Children of X-Men
Director: James Mangold
Running Time: 137 Minutes
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Elizabeth Rodriguez
After 17 years in the role, Hugh Jackman has put to rest his portrayal of the most popular X-Men character. For his swansong, James Mangold appears to have been given free reign, allowing a sombre and reflective story unlike anything previously seen in the genre.
It's the year 2029, and mutants are near-extinct. The healing abilities of Logan (Hugh Jackman) are dwindling, as he works as a chauffeur and drowns his sorrows in alcohol. He looks after an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), keeping him in hiding, until their paths cross with a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen). The first new mutant in a long time, she shares Logans abilities, and has a powerful corporation hot on their heels.
What's been delivered feels unlike the typical entries into the superhero genre. The work of director James Mangold feels closer to Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, detailing a story about the passage of time, aging, and the effects of violence. It's a fascinating direction to take the character in, feeling like a breath of fresh air, right down to the adult rating. Full use is made of this, with the inclusion of bloody action and swearing unlike anything we've seen the character display before. Considering the subject matter, the adding of these feels justified, and necessary to tell this story. Although, one can't help but feel more swears were included than necessary, just to make full use of the higher rating.
Newcomer Dafne Keen makes one hell of an impression in her first role. She threatens to steal the film out from under the franchise veterans, saying enough with merely her facial expressions and her body language. While Stephen Merchant does a fine job in portraying the Caliban, Nosferatu style make up and all, one can't help but feel he's more of a plot device than an actual character. The villains could have benefited from some stronger writing, coming off as rather forgettable.
But this isn't their story, it's Logan's, and Hugh Jackman does a phenomenal job in his (as of now) final performance as the mutant icon. Viewers bear witness to a completely new iteration of the well known character, tired of the hardships he's faced throughout life, with the weight of his violent past bearing down upon him. His primary goal is taking care of Charles Xavier, who's unlike anything we've witnessed before. Said to be suffering from a degenerative brain disease in world's most powerful powerful brain, it's a lethal combination Logan works to suppress. Patrick Stewart is more than capable of delivering this vulnerable take on the character, who's far from the School Professor we've seen him as many times before.
It's unfortunate that the final act fails to match what came before. Things feel a bit safe, as the proceedings revert to Hugh Jackman running through a forest, wearing a tank top. In spite of this, it never loses the emotional factor which has powerfully been utilised before. From the beginning moments to the very end, this truly is the solo story this character deserves.
One may argue it wasn't a difficult task, but Logan more than excels as the definitive Wolverine film. A fine sign-off to Hugh Jackman's time as the titular character, that's effectively solemn and contemplative. It successfully sets itself apart from other genre entries, while proving itself as one of the better recent superhero films.