17 years ago when you mentioned Hugh Jackman, you just thought of some Aussie actor who did some singing, and when you mentioned Wolverine you had the yellow-cladded masked mutant from the TV series and comics in your head. Now, 17 years later and you mention Hugh Jackman, you think of his portrayal of Wolverine and when you mention Wolverine, you see Hugh Jackman in his tough talking, adamantium clawed bearded buffness.
Something to admire regardless of your view on the superhero genre, Hugh Jackman delivers just what you have come to love from Wolverine since 2000’s ‘X-Men’, and a whole lot more. He’s aged, and he bleeds. He’s been on a journey from the start and Jackman has given nothing but passion to the role to help us invest in his final chapter. It’s a perfect marriage of actor to character, where they make the audience feel for them in everything they do, which gives ‘Logan’ the meat of its content; investing in the title character.
Sir Patrick Stewart returns as an older, frailer Professor Charles Xavier, again, there from the start of the journey for you to share it with. Stephen Merchant offers warmth and mild humour in his role as Caliban, a mutant dragged into helping Logan and Xavier, and our cybernetic mercenary Boyd Holbrook and dastardly scientist Richard E.Grant provide the villains who, thankfully, have more humanity than most and aren’t about destroying the world or creating a alien vortex – no excessive CGI destruction or dumb finale for these heroes and villains. Again, it’s all about the characters to make the results rewarding.
Director James Mangold clearly understands the characters, and wants to tell a story grounded in realism so we have real locations, production design and action as best we can. The dystopian future is devoid of flying cars or gleaming cities, and is instead very much as we see the world today bar a few more streamlined cars and auto-driving trucks. Mexico sizzles on screen with harsh oranges and yellows, while North America is full of bright lights, atmosphere and rich colour. It’s all very real and devoid of much CGI, which is a great non-distraction. There are few characters to follow, no blue-screen moments (bar a few dangerous backdrops) and no cheesy dialogue, in-jokes or abuse of CGI to distract you form this outing.
The story is not bad, it’s very predictable in places and a familiar narrative in general, but with a fresh-take on it being Logan’s journey. There’s not much to it besides getting from A-B in one piece, and the filler in between the action sequences is pretty standard. While Jackman gives us a bitter, harder and desperate Logan, that’s all he really can offer in the context of things, and after a while it becomes a little underwhelming. We know he struggles, we know he’s hurting and we know he’s not happy with his life…but this is drummed into us over and over again to the point where it just becomes boring to hear. In fact, it’s the others we take solace from like Xavier and Laura to see their freshly developing relationship, and Xavier’s current state of mind that hides a dark secret as a relief from Logan’s miserable outlook.
And many will be pleased to know this is an adult superhero film, and youngsters who are fans of the series will have hard being allowed to see and hear the content within. It’s like every graphic novel, video game and piece of fan art we have wanted for Wolverine now finally on the big-screen. Blood splatters and sprays. Limbs are noticeably cut off. Bodies are impaled, stabbed, sliced and shot. It’s a violent film, and not in a comical way. It’s gruesome when it needs to be and colourful with the language from most of the leading stars. In the opening 15mins we have enough violence and “f**k off”s or “f**k”s or “s**t”s to get it. This IS a Wolverine film we’ve dreamed about seeing, and a love letter to fans from Jackman and Mangold.
But, however, this leads me to my greatest problem.
The violence is, at most times, gratuitous and it gets boring. While a few sequences offer the surprise element, a few spoilt in trailers, we soon know what to expect. It consists of Logan stabbing and slashing and growling. The same sound effects are used time and time again to portray his claws slashing and the impale of flesh. It’s fast and frantic, but by the 4th time we are in an action piece, we know what to expect. I mean, yes it’s good to see finally, but I found it a little boring after a while and I knew what to expect each time, in a very predictable narrative.
Again, away from Logan it’s our Laura who is a real firecracker when she gets unleashed in all sorts of ways, and her secrets and surprises offer a bit of excitement and shock in an otherwise routine set of sequences. Mangold doesn’t shy away from what we see, and I think some will find it tiresome at points where it almost becomes a slasher horror film than a superhero film. But, then, Wolverine isn’t your typical “heart of gold hero” to cheer on, is he.
I can’t fault the performances at all, and if you’ve invested in the characters from the start then the outcome will be a welcome one. Most will like it, a few will not, but as it’s well known Jackman will retire from the Wolverine role, it’s HOW he does it that helps leave the role both closed and open. As I said, many will like it, some won’t.
I did like it, and away from all the fan-boy violence and rage we’ve wanted for so long which now just keeps piling it on for the sake of it, the real winner here is the heart beating inside our characters we’ve loved since 2000 and how they flesh out their last adventure together.