Monday , October 23 2017

‘Logan’ a wholehearted drama – Jackman sheds tear for end of ‘Wolverine’ franchise

Left to right: Director James Mangold, Australian actor Hugh Jackman, British-Spanish actress Dafne Keen and English actor Patrick Stewart pose on the red carpet for the premiere of the film ‘Logan’ in competition at the 67th Berlinale Film Festival on Feb 17. (AFP)
 ‘Logan’, the third and final chapter in the “Wolverine” series (though it’s the 10th — count ‘em — “X-Men” film, and not necessarily the last), opens in 2029 on the outskirts of El Paso, where Logan (Hugh Jackman) steps out of the beat-up limo he now drives for a living to confront the goons who are trying to strip the car.

To say that Logan looks the worse for wear would be putting it mildly. He’s a drunk, with mottled skin and his trademark sci-fi muttonchops grown into a scraggly beard. (The beard looks like a virus that’s going around, as if Jackman were warming up to play Mel Gibson.)

Optics aside, it’s Logan’s mutant prowess that’s really been tamped down. In any previous installment, a skirmish with mere mortals wouldn’t have been much of a contest, but Logan’s razory knuckle-blades no longer pop with the same alacrity, and though bullets don’t kill him, he doesn’t quite bounce back from them either. (Later that night, he has to force them out of his chest.) Is Wolverine growing old? Yes, but it’s worse than that. After all these years, his admantium enhancements are poisoning him, a process that can be delayed with the right serum but not reversed. Then again, it would be understandable if he were also feeling a touch of “X-Men” fatigue.

As a movie, “Logan” takes a cue from its hero’s slowed-down metabolism of invincibility. Directed by James Mangold, whose last feature was “The Wolverine” (2013) — one of the most dynamic entries in the “X-Men” cosmos — the new film doesn’t try to be a shoot-the-works, how-crazy-are-his-powers grand finale. It’s a scruffy dystopian road Western that takes its time in a way that most slam-bang superhero movies don’t. And the analog pace and elemental story work for it. Each time the violence explodes, it’s slashingly satisfying, because it’s earned, and also because Mangold knows just how to stage it.

“Logan” doesn’t get lost in CGI overkill or annoyingly messy Tinker-Toy franchise plotting. It’s a wholehearted drama made with a shot language that looks nearly classical. It must be said, however, that the story often feels stitched together from other films, a quality made explicit when the characters watch an extended scene from “Shane” on TV. “Logan” isn’t as darkly exciting as “The Wolverine” was. With its hero suggesting a broken-down cousin to Mad Max, it’s like “The Road Warrior” meets “Shane” meets “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (yes, there’s a “bad” Wolverine). But that turns out to be a recipe that brings the saga to a satisfying close. Just about every fan of the “Wolverine” series is likely to feel well-served, and you can do the box office math from there.

Manages

The best thing about “Logan” is that it’s one of those movies about a grown-up killer who becomes the mentor and protector of a child, yet it manages not to be cloying. The kid, in this case, is 11-year-old Laura (Dafne Keen), a dark-eyed urchin of silent ferocity who comes under Logan’s wing (or maybe I should say his blade-claw). Wolverine, we’re told, is one of the only mutants left. In “Logan”, they’ve faded away and become cultural relics, and that’s one of the sources of Logan’s weariness. He keeps Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), now 90, hidden on a rusted-out farm below the Mexican border, where Professor X is subject to brain seizures that paralyze everyone around him by making the air molecules pulsate with menace. But then Laura shows up, dumped into Logan’s life by a Mexican nurse (Elizabeth Rodriguez) from a local clinic. She’s a mysterious girl, who says nothing but carries herself with a confidence that’s unearthly. She’s like a version of the Feral Kid from “The Road Warrior”. You could also say that she’s a chip off the old blade.

Keen, in her movie debut, has the orbs of a staring bird and an air of preternatural awareness. She could be the junior sister of Rooney and Kate Mara, and that’s because she holds the screen with her solemnity. Logan agrees to drive her to Eden, a utopian refuge for mutants in North Dakota — though, as he discovers (in one of the film’s few funny gambits), Eden originated in the “X-Men” comics, which in Logan’s mind means that it has to be a made-up place. For most of the movie, he, Laura, and Professor X are on the run from Dr Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his goons. That’s the whole plot, but Mangold strikes a nice balance between road-movie ambling and eruptions of feral suspense.

It’s Jackman who holds “Logan” together and gives the film its glimmer of soul. He has been playing this role, more or less nonstop, for 18 years, but he seems startlingly not bored by it. Better still, he’s a more refined actor now than when he started, and in “Logan”.

Hugh Jackman’s rip-roaring final turn in the “Wolverine” franchise premiered at the Berlin Film Festival Friday, as he admitted he shed a few tears saying goodbye to the juggernaut role.

Jackman, who first appeared in the role of The Wolverine from the Marvel comics X-Men series in 2000, said the family story packed a heavy emotional punch for him and, he hoped, the audience.

“When I saw the movie I was very nervous, knowing what was at stake for me and it exceeded my expectations. I looked at that character — there were some moments I cried, in weird places like carrying the child (Laura) back up the stairs”, he said.

“I can’t say I’ll miss him because it’s difficult to describe, it’s not going anywhere for me. It will always live here. The fans will remind me every single day of my life whether we got it right or wrong”. (Agencies)

Stewart said the resonance of the picture’s themes had grown stronger during production.

“We did not set out to make a political movie and yet there are references and echoes in this movie that could not have been anticipated but exist today”, he said. “That is serendipity”.

Jackman also saw the story as prescient.

“We were talking when we got down to set — a year before any of those debates happened — the whole wall and the scenes at the border were in our script and it was kind of amazing”, he said.

Writer-director James Mangold said that the ultra-violent movie, rated adults only, was intended to delve into mature topics even though many of its cast are kids.

According to a majority of critics, “Logan” does a solid job at rounding out the standalone trilogy of Wolverine films. Critics widely commended Jackman’s ability in refining the character over the years, embracing the fact that despite his powers dwindling away, Wolverine maintains credible superhero status even as he tussles between embodying both man and mutant.

“Seamlessly melding Marvel mythology with Western mythology, James Mangold has crafted an affectingly stripped-down stand-alone feature, one that draws its strength from Jackman’s nuanced turn as a reluctant, all but dissipated hero. That he rises to the occasion when a child is placed in his care is the stuff of a well-worn narrative template, yet it finds a fair level of urgency in this telling said Sheri Linden”.

“Whether or not the ‘Wolverine’ movies have a future — Jackman swears this is his last go-round — ‘Logan’ is an exceedingly entertaining one. Given that 2016 gave us the rollicking and raunchy ‘Deadpool’ and the bafflingly boring ‘X-Men: Apocalypse”, it seems like a no-brainer for the mutant movies to get wild and crazy if they want to survive. This outing feels like a step in the right direction said Alonso Duralde”.

“’Logan’ is a Marvel movie with a bit of soul and some true grit. Presumed to be the final outing for Wolverine, it plays more like a late period John Wayne western than it does like a conventional superhero film said Geoff McNab”.

“Logan is a punch in the gut in all the right ways. Onscreen, the X-Men series has always found ways to morph and expand, from time-traveling fantasy to social allegory to political thriller. And it’s done so as other comic-book franchises have ossified, with the DC movies (foolishly) doubling down on flamboyant gloominess and Marvel proper (lucratively) committing to jokey spectacle. Constant redefinition may be more risky financially — you never quite know what you’re going to get — but when it works, it can be beautiful. (Agencies)

By Owen Gleiberman

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