8 ——–Even as a kid I always thought Superman’s moral code was as ridiculous as his suit that had flashy undies on the outside. I remember thinking why can’t he just kill the bad guy instead of putting him in jail? I have always loved a superhero who cut loose when the going got tough. A hero who gave no bones about what he was taking on and could absolutely decimate anything in his path. And when it was fueled by sheer unrestrained rage it just made it all the more satisfying. And that is why I have been a fan of the Hulk from when I can remember. But think of a hulk that isn’t green, is more or less your size, is indestructible, hunts like an animal and to top it all off, has retractable metal claws. Anyone who still thinks this isn’t the ultimate superhero package is kidding themselves. You have a favourite that you think can take him on? Don’t bother. He is the beast unleashed, an unstoppable one man annihilation army, the apex predator. The century and a half old antihero with a heart of gold, that everyone loves to hate and hates to love. Aptly named after the animal that personifies his traits of being a snarly, grunting, solitary, illusive, short, muscular, fast, ferocious, big clawed, tireless, insanely strong carnivore that can pick up a scent of blood better than a great white, is capable of single handedly taking down prey almost six times its size, fears literally nothing, has an unrivaled survival instinct and a ton of attitude to boot. The Wolverine.
I’m sure you can tell from the description how much I love the character. I am sure then you could also deduce my disappointment at having to watch watered down children friendly versions of him on the silver screen for the past 17 years. Don’t get me wrong, they were fun. I even enjoyed it in the abysmal Wolverine origins movie let alone the X-Men movies and quite frankly the quite decent wolverine sequel. But we all knew what was missing. Where there is wolverine there needs to be heads chopped, guts spilt and carcasses flying all over in general, never mind the unapologetic language to go around. Thanks to Deadpool that came out last year this movie got the license to break the shackles named PG 13 and man does it show. When the first word uttered in the movie is the F bomb, you know it means business.
Forget the conventional superhero movie plot. This film shreds it and chucks it out the window from scene one. Our protagonist is battered, bruised, aging and possibly dying. He drives around in a stretched Cadillac, using his real name, ferrying anyone and everyone who can pay him good money. He’s saving for boat to get away from the drudgery of it all. What’s worse is he doesn’t even want to fight. Forget the Wolverine that chopped an arm off before he initiated a conversation. This version wants to warn his attackers away multiple times before he even attempts anything. His claws don’t work like they used to, he doesn’t heal like he used to and to add to all of this the professor is a total mess. We learn Logan’s been caring for him in an abandoned smelting plant of some sort across the border in Mexico. He suffers seizures that could annihilate the population of a city and the medication that Logan’s been procuring illegally is the only thing keeping that from happening again. They both live with Caliban and hope for the day they can get away from all this. Into their lives walks Laura, who by now everyone knows is the pint sized dynamite, X23. You soon learn of her backstory and as to why she needs Logan’s help to head where she is going. The rest of the story is their journey there and how their relationship develops on the way.
James Mangold did a decent job with the last Wolverine and the promise that came with this one was immense. It was Jackman’s last venture, they had the license to thrill and Fox did provide them with an ok budget. The idea was to reinvent the genre completely. Did Mangold succeed? Well yes and no. Let’s do the good bits first. The casting was spot on. It was kept to a bare minimum and everyone was given the absolute perfect brief. Stewart excels as the sick, aging, foul mouthed Professor X and his exchanges with Logan provide most of the comic relief in this seriously dark movie. Dafne Keen plays X 23 with aplomb. She doesn’t have lines till the very end of the movie so most of what she conveys is with her eyes and damn does she do well. After playing the part for 17 years you’d imagine that the person playing it would probably sleep walk through the role. You see that’s where Jackman is different. He gives it everything he’s got like he always does and lives and breathes Logan. What he has done is practically ruin this character for our generation and made it difficult for us to accept anyone else in the role in the future. Aren’t we glad Dougray Scott walked out on the role at the last minute all those years ago. The story is kept simple and linear and set in the near future, with a palette that has dull tones throughout, typifying the grimness of it all. If you ask me it’s a welcome relief from the colourful assault on the senses that these type of movies have become nowadays. Mangold could have gone into overkill with that R rating instead he cleverly uses it to enhance the overall quality of the movie. You are transported to a world where everything isn’t fine and dandy, where you don’t get away with everything, where the pain is real, the loss is real. It’s just like Logan says, in the real world people die. And my word do they die spectacularly. Remember how I said before that Logan doesn’t want to fight? But you obviously know that he eventually is forced to and when he is, it’s very satisfying. Out come the claws and do what they were supposed to for the 17 years he was on screen. They scythe through anything and everything in front of him, metal, wood, flesh and bone. Heads are impaled, jugulars are ripped open, arms are chopped off and mind you Logan is responsible for only one half of that. X-23 holds her own in every action sequence and you know that she is not to be messed with. The aftermath of it all isn’t pretty either. You feel the agonizing price Logan has to pay after every bloody encounter. Finally, we get what we wanted to see all along in a wolverine movie.
From here I would have ideally liked to have gone on to the concluding paragraph but I am afraid I have to point out one or two issues. It probably is nitpicking I agree, but that’s probably because I wanted this movie to be perfect. Throughout the movie Logan seems to have a limp and a cough that conveniently appears and disappears at will. Why? Why introduce those factors because all it does, is end up looking gimmicky. Then there is a boob in there, yes no kidding. It’s almost as if Mangold succumbed to the R rating free reign he had. Towards the end of the movie when it feels like there is a long way to go Logan falls asleep and the kid takes the wheel. And then next shot they are there! I mean what happened to the rest of the journey? Are we to assume that she drove continuously for two days when Logan slept? Then there is the action. Don’t get me wrong it was immensely satisfying. But I hate how new age directors put the cameras inches away from it all to make the audience feel more involved or something. Hasn’t Captain America civil war not taught you anything? We like the action as a spectacle. We don’t want to be involved. Just pull the shot a little further back and allow us to sit back and watch the action unfold rather than have to follow it left and right with every punch, kick or jab that is thrown. But then we get to the big issue. Look back at any successful solo superhero franchise and think about what sets it apart from the rest? What is the one thing that ensures that the movie is great? It’s the bad guy. That’s what this movie lacks, a definitive villain. The Revears and Dr. Rice make a case for one but that’s about it. The one character, who is one of surprises/shocks of the movie and could have been capitalized on, sadly is sparingly used.
So in conclusion did I like the movie? As a superhero movie? May be not as much as I would have liked to. There is talk about this doing what The Dark Knight did almost a decade ago. Make the whole world take the superhero genre seriously. And this movie does try really hard to. But in doing so it sometimes forgets it had the license to be a superhero movie too. I wanted to see more, a lot more of Wolverine taking out hordes of opponents. And being a fan, whether it was the right thing to do or no, I couldn’t live with the ending. But as just a movie though? Yes I loved it, I most definitely did! It is one of the few movies to come out in recent times that starred a mainstream actor and is actually good. A movie that has been shot well, has a great cast and a good simple story that has an emotional core. A movie much like Deadpool where the fact that it personally meant a lot to the lead actor and the director comes through in the material. (Speaking of which, be there early to catch a little surprise nugget.) It’s a fitting swansong for my all-time favourite superhero and the man that has played it loyally for 17 years. We will miss you Jackman and we do hope you reverse your decision to stay away from it forever. We don’t mind that you are half a foot taller than the actual character.