Back at the beginning of the X-Men series, Hugh Jackman was seen as an odd choice for the role of Wolverine: a fresh-faced musical theatre actor, spotted by the director in a stage version of Oklahoma in Sydney. But Jackman quickly made the role his own and has been a firm fixture of the franchise ever since. Logan marks his ninth, and likely final, film as Wolverine, and if this is to be Jackman's final film in the series it proves a fitting finale, powerfully exploring the role of the hero in modern cinema.
The versatility of Jackman's Wolverine lies in his ability to comfortably fit into the wider mutant ensemble as well as carry a solo film. Whilst neither of his previous solo films particularly stood out, in Logan he is finally given the material to do justice for a much-loved character. When the film begins Wolverine, going under the name Logan, is a broken man, hiding as a chauffeur and caring for an Alzheimer's ridden Professor Xavier. The X-Men are long gone and there have been no new mutants for decades. Logan's past returns in the form of a child with a very familiar gift, which sets up one final fight for our hero. It is in this framework that director James Mangold deconstructs the figure of the superhero. In a saturated sub genre it feels refreshing for a film to slow down and explore the very concept that is its bedrock.
Logan is closer in feel to a modern Western, and Shane plays a key role in the film's final scene. The film shifts away from the more ridiculous elements of the X-Men series that have undone previous films (see Apocalypse, The Last Stand) retaining a grounded feel throughout. This does not prevent the film from embracing genre trappings, from biomechanically-enhanced henchmen to displays of various mutant powers. Logan is not short of action and, as shown in The Wolverine, Mangold has an eye for clear, kinetic set pieces. Just because Logan wallows in a downbeat tone doesn't mean it lacks the necessary thrills to be an enjoyable watch.
The influence of Deadpool is felt in the film's violence, with the impact of each stab, shot and punch viscerally felt. It shocks because this is not what you expect from a mainstream superhero movie, a subgenre that often chooses to shy away from the impact of the violence so prevalent in it.
Hugh Jackman is staggeringly good, as comfortable in the film's quieter moments as he is at hitting the action beats. The remainder of the cast are finally tuned, with three, in particular, standing out. Boyd Holbrook (Narcos) makes a deliciously slippery henchman, Patrick Stewart is outstanding as the mentally crippled Xavier, and Dafne Keen is a talent to watch as the new mutant under Logan's care. But this is Hugh's show and he is the best he has ever been in the role.
Logan is a superhero film that stands out, managing to cut through the overly saturated subgenre in a powerful way. Headed by a career defining performance from Jackman, it is bleak, brutal and, at times, beautiful to watch. If you see one superhero film this year, this might just be the one to pick.