A film that no doubt many people will be journeying to cinemas to see this weekend so what better time to take a look? The film that bids a fond farewell to Hugh Jackman’s 17 year portrayal of Wolverine, he may be older and perhaps not as agile but he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Caring for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and earning a living as a limo driver, things are somewhat simple until a young mutant (Dafne Keen) arrives on the scene ready to throw Logan back into a world much more complicated.
It’s a strange anti-climax to have seen so much action, adventure and attitude from Jackman’s Logan over the years to find him driving a limo and making a normal living, okay so maybe the attitude is still there. The Logan we see now is a world away from what you remember, we’re slightly further into the future and time has not been ultimately kind to him, it has worn him down and left him lesser. Not the only big change you’ll see as first chance he gets, those claws are back out and not playing nice, many a head is spiked and a few limbs relocated a few inches from where they should reside. It doesn’t take long to see that the franchise has taken a turn for the (ironically) real, throwing in a higher age-rating and adding in much more violence and grit, something which Jackman’s character had been screaming for and it is a much welcome change. He’s not the only one who’s changed, Stewart’s Professor X has lost the sharp mind he’s renowned for and become more patient than professor, cared for by Stephen Merchant’s Caliban (previously played by Tómas Lemarquis in X-Men Apocalypse). Merchant may have sounded like a strange choice, minus the thin and pale nature, to begin with but his part is quickly established, surprisingly good and a great addition to Jackman and Stewart.
Then we meet the mutant that is about to turn their worlds upside down, Laura (Keen) and the reaction is not quite the same, she does not speak and the consequence is she struggles to make much of an impression. The lack of speech was an understandable choice and she does still make an impact with a fair amount of carnage and lack of restraint but more for entertainment value than any character connection or sympathy. In lies an inherent problem with the film, it’s reliant on a relationship between Logan and Laura, one that takes until far into the latter stages to become effective and it is a little too late by then. Forgetting all that for a moment, this is the Wolverine film audiences deserve, by comparison to the other poor attempts this is the holy grail, it finally gets to reflect the tone of the character and does not try to pull its punches to be able to reach a wider (younger) audience. The film feels more like it has a general threat than any particular villain, Richard E. Grant and Boyd Holbrook (whose name sounds like he should be in a teen soap) are not particularly threatening, not against a hero that we’ve been watching kick ass for years, even in his older state.
Hugh Jackman gives his strongest Wolverine performance to date that would be a worthy part in any drama let alone a comic book movie, it’s the character we know and yet there’s more to him, more for audiences to enjoy with a focused, strong and singular story, undiluted by overflowing numbers of characters or multiple objectives. It’s almost a shame the series didn’t start with the tone you see in this film, it’s understandable from a business perspective why they didn’t, studios wouldn’t have taken the risk but it’s much more suited and enjoyable, less pretty or colourful and more jagged and real. It may not be a deep, emotional conclusion, it struggles to get far with the sentimental aspect but it blows every other Wolverine film out of the water, ten times over and sheds plenty of blood in the process.