit some, and there are a few surprise twists. Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s shockingly frail Professor Xavier, hiding out in a Mexican dust-bowl, (a landscape aptly evoking the narrative’s themes of isolation), both give strong performances, as does Boyd Holbrook especially, as a slimy new bionic villain. ‘You’re not the only one that’s been enhanced’ he drawls. As good as it is, X2 or Apocalypse are so much more satisfying.
Rating: * * *