In 2029, Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Charles (Patrick Stewart) are hiding out on the Mexican border, when the young Laura (Dafne Keen) shows up, forcing the three mutants on the run.
Where 2013’s The Wolverine saw James Mangold pay tribute to Japanese cinema, this is distinctly American, combining elements from Westerns, road movies and even post-apocalyptic films. The result is quite unlike any other comic book flick. The closest that come to mind are Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, purely because they also deconstruct the superhero movie by setting it in the real world. In this film’s continuity, the X-Men comics exist, as does Freddy Krueger (mentioned in reference to Logan’s claws), which means it’s either set in our universe or the Elm Street universe. I prefer to imagine the latter as it suggests the possibility of a Wolverine vs. Freddy movie.
Like last year’s Blood Father, this is the story of a man being shaken from his lone-wolf lifestyle to care for a young girl; Jackman even looks like Mel Gibson in that film (it’s the Australian beard). There are also shades of Terminator 2 about the Logan-Laura dynamic and Marco Beltrami’s score, while the idea of a shady institution pursuing a kid with powers echoes Midnight Special. Except this film actually makes sense, and we care about the characters.
Jack Hugeman completely inhabits the title role once more, proving as comfortable doing heartfelt emotion as brutal combat – and it is brutal. Patrick Stewart is also wonderful, almost reprising his role from Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. If this is indeed the last time they play these roles, as they’ve announced, Jackman and Stewart have done Wolverine and Professor X proud. Meanwhile, Dafne Keen is silently strong as the diminutive-but-deadly Laura, while Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant make for an appropriately nasty pair of villains. Only Stephen Merchant sticks out oddly as Caliban, a mutant apparently from the West Country.
By focusing on these few characters and placing them in a vulnerable, realistic scenario, Mangold has made a surprising picture that will both satisfy fans and stand alone. Any superhero movie that ends without the destruction of a city or a bright light shooting into the sky or a fight against a robot (which let The Wolverine down) is refreshing, and the clear thinking behind the story and its understanding of the characters makes the ending feel earned. This is a grown-up comic book film that holds nothing back, either in its dramatic moments or its intense, splattery violence.
Appropriately for a franchise all about diversity, the X-Men saga is one of the most diverse in Hollywood; what other film series could contain both Sir Ian McKellen and will.i.am? Logan is another strangely individual instalment, and it’s unlikely to set the box office alight (partly because it’s not immediately obvious that it’s even an X-Men movie; people might mistake it for a Logan’s Run prequel or something). But even if you’re not into superheroics, get your claws into Logan – but only after listening to this John Finnemore sketch.