THE TALE of Wolverine has been one of the most enduring narratives provided by Marvel comics in their lengthy history. This is evidenced by the sheer number of comics dedicated to the character and the screen time Hugh Jackman has had playing Logan. Wolverine is the embodiment of a universal question, ‘Who Am I?’, and yet this question has been answered with varying competency across a number of films.
The final instalment of Wolverine solo films is the end of a bumpy road. Few would debate that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a disaster in terms of quality and perhaps the greatest misuse of quality literary material seen in any X-Men film. The follow up, The Wolverine, was a solid summer blockbuster but mainly drew praise because it wasn’t a train wreck like its predecessor. Logan as a result of an impressive trailer, and the hopes of fans, had a lot to deliver.
The timing of Logan’s release indicates a turn away from the summer blockbuster and into more dramatic territory, and this is largely the case in the first hour of the film. Generally speaking, a gritty film is presented with the odd profanity to remind viewers that the piece is R-rated. In the style of a Western the film utilises the wilderness – Mexico, in this case – and this provides an aesthetically pleasing and functional location for the story to take place. This setting is the canvas for the thematic elements in the film. In fact, themes such as family and responsibility are employed effectively throughout, but there is one stumbling block in the film: too much action.
This is a controversial statement, but in the context of the film, action hampers what could have been an emotionally charged crescendo of 17 years of film. The focus on a chase without any serious antagonist makes the action scenes feel heavy handed. This is not to downplay the special effects in the film, they are undoubtedly impressive. Yet, bar one scene at the midpoint of the film there feels like a lack of danger, or at least a lack of a believable threat that would keep you at the edge of your seat. The film does find grounded success through quality characterisation which made Logan a sensation many years prior.
The film plays into the dramatic elements that have characterised Hugh Jackman’s portrayal. Wolverine reluctantly helps a troubled young female as he did in the original X-Men, and he also tackles a turbulent relationship with a father figure: Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The film showcases the latter relationship brilliantly, but the former struggles to find an emotional impact.
The scenes with Charles Xavier address challenging issues such as declining health and loneliness; when uninterrupted by action, these topics are powerful. The scenes with a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), are usually intertwined with angry outbursts or violence. As a result of the somewhat needless action and its close proximity to Laura, there is little tangible evidence of a bond between herself and Logan. Furthermore, the action scenes show Laura killing enemies in a more impressive fashion than Wolverine has ever produced and as a result it never feels as if Laura needs Logan.
Despite a narrative that mirrors The Last of Us, Logan falls a little flat. The action provided is gory and thrilling, yet it moves attention away from a compelling story. It is by no means a terrible film, yet clunky action scenes dilute the valuable drama. In the context of the solo Wolverine films that preceded it, the film is a triumph. In the context of anyone who understands a three act tragedy, however, it is far from it.