Since it began back in 2000, the X-Men film series has become a mess. It has tried to juggle a huge amount of characters, and as well as the resultant continuity clusterfucks, instalments like Apocalypse have ended up as unfocused and dull CGI-heavy smash-ups, big on epic spectacle but low on character stakes.
This year’s Logan attempted to remedy that by focusing on a small number of characters and telling a different kind of story. In a near-future where mutants are on the brink of extinction, the man who was once Wolverine (Jackman) lives in an abandoned smelting plant in Mexico, caring for old Professor X (Stewart), whose great mind is long gone due to Alzheimer’s. One day, Logan is asked to escort a young girl, Laura (Keen), to safety from the biotechnological corporation on her trail – for she has the same powers as the legendary Wolverine.
This sets into motion a journey across America that uses the visual cues of the modern Western much more than those of the typical superhero movie. In Logan’s worn-down settings, fights are violent and bloody, and heroes need to be tough and brutal rather than stylishly super. It’s fair to say it’s at the top end of its 15 rating – so as much as cinephiles may love it, keep in mind that this is not a DVD to be bought for the very young superhero fans.
What’s important, though, is that Logan uses its grim aesthetic to serve poignant character stories, the strongest in the entire X-Men franchise. Xavier’s Alzheimer’s is a particularly clever use of the superhero genre to tell a human story; it’s not the most in-depth cinematic exploration of the disease, but it works so well because we’ve learned to know the character over the years, and because of the sad irony of the world’s greatest mind falling apart.
But this is Hugh Jackman’s movie, really, his send-off to the franchise that has defined his career. His performance here channels every hard-drinking, gruff-talking gunslinger you’ve ever seen, though greater depths are revealed when he comes to bond with Laura. The trope of the cynical old soldier given new hope by a young mentee allows an edge of optimism to the otherwise grim film, and shows off an astonishing performance from Keen, 11 at the time of filming.
Logan, then, is low on epic spectacle but high on character stakes – the opposite of the X-Men franchise at its worst. It’s a grim but gorgeous send-off to this iconic character.
The DVD comes with an audio commentary by Mangold as well as six short deleted scenes; highlights of these are a downbeat take on the awkward family dinner with Xavier remembering Jean Grey, the young Munson boy quizzing Logan about Sabretooth, and one of the young mutants from late in the film showing off his Puppet Master powers.
LOGAN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JAMES MANGOLD / SCREENPLAY: SCOTT FRANK, JAMES MANGOLD, MICHAEL GREEN / STARRING: HUGH JACKMAN, PATRICK STEWART, DAFNE KEEN, STEPHEN MERCHANT, RICHARD E. GRANT / RELEASE DATE: JULY 10TH