*This is generally a spoiler free review but for non-comic readers, there are multiple instances of character references that may give away too much*
It is clear from the very first scene that the Logan in this movie is unlike any we have ever seen on the big screen. Even though it is the year 2029 and he appears old and broken, it will still come to surprise at the immediate use of swearing and the heightened level of visualised violence. Wolverine’s history is soaked in blood but the films have never truly reached the upper echelons of pain and hurt he is truly capable of. So when we see his claw rip through faces and dismember arms, we are viciously reminded of what berserker mode truly means. There are no delicate angles or out of shot moments left to the imagination, this is James Howlett, this is Wolverine, this is Old Man Logan.
The storyline taken from the Millar run is well adapted, not in a faithful way but in a way that makes more sense and doesn’t add unnecessary weight onto Logan’s already heavy shoulders. That almost seems like a ridiculous statement given his deteriorating physical health and alcohol obsession, but trust me, it could be worst. He may still be popping his claws but his redemption is in looking after his most beloved friend, Charles Xavier. A mind that has aged and demented with time and tragedy, requiring medications to numb its power. This relationship is seminal to the film and is one of the most touching and nuanced portrayals I have seen in any format, especially with the solemn performances of Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. It is here that we catch a glimpse of an aged rapport, full of superficial anger and rudeness but underlying kindness and compassion. These are two actors, and director for that matter, that really understand these characters and what they mean to one another. The scripting is so simple and subtle that the words come truly from the regrettable confusion of an old man, and the painful duty of a wearied hero.
The cinematography plays an important part in highlighting the threat from afar. There are constantly moments of danger that require quick focusing and a measure of distance, especially in the desert and country scenes. It befits the western chase motif of the movie. The full blown rage of Wolverine is paralleled by the psionic fits of Charles, where the camera literally shakes as the buzzing reverberates in our ears. The inability to breath of the people in the scene is fully empathised by the viewer. The scenes are set in a real world without the clichéd hallmarks of an X-Men movie. We have seen these characters so many times before and witnessed all kinds of costumes and CGI, that this film is very much a deconstructed superhero movie. Which makes sense as it is set in the future where mutants are few and far between, devoid of hope, another borrowed idea from many an X-Men story. The Reavers are a suitable post-apocalyptic cybernetically enhanced set of bad guys but represent more the sins of the past catching up to Professor X and Wolverine rather than antagonists. In fact even calling these characters by those names falsely takes us back to a dream that really no longer exists.
It should come to no surprise that the young girl in this story is Laura Kinney, or better known as X-23 or better known as the clone offspring of Logan. Dafne Keen is genuinely surprising in her ability to portray such anger and fearsome terror of an assassin, whilst also capturing the innocence and warmth of a child. Her scenes with Patrick Stewart are a joyous piece of unadulterated innocent love. James Mangold takes the lost youth of a child and uses it without overstatement, for example Laura learns from mannequins how a child stands with her father. Combined with Dafne’s inquisitive and aggrieved expressions, it makes for amazing moments with a reluctant and uncaring Jackman. X-23 has a similar story to Wolverine, in that she was born to kill and struggles to act like a normal child. She is the not only the successor to the Wolverine moniker but also the heir apparent to his anguish and sins. That sentiment is borne out throughout the movie which is the main reason for Logan’s detachment from her. But when her temper takes control, it is obvious it is not just his genes she has inherited.
James Mangold deliberately divorces this movie from the comics, so much so that there are even X-Men books in this movie. They serve a reminder of a glorious age of wonder and fantasy where Xavier and Wolverine saved the day as a superhero family. Those stories are a fallacy and the real world is so much harder and full of pain. Logan cares for Xavier with the love of a son for his father, a relationship that forms the beating heart of the X-Men stories. Mangold, Jackman and Stewart devoted their performances to that seminal notion which brought such emotional drama to this film. Not only that but they took it further by introducing a daughter, lost, confused and in need of guidance. Logan’s determination and devotion to his father serves as an example to Laura, who never experienced such dedication except in the books she reads. This movie depicts the painful harsh reality of a character such as Wolverine, but simultaneously emphasises the hope a superhero can bring to the innocent mind of a child. I could never ask for more from an adaptation of a comic book, especially of a hero I had forgotten how much I loved.