Hugh Jackman was never meant to be Logan, or his more popular alisa Wolverine for that matter. He was supposed to be played by Dougray Scott. Let that sink in for a moment. Let the horror and dread fill you at 17 years of Dougray Scott donning the adamantium claws. Of course in another actor’s hands the chances are Wolverine would have barely made it past the first X-Men movie back in 2000.
We partly have John Woo to thank that he did. For it was the over-running of the Mission Impossible 2 production that meant Scott had to drop-out and open the way for an actor who at that time was most famous for singing show tunes in stage musicals. These days it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Logan. And so it is with quite an emotional wretch that you go into Logan knowing that this will be Jackman’s swansong as the character. Believe it or not, that is a good thing.
When Logan opens we’re not in the colourful world of X-Men or even previous Wolverine movies. There’s no spandex here, no over-reliance on CGI, no wise-cracking Deadpool to lighten the mood. This is Logan stripped bare, right down to his adamantium infused bones, which happen to be slowly poisoning him. It could, on some levels, be seen as the death of the superhero genre, in the best way possible, though fear not, your box office dollars will continue to be milked by Hollywood’s current easy win.
No, here is a world where superheroes, sorry, mutants, have all but died out. The only ones that remain are in hiding with Logan plying his trade as a limo driver and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) holed up in a Mexican hideout due to him losing his mind, it therefore becoming a weapon of mass destruction.
And then we meet Laura (Dafne Keen) who might be the key to the continued existence of mutants and who shares similar abilities to Logan himself. With the military desperate to get their hands on Laura, she, Logan and Xavier set out on a road trip.
Logan is not your normal superhero or comic book film. It shares more in common with the likes of Leon or Little Miss Sunshine. A familial dynamic is quickly established with Xavier as the wise, but senile, elder statesman, Laura as the temper tantrum daughter and Logan as the reluctant father. And it works. Better than any previous Wolverine incarnation before it. But Logan’s most close sibling is last year’s Midnight Special, a film that smartly toyed with the superhero genre while skirting round the cliches.
Director James Mangold, returning after The Wolverine, isn’t ashamed to wear the film’s influences on his sleeve. The constant references to iconic Western Shane leaves little to question who Logan is in this world. Sure, he’s selfish, single minded and, more than anything, hurting. This isn’t the indestructible Wolverine we’ve come to know over the better part of two decades but an aging, emotionally and physically scarred man whose healing ability is fading. That’s right, Logan is human or nearly human. And with that comes a sense of investment in the character we haven’t had before, he’s vulnerable, he hurts, he limps, he needs reading glasses, every joint seems to be infused with arthritis. This is a grown-up Wolverine for a grown-up audience.
And therein lies Logan’s greatest strength. In the wake of Deadpool’s R-rated success Logan’s gloves are off. Not in a sweary, puerile way but in a violent, blood spattered and tear stained climax.
Make no mistake, this is the end of Wolverine as we know it. Jackman has said the claws are now retracted from his career. Yes, we’ll probably see a new Wolverine at some point but they won’t be as moody, they won’t hit as hard, they won’t be Jackman and they won’t be Logan. Few superhero films will be.