REVIEW -LOGAN – Hugh Jackman returns as everyone’s favorite X-Man in the final film featuring Wolverine.
Right of the bat I’m gonna put it out there that I’m not a huge X-Men fan. The first two were okay, at best. The various reboots and spin offs have been intermittently entertaining. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has often been the best thing about whatever film we’ve been offered. And now he has provided the first truly great film – and perhaps necessarily the last – of the X-Men franchise. The reasons for its greatness is that it does its best to get away from the usually superhero/action movie grammar and concentrate on something old fashioned, classical even: character.
Logan is a limping, worn out figures. His eyes have the jaundiced look of years of alcohol abuse. He is a defeated man and a fascinating character – probably Jackman’s best performance ever. He’s caring for his aging surrogate father, who is waning away south of the border. Political resonance is rife. Not only for the border which features prominently, but for the healthcare system and the imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act, as Logan drives a limo to buy knock off drugs to treat Professor Xavier. When Laura – a young mutant with a terrible past – turns up in need of help, Logan finds himself engaged in a fight against an implacable enemy: essentially corporate self-interest.
Throughout the film, potential action scenes are discarded. We see massive combine harvesters and self-driven trucks and wait for them to be used in some way, but the film isn’t interested in them. Rather, it is in the hopeless twilight years of an age that sees solidarity give way to fear and repression. The victims aren’t only the mutants, it’s also the normal family who offer shelter and who are being bullied by a large agricultural consortium.
There is a deep pessimism to this view which is in no way mitigated by the heroics of the main character. The age for happy endings on the Statue of Liberty is done. And this pessimism links to the film’s avatar – the Western. Shane is explicitly cited as a model and it is testament to how good a film Logan is that it stands up to the comparison. The Western is not only about horses and cowboy hat and quick draws – all of which appear. The most enduring narrative of the great westerns is the end of the West. It is this elegiac awareness of a time that is dying, freedoms curtailed, spaces occupied, heroes dying out that closely links Logan to this tradition. Prof. Xavier used to run a school, Logan reminds us at one point. Schools! Remember them.
Of course, there’s hope in the future. But the film damningly concludes, as we cross another border, not in the USA.