Logan: The Wolverine That Dreams Were Made Of
Does anyone else remember Gamezville? You know, the self-styled urban youth appealing video game television show broadcast on the UK’s Sky One channel between 2003 and 2004? No? I’m not surprised. Aside from the Gamez Guru, one of my two lasting memories was that it was a big old puddle of cold piss staining the television schedule five times a week.
The other lasting memory is when they got members of the audience to review current games in a sentence or two as part of their ‘rough and ready’ broadcasting style. Of these reviews, one stands out. That one was X2: Wolverine’s Revenge. The reviewer in question said that while he enjoyed running around as Wolverine, he was very disappointed that every puzzle in the game was solved by smashing things up and using violence to resolve the game’s challenges.
What?! A video game that ignores puzzles and asks you just to hit things again and again? This was unheard of! Within a week, I was sat in my mate’s bedroom, hunched over a Gamecube controller and doing just that. Smashing, hitting, slashing. It was… magical.
Not that anyone agreed with us. X2: Wolverine’s Revenge was pretty universally greeted with a shrug. It was nothing special, reported the gaming press. Thinking back, yeah, it probably wasn’t all that. But it was the closest thing we had to a pure Wolverine experience – it was violent, it was fast, and screaming like a testosterone-fuelled bodybuilder stubbing his toe in order to get a strength boost was simply the icing on the cake. What’s more – this game offered us the chance to experience the blink-and-you-miss-it violence of X2 (2003) in the way we wanted it.
Forgetting the comics, the X-Men franchise always felt a little too gentle. Wolverine, in particular, often felt ineffectual when he was unable to use his adamantium claws on fragile, human flesh.
Fast forward 14 years and everything has changed. After a decade of comic book movies and cameo appearances, Wolverine is back again to confront the evils of the world. But this time? This time the gloves – and the muzzle – are well and truly off.
Directed and co-written by James Mangold (Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma, The Wolverine), Logan (2017) leaps ahead in time from the last X-Men film to the year 2029 where live, quite predictably, is pretty rough for the mutants. Wolverine – now James ‘Logan’ Howlett (Hugh Jackman) now subsists on the border of the now heavily fortified border of Mexico, and Texas, working as a chauffeur to pay for prescription drugs and supplies to keep himself, albino mutant-hunter Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and a dangerously ill Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).
How we got to this world is never fully explained – and I’d just like to say at this stage that I love this. There are hints and moments of dialogue to explain how the mutant race appears to have merely been a blip in the evolution of man. For all intents and purposes, mutants are extinct and those that did exist are long gone. In the graphic novel that inspired the story, it was as simple as ‘the bad guys won’. In the cinematic universe, things are rarely so black and white.
Small moments like Logan attending a funeral pass by without reference, while the overall look and feel of the film is one that would not be out of place in a post apocalyptic playground. Indeed, I had a real Max Rockatansky vibe coming off of Logan and the events surrounding him. This was in many ways due to the deliberate and often lamp-shaded references to classic Westerns, either by visual cue, narrative or by literally quoting them.
It’s a look and feel that is absolutely perfect for the tone of this film, and one that works well with the darker, more jaded character of Logan. He is as sick of his life as he is with the world around him – and he’s not afraid to tell everyone around him as much. When he is confronted by Laura (Dafne Keen), the child mutant that is on the run from standard comic book evil corporation, Transigen, Logan’s pessimism is quickly put at odds against the hope and optimism shared by Xavier and Laura, respectively. The music, too, adds to Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine. Deep, rumbling, like an animal ready to be unleashed.
Humanity, Hope and Buckets Of Blood
In my opinion, this is the real strength of this film. It is a character story that doesn’t need the baggage of the X-Men to sell itself. Logan and Xavier’s relationship is one of father and son, while Laura and Logan’s relationship grows to become one of father and daughter. As Xavier explains at length, Logan has been too removed from what it is to be human. Along the path of the story, Logan begins to understand what it is like to be a family – to be depended on, and to experience what it is he has missed out on for so long.
If I were to find any fault with this film it would be the need to rely on the more ridiculous elements of an X-Men film. Clones, cyborgs and evil genetic laboratories are all well and good, but they just felt like distractions to the emotional depth of the story. I realise they had to be there, but man, get on with it already. It reminded me in many ways of Maggie (2015). A zombie film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that in many ways did its very best to not be a zombie film, or indeed a Schwarzenegger film. There were also a few moments that felt a little, sudden. If you’ve seen the film already you’ll likely know what I’m talking about. Savage.
But then, of course, there’s the violence. Barely a minute into the story and we know that this isn’t the X-Men film you’re used to. Blood isn’t the worst you’ll see, but good lord you’ll see a lot of it. From the very first scene, I was grinning from ear to ear. One man sitting behind me cheered each and every time – and I was right there with him!
It wasn’t just the violence, every action scene was masterfully crafted. Don’t expect to see some perfectly timed actions by the characters, either. In the universe of Logan, you’re more likely to get your car stuck on a fence than you are to execute a perfect slow-motion manoeuvre. This isn’t a story about heroes at the top of their game, this is about the old, the sick and the dying clawing their way back to humanity.
It’s exactly the Wolverine I’ve been waiting for all these years.
And now it’s over.
Yours, A P Tyler
PS. Just prior to writing this, I spotted a very interesting article on the effects used in Logan – after the controversy of the motion capture effects in Rogue One (2016), it’s a very interesting read. You can find it by following the link right… here.