I know a lot of people haven’t seen Logan yet, so I will be careful about any form of spoilers… which means this will be somewhat abstract. Nevertheless, I can give you my impressions.
First: as a film, it’s well shot, well composed, and well supported by a sparse but effective soundtrack. The performances are all solid, as one would hope from a troupe of experienced players. Patrick Stewart’s aging, mentally unsound Charles Xavier is genuinely sympathetic, tragic, and occasionally scary for the right kind of reasons. Hugh Jackman himself is living in the role he created — but for the first time, he manages to deliver depth, life, pathos and a real sense of tragic heroism, because at last he’s allowed to play the character and not the four-colour comic-book caricature. And young Dafne Keen is fine as the young girl who sets the story in motion and forces Logan to confront the world once more.
I wouldn’t call this a ‘superhero’ movie at all, however. The protagonists do indeed have superhuman abilities, and those abilities are at the centre of the conflict which drives the narrative… but there’s no spandex. There are no supervillains. There’s no threat to end the world. There’s just some well-known characters battling the same issues of aging, of fear, and of failure that all of us face. Their history as superhero characters simply means the situations they have to face are more dramatic and more action-oriented than yours or mine.
Nevertheless, it’s still a movie for the fans. The characters are more, not less, of the things you may have enjoyed if you appreciated them in the comics. The complex mythology is woven through the storyline, and the comics are both invoked and dismissed in a rather interesting fashion.
I’ll say this: I liked superhero comics when I was younger, and Wolverine was a favourite character because he was the first of these heroic figures who was allowed to be truly dangerous. Even the terrifying, brutal Incredible Hulk was always shown as wanting nothing more than to be left alone. Wolverine? He killed people. He was good at it, and because that was pretty much all he was good at, he kept doing it despite everything.
So when I say that this is the very first film to bring the Wolverine to the screen in any genuine, visceral way, you’ll understand what I mean. They didn’t hold back. The Wolverine of this film invokes and recalls the character at his bitterest, bloodiest, most brutal and determined — and that made me very happy.
If you’ve ever enjoyed Marvel comics — particularly the X-men — you should see this. But be careful: it will make it extremely difficult for you to enjoy the rest of the Marvel movie canon, because Logan is closer to the source, and truer to the characters than anything else Marvel has done. I’ve enjoyed the Avengers material… but Logan turns them back into cartoon characters.
If you’ve never enjoyed the superhero genre? Take a look anyway. You could treat it as a science fiction action film, and lose nothing in the result. Or you could treat it as a rare opportunity, a chance to see for yourself the stronger ideas so often buried in the four-colour wish-fulfillment fantasies of the comic books.
It’s not a perfect film. I found the pacing a little patchy, for example. And of course, it’s still embedded within the fundamentally silly superhero genre in its own way. But it’s the best superhero film I’ve seen so far, and for my money, the first to cross over and become interesting in its own right.
Oh — and if you’re a longtime fan of the Wolverine of the comics, I’m willing to bet you’ll be wiping your eyes by the end of the film.
I may even go back to see it again.