This is finally the Wolverine film you wanted. The Wolverine we have been promised and expected so many times before. This is not just a great addition to the X-Men franchise, this is a great film…
In case you didn’t notice I really enjoyed this film. This is the perfect goodbye to Jackson’s 17-year, 9-film journey as Wolverine. Marvel studios have achieved so much in their cinematic universe, but are yet to achieve such an iconic piece of casting that has become as beloved as the character itself (apart from maybe Robert Downey Jnr as Tony Stark).
The film takes place in 2029 where mutants are apparently extinct. Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is an old and battered former shell of his previous self. His mutant abilities are in decline as he heals much slower and even his famous claws are becoming less responsive. He makes a living as a chauffeur to pay for medication for the aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) whose once powerful mind is struggling with a dementia-like illness. Logan is boozing to ease the pain and keeping a low profile in a desert hideout, but trouble finds him in the form of a mutant-hunting mercenary squad led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) searching for a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) who has a set of familiar skills.
So, before I start praising this film too much it’s important to realise it isn’t perfect and has its flaws, minimal though they are. The film is more comfortable in the western genre than the superhero genre and just in case you didn’t realise the film hits you over the head with the metaphor by showing a clip of seminal western Shane. The other calling cards for this film, especially regarding Jackman’s performance, is Mickey Rourke’s broken warrior in The Wrestler. The film could also be described as a violent Little Miss Sunshine. Its biggest misstep is a stop-off on a family farm that is lazy storytelling detracting from the conclusion to a major X-men character. It doesn’t make narrative sense as our lead trio know they are being pursued, but the metaphor for the family life Wolverine could never have was obviously too irresistible to the writing team.
Deadpool opened the doors to X-rated superhero films being a marketable success, but the opening third of this film is like a toddler with a new toy and that new toy is swearing. A couple of times it makes sense especially allowing the gruff and gritty Logan a couple of nice “mother trucker” moments but it quickly becomes swearing for the sake of swearing.
Those small caveats aside there is much to enjoy and appreciate to not highly recommend Jackman’s last stand as the iconic mutant. The film sets its stall early with a violent fight that is allowed to have blood thanks to the 12A rating. The fight also introduces a more wounded and weaker Logan than we are used to. This story finally allows the famous berserker rage from the comics to be released in more than one way bringing with it plenty of surprises and spectacle. This is not just Jackman’s best Wolverine performance, but perhaps his best career performance. The withered and world-weary demeanour with eyes full of regret is simultaneously heart-wrenching and terrifying. The film for me is defined in one scene in the car with the young Laura where they are interacting for the first time dealing with loss and the purpose that links them. Logan is angry at being confronted about his shortcomings, but his little moments of warmth hit hard when they arrive.
This is Jackman’s film but the supporting cast also do a stellar job. Stephen Merchant is surprisingly not comic relief as Caliban, but earnest with a powerful arc. Dafne Keen is a revelation whose animalistic performance is spectacular, and as always Sir Patrick Stewart is a powerhouse whose professor is faced with an ailing mind that leads to the film’s best visual scene in a hotel. He is let down by the script , but this doesn’t detract from the pathos in his performance. The villains include Richard E Grant as a stereotypical evil British scientist. I would have been happy to see plenty more of Boyd Holbrook’s enhanced henchman who finally created a villain worth watching.
The film looks amazing, it is hard to believe the same director made the disappointing 2013 Wolverine film with its ridiculous CGI samurai conclusion. The studio shackles have clearly been lifted allowing James Mangold’s gritty and sombre tone to shine through. As he said on Twitter, the finale is not another “a city-block destroying GI F**kathon”. There are some well used CGI elements, but it is a satisfying finale to this iconic character who finally has been given the film he deserves.