Logan, the tenth film in Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men universe, is a very different film from the average superhero fare. Usually, when we watch superheroes onscreen, they’re either just starting out or already in their prime, settled in the middle ground which both allows them to show off their skills to their best effect and maintain room for sequels. Logan, on the other hand, shows a character whose best days are long behind him, and who may in fact be nearing the end of his story – not inappropriate, considering that Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both bowing out of the franchise with this film.
In the year 2029, the X-Men are no more and new mutants have apparently ceased to be born. Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), is finally starting to show his age, with his healing powers significantly diminished. He now works as a limo driver around the US-Mexico border, while supporting his mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart); now in his nineties, Xavier is suffering from a degenerative brain disease which makes him prone to seizures and dangerous bursts of telepathic power. Logan’s only hope for the future is to escape to more secure isolation, but this is disrupted when a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), with mutant powers very similar to his own, is placed in his care. With Xavier in tow, Logan sets off on a long journey to deliver Laura to a safe haven, with sinister forces in hot pursuit.
While I’m happy with superhero films trying different approaches, I still wasn’t sure just how interesting Logan was going to be after seeing the trailers. Fortunately, it definitely provides a good, well-written story. I was getting some Terminator vibes as Logan and co drive through the wilderness, never quite sure how close behind them the enemy is. The background of what led the characters to their current situation is revealed in bits and bobs, with some details of offscreen events left deliberately ambiguous. And being set at this point in time, with Logan and Xavier shadows of their former selves, more tension and uncertainty is generated as to where they can go from here – as well as the rest of mutantkind, if it even still exists. The action scenes are also much more brutal than previous films; when Logan’s claws come out, people get skewered in plenty of bloody detail, while a few heads and limbs part company with bodies.
Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal of Logan is as respectable as ever, still showing off the old gruffness and ferocity, while also taking the character on a new arc. Logan has been at plenty of low points before, but now he’s really badly broken, unable to see any potential meaning in the rest of his life, and seeking just to buy a boat and hide away from the world he’s found himself in. And when a potential new purpose arises in the form of Laura, he’s reluctant to embrace it. Dafne Keen, who plays Laura, does an impressive job; given that the character doesn’t speak for most of the film (but does shriek a lot), it’s a mostly physical role. Once the audience has seen how dangerous Laura is when provoked, she generates a certain amount of tension even in her calmer moments – but she has an endearing side too, with her unfamiliarity with the world. Meanwhile, the film’s portrayal of Charles Xavier may be more challenging than previous ones, but of course Patrick Stewart pulls it off perfectly; Xavier’s illness leaves him confused and vulnerable, but his old personality hasn’t quite gone away.
Like most X-Men films, Logan isn’t really spectacular, but provides solid, engaging entertainment. Admittedly, given its cynical atmosphere, it’s worrying to imagine that this is the ultimate future for the characters we’ve been watching for years – though, given all the different timelines, who really knows? Rating: 4/5.