“Right or wrong, it’s a brand,” Alan Ladd’s Shane philosophises in the western which bears his name. “A brand sticks. There’s no going back.” The line has been included in Logan, the widely reported farewell to Hugh Jackman’s beloved mutant, and it is a notion that has reverberated throughout his entire tenure of the claws: is the Wolverine beyond redemption?
From the opening scene, Logan hurries with a proud sense of popular culture gravitas, not unlike that found in a regeneration episode of Doctor Who. Sure, the Wolverine will return – these characters always do – but not this version, not like this, so enjoy him while you can. Jackman’s own comments aside, every gory fibre of this movie screams: “This. Is. It!”
The story is probably the most simplistic of the three standalones – enjoyably so: this is the comic-book version of 2006’s Children of Men. It does not boast any section quite as visually inventive as The Wolverine’s breathless train-ride sequence, but it offers ten times more elsewhere. The screenplay is stoic and violent, living up to every R-rated promise that has persisted since the film’s announcement, but its gift is Dafne Keen’s powerful debut as Laura (or X-23); simultaneously as Bambi-like as she is Damien-esque. Keen doesn’t simply steal the scenes she is in. She earns them.
But Logan’s importance comes through being a boldly unostentatious affair, a mature antidote to the worst excesses of the caped genre. James Mangold has framed this final Wolverine tale around individuals, a family, rather than the grandiose.
This is not a battle for the fate of the universe. It’s a fight for the life of a little girl and the soul of an ageing man. Logan is fan-servicing, bloody, and a rather beautiful epitaph to Jackman’s work.
CAST: Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Patrick Stewart
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
WRITERS: Michael Green and Scott Frank & James Mangold (screenplay); David James Kelly & James Mangold (story); Roy Thomas & Len Wein & John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe (character)
SYNOPSIS: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hideout on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.