Before Hollywood got in on the whole superhero thing and regularly took over Hall H at the San Diego Comicon, two guys are sharing a drive home from the comic mecca. One is the architect of X-Universe. The other had already proven himself to be a stellar comic book artist and had started showing the old fellas how it should be done when it came to writing. It's the early 80's and the former had been tasked with finding a story for a Wolverine limited series. The ever popular pint-sized hero was as popular then as he is now, so it seemed a sure thing that the upstart would want in...but he wasn't so sure. Just like the movie incarnation, Wolverine had been mishandled and run into the ground. If they were going to do it, it had to be different.
Although Logan has clung on to the same director (Mangold) and star (Jackman), it is indeed something all-new, all-different. However, rather than a reinvention or soft reboot, Logan embraces everything that's gone before and uses any references to create something allusive and agonising at it's core. While there are still mentions of "when we found you," and "the Statue of Liberty," Logan evolves passed X-chapter and into emotive character study. It still remains loyal to it's origins, but this time around it's about making Logan's story work, and what better way to explore that by challenging him more by those close to him than his enemies?
Much like the ageing Wolverine and Prof X, the film is grizzled, happy to take it's time and not afraid to drop some f-bombs if the situation requires. Seeing the progression of Charles and Logan with little explanation is, equal parts bitter and sweet. There are true moments of playful genius where, beneath the bickering, there is a genuine warmth and a relationship that subtly insinuates everything they've been through. When the exchanges push toward scathing, they open up old wounds or cut further to the core. Not many blockbusters, let alone the 7th instalment of a franchise, are astute enough to revisit themes in conversations without overstaying their welcome.
With the introduction of Laura, a fierce mutant not too far from Wolverine's berserker-beaten path, an interesting dynamic is confidently steered away from mentor/student. Try as he might, Wolverine tries to keep Laura at a distance emotionally, but the two can't help but rub off on one another. So much so, that some truly vicious moments turn into triumphant action beats. Now being able to take full advantage of an adult certificate, these battles are savage and brutal, but never overindulge. Much like the swearing, the depiction of the violence fits the weather-beaten story it's trying to tell.
For a superhero film about a hero not being particularly super, it's probably one of the best offerings of a comic book character out there. Amongst the brightly coloured, world-ending climaxes bursting out of sperhero finales,, Logan dares to explore the smaller story of a man just struggling to get by. A shadow of his former, very capable self; not only is he slower and clumsier, he barely makes it through the scrapes he finds himself in. Fittingly, it's the emotional scrapes that take more of a toll on Logan. His healing factor never did ease the suffering of his soul and it's this that makes him all the more heroic.
If Chris Claremont and Frank Miller could see what would become of the Old Canucklehead as they drove back from that 80s comicon, they would be proud indeed of what James Mangold and Hugh Jackman have been able to accomplish.
5* - Wolve' & Cub