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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Film review: In final outing as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman gives the perfect goodbye in Logan

Inspired by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan graphic novel, we find Hugh Jackman's character at his lowest ebb, working as a chauffeur ferrying obnoxious high-school kids around for graduation.
Dafne Keen, left, and Hugh Jackman in a scene from Logan. Ben Rothstein / Twentieth Century Fox via AP
Dafne Keen, left, and Hugh Jackman in a scene from Logan. Ben Rothstein / Twentieth Century Fox via AP

Logan

Director: James Mangold

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Richard E Grant

Four stars

“Charles, the world is not the same as it was,” mumbles Logan – aka Wolverine – in this final outing for Hugh Jackman as the X-Men’s claw-wielding mutant.

The action begins in 2029, in a scorched El Paso, and the future is anything but bright for this most troubled of superheroes and his ailing mentor, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).

Inspired by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan graphic novel, we find him at his lowest ebb, working as a chauffeur ferrying obnoxious high-school kids around for graduation.

His healing power is weakening, years of abuse are taking a toll and his once-distinctive mutton chops have been replaced by a ragged grey beard. Even his famous Adamantium claws ooze puss when they spring from his knuckles.

Working with a tracker mutant called Caliban (Stephen Merchant), whose skin is so sensitive it burns in daylight, Logan’s main task is finding the medication Professor X needs to prevent his mind-powers – now classed as a WMD – from paralysing everybody within a two-mile radius. With mortality hanging heavy in the stale air, it is all a far cry from their days battling Magneto.

The plot really kicks in when Logan meets Laura (Dafne Keen), a silent 11-year-old girl who seems to have powers rather similar to his own. Asked to take her to Eden in North Dakota, a safe haven for mutants, Logan is suddenly the centre of attention again – with a number of interested parties, led by scientist Zander Rice (Richard E Grant), after the girl.

Keen, a Spanish-American newcomer with dark, watchful eyes, is a revelation as Laura. Athletic and acrobatic, she is quite remarkable in the role. The script even finds time in the midst of all the action for Logan to parent her – teaching her not to steal whatever she wants in a shop. Such scenes make Logan stand out in from the average ­superhero movie.

Directed by James Mangold, who also helmed 2013’s woeful Japan-set The Wolverine, what impresses here – aside from Jackman’s soulful commitment to a character he has played now for 17 years, in nine films – is the film’s attitude.

Logan is no by-committee ­studio product aimed at selling merchandise or perpetuating further spin-offs – it’s a violent, tragic swansong to a much-loved character.

Right from the opening, as Wolverine takes on thieves raiding his Chrysler, the combat scenes are more bloody and brutal than seen before. Flesh is ripped, faces are spiked, skin is clawed. It’s not pretty but credit to Mangold for ­having the guts – freed from the ­restraints of ­delivering a film with a kid-friendly rating – to deliver a properly ferocious finale to the Wolverine story arc.

Admittedly, there is a derivative quality to proceedings, some of which is acknowledged. At one point, for example, Charles watches the 1953 western Shane, a film Mangold has already said was an influence. Logan also borrows plot points from Terminator 2: Judgement Day and even the not-quite-apocalyptic setting from Mad Max: The Road ­Warrior.

Still, maybe that is the point. Intriguingly, Logan finds Laura reading actual X-Men comics – discovering that this film’s plot has actually been ripped straight from one of those colourful Marvel strips.

It is a neat meta-twist, a hint that everything has its roots in something else – a theme that looms large throughout.

The set pieces are impressive, thankfully far removed from the CGI monstrosity that was last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.

A scene where Charles’s powers get out of hand in a casino, causing mass paralysis, is quite brilliant. Likewise, the moment where Logan meets his match – in a leaner, meaner version of himself – is thrilling.

The film doesn’t overplay its futuristic setting. Only high-speed, driverless “auto-trucks” careering down the motorway, lend a sense that automation is coming.

The world, like everything else in this film, has been keenly judged.

The perfect way to say goodbye to X-Men’s most popular ­mutant – or at least this incarnation – Logan allows the character to depart on a high.

artslife@thenational.ae

Updated: March 1, 2017 04:00 AM

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