Logan, film review: 'Soul, grit and more heart than you’ll find in almost any other superhero movie'

(15) James Mangold, 137 mins, starring: Hugh Jackman, Boyd Holbrook, Patrick Stewart, Doris Morgado, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez

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The Independent Culture

Logan is a Marvel movie with a bit of soul and some true grit. Presumed to be the final outing for Wolverine, it plays more like a late period John Wayne western than it does like a conventional superhero film.

There is Johnny Cash music over the end credits and several references to classic old cowboy yarn, Shane.

Logan/Wolverine is played with considerable pathos by Hugh Jackman as a long in the tooth, Rooster Cogburn-like outsider, summoning up his old powers for one final battle.

The most surprising aspect of the film (and presumably the reason it is among the first superhero films to secure a berth in official selection in a festival like Berlin) is the attention it pays to character.

There is plenty of eviscerating action here, with Wolverine's scissor hands impaling enemies and tearing away at their flesh, but much of the movie is about his relationships with his father figure Charles/Professor X (a bedraggled Patrick Stewart who looks as if he has stumbled out of a Harold Pinter play) and the young mutant Laura who may be his daughter.

This is ostensibly a sci-fi yarn set in the near future but it unfolds in traditional western locations - across the border in Mexico where the professor is hiding out in the desert - and in North Dakota, where Laura dreams of finding an "Eden" for young mutants like herself.

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Logan himself is in a very sorry way at the start of a movie. He has a dead-end job as a limousine driver.

He is a drunk, prey to extreme self-pity, has a bad cough and shambles along in a narcoleptic daze.

He has no desire whatever to be reminded of his past. If he is a hero, he is a very reluctant one.

“Guys, seriously, you don’t want to do this,” he warns the petty thieves trying to vandal and steal his car.

There’s an old-fashioned pleasuree in seeing the tramp-like figure eventually stand up to the bullies.

Jackman enjoys playing the jaded old cynic, someone who dismisses his old adventures when he sees them recorded in comic strips as fantasy fare, “ice cream for bed wetters”.

There are reasons why he doesn’t like to display emotion. “Bad shit happens to people I care about,” he grumbles at one stage.

Logan - trailer

There are two main villains here. The most obnoxious is Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a sadistic blond-haired cyborg with a very sarcastic wit. The most sinister is the horribly unctuous and politely spoken scientist Dr Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), who oversees the Mengele-like experiments that are being conducted on the new line of young mutants.

“Don’t think of them as children, think of them as things,” he instructs his underlings.

Comic relief of a sort is provided by Stephen Merchant as Caliban, the albino mutant who can’t stand bright light.

Merchant plays him with a slight West Country accent which makes the character seem all the stranger.

The film develops into a road movie, with Logan, the mutant girl Laura (Dafne Keen) and the wheelchair-bound Charles travelling cross country. Thankfully, director James Mangold doesn’t try to make the girl too appealing.

As played by Keen, she is feral and brattish, shop lifting sunglasses and refusing to talk. Only very slowly do we get a sense of what is driving her and why she behaves in the truculent way that she does.

Logan treats her with brutality but we quickly sense his affection for her.

Given the emphasis on family ties, there is a very high body count. Some of the most sympathetic characters are killed off in a trice.

The action sequences in which the mutants uses their other wordily powers to cause maximum death and destruction sit uncomfortably next to the more soulful scenes in which Logan and his fellow travellers reflect on their past lives and on what ties them together.

As if to underline that Wolverine’s biggest enemy is in the mirror, the filmmakers throw in extraordinarily vicious fight sequences between Wolverine and a younger, more psychopathic version of himself.

Inevitably, a certain mawkishness creeps in to the final reel that not even Wolverine’s razor sharp fingernails can scrape away.

The film has a self-consciously elegiac air.

Audiences looking for wham bang action may find Logan a little downbeat but there’s more heart here than you’ll find in almost any other superhero movie.

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