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Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Powerful FAREWELL to a ROLE from HUGH JACKMAN and “LOGAN”

The worst part perhaps of being an actor portraying a character that never visibly ages across a series of several movies with production spanning across years to even decades, is that eventually there will come a time for the actor to bow down from the role, no matter how enjoyable it may have been. That’s just the way of life after all, that and aging too. Hugh Jackman was catapulted into major stardom when he played Logan, aka Wolverine in the 2000 Fox “X-Men” film based on one of Marvel Comics’ most beloved superhero teams. He made that character his own in the eight films that featured him over 17 years, but time has passed and so does its toll. Being in his 30s when he started, Jackman is now 48, and decided to bid farewell to being Wolverine in one last magnificent hurrah (he termed it “one last time” when the movie was announced). This was “Logan”, the third Fox X-film with Wolverine as the focus and the hyped swan-song to Hugh Jackman’s X-career. It didn’t disappoint.
One major element of “Logan” that was mentioned from the get-go was the fact that it would have levels of violence worthy enough to get the R rating, especially in light of the unexpected box office success of 2016’s “Deadpool” with Ryan Reynolds. The sheer amount of blood and guts along with the crass humor was a hit with cinema audiences after all. It seemed only natural to go for it with “Logan”; after all, his comics easily went up to R in content and visuals. Directed by James Mangold, this final Wolverine movie takes story bits from multiple print sources, such as the “Old Man Logan” graphic novel by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, showing Jackman’s character as having visibly aged and giving him the look of dented iron, with the many scars that haven’t healed well (a plot point) as well as a body language of a man who obviously has been in one too many fights without any breaks.
Set in the year 2029, Logan (using his real name James Howlett) lives a low-key existence as a limo chauffeur for hire in Texas, close to the Mexican border. His earnings are used to hustle prescription drugs which he then takes to his hideout in Mexico, where he and fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) care for a now over 90-year-old Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, also in what he sees as a last role reprisal). The founder of the Xavier School and the X-Men is now suffering from neurodegenerative disease that causes brain seizures, and being a telepath, he accidentally passes on his seizures to people around him whenever they occur. This apparently caused the off-screen deaths of most of the X-Men (from 2014’s “Days of Future Past”), which coupled with the strange fact that no new mutants have been born since then (another plot point), means their kind has been in dire straits.
Logan would rather live out these days in quiet privacy, until approached by an employee of pharmaceutical company Transigen, who asks him to transport her and a girl named Laura (Dafne Keen in an intense performance by an 11-12 child actress) to North Dakota, a job that sees the employee dead and Logan having to go on the run with Laura and the debilitated Xavier from a band of cyborg mercenaries from Transigen. Here Laura is revealed to be a mutant, with abilities similar to Logan himself: a clone made by the shadowy firm from his DNA. Now the taciturn loner that is the Wolverine finds himself in a role similar to his X-Men days but completely different too, a father with a child.
With scenes ranging from wasteland decay, to urban glitz, to lonely highways and finally forested wilderness, “Logan’s” location visuals are varied yet uniformly cloaked in a cloud of “used future”, driving home the dire circumstances of Logan and his companions and the mutant race as a whole. There are some moments of light fun every now and then (like the fact that in-universe the X-Men get comic books published about them), but all in all the situation remains grim, and the instances of combat reflect this with Logan being more slice and stab happy like never seen in past films. The plot points I pointed out earlier come to play in the coming denouement of the movie in a dramatic enough way that really sells the idea that we ought to be sad that Hugh Jackman’s time of playing this mighty anti-heroic figure have come and gone.

Yet even as tears may fall in the end, there’s also a moment to be thankful for the passage. While “Logan” wraps up the time of Wolverine in the X-Men on film, his legend and his actor will remain in mind and heart.


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