Oscar Nominee 2018 Review: Logan

Logan (2017)
Dir: James Mangold

Weightier than almost any other comic adaptation, Hugh Jackman finally gets to play ‘Old Man Logan’, a grittier version of this character that so many fans have long wanted to see.

Slowly poisoned by his metal skeleton, Logan (probably played for the final time by Hugh Jackman) is weakening, aging, and tormented by his past while taking on the responsibility of caring for his oldest friend, Charles Xavier, whose mental faculties are failing him. Offered a chance at some form of redemption by protecting a young girl with a very similar mutation to his own, Logan and his unlikely group of companions takes to the road.

Director James Mangold, who previously helmed ‘The Wolverine‘ which was a huge improvement from the first solo Wolverine film, is given far more freedom to explore the darker and more mature aspects of the character and his story as occasionally presented in the comics and graphic novels. The result is a very rough film, R-rated because of the brutal and bloody violence. While it always made sense that an accurate depiction of a man with knives in his hands would be bloody, this may come as some shock to those only familiar with the character from his previous appearances in the firmly PG-13 X-Men film franchise.

Let’s forget the title character for a moment, the standout performance of the film is Daphne Keene who is unbelievably fantastic as Laura. She has all the intensity needed for her role and manages to convey almost everything non-verbally as for a large part of the film her character doesn’t speak. There’s talk of her appearing in another film, maybe alongside other adult-friendly X-Men, which I hope she does, she’s too good in the role to just be used once.

Hugh Jackman is unsurprisingly great in his role. I think I’d go as far as to say he’s always good as Logan despite the varying quality of the film he’s featured in, though this is a clear change and one that suits him well. Jackman clearly relished the chance to do something different with the character and put his very best into it, something that came across in his promotional appearances and led to him ‘hanging up the claws’ as he can’t see a better way to end his time as this character. It’s a shame that we probably won’t see him in the role again, especially as this film shows us what can be done when the story is compelling, the writing is of a high standard and the characters are used in a way that makes sense.

Speaking of using the characters well, Patrick Stewart also raises his game to give the deeper role for his character the weight it deserves. We’re presented with a very different side to Charles Xavier, exploring the fascinating idea of what it would be like if the most powerful mind started losing his mental faculties. As he’s a beloved character already and especially when played by Patrick Stewart, his scenes are heartfelt and very emotionally powerful.

There’s a plot point in the film (I’m going to be frustratingly vague for the sake of avoiding spoilers) that contrasts the aging and grizzled Logan with what he was like as a more youthful Wolverine. For me, these scenes really didn’t work at all, that part of the film was enough to make me worry that it was going to totally lose me and turn me against it. I understand why it arises in the plot and it’s clearly explained in the story, I also fully understand what opportunity this part of the film allowed to show Jackman more youthfully and contrast what the character was once like to what he’s grown to be as we see him now, but it felt like a tacky throwback to the parts of the previous films that hadn’t worked well. Without doubt, it felt out of place in this gritty and well-rooted story, cheapening it quite a lot. So although it serves a purpose in the story and is so important in the film that you couldn’t now just cut those minutes out, I really wish the writers had found a completely different and less jarringly cringeworthy way of telling the story than that particular depiction of the character.

I’m not sure I want the future of this character on screen to follow too closely in the footsteps of this film, it’s a bit too brutal for my liking at times. However, I can’t fault the quality of the filmmaking or the writing. With the X-Men film franchise rights going back to Marvel, I hope they produce films of this quality with these characters that have been badly developed at times. The depth and powerful performances show just what a superhero film can be when handled properly.

‘Logan’ was considered to be in with a long-shot for a few Academy Award nominations. In the end, it managed to nab just one, being nominated for the ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ Oscar and making Superhero-film history in the process. I don’t think it will win, based on the result of the BAFTAs, though this wasn’t in that race, so maybe it does have an outside chance? I’d like to think so because we have seen some lesser films in the genre go on to win Academy Awards (yes that’s a dig at ‘Suicide Squad’) so it’d be great to see a film like this, that really might have had an increased chance at Oscars if it wasn’t about a superhero, walk away with a little golden man. 

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