The impact of Marvel Studios’ extended universe-building has increasingly become one to be measured in economic rather than critical success.
Marvel isn’t making movies for the sake of making movies any more – it is propping up an empire, and its “one for the widest possible audience, one for the critics” approach has become strikingly dull.
In that way, James Mangold’s Logan is a cookie-cutter exercise in fulfilling superhero convention dressed up as an artsy revenge flick. The narrowly drawn plot focuses on a suicidal Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, trotting out for one last go-around as the character that made him famous) who now lives in an abandoned warehouse, trying hard to dodge the responsibility of caring for both a dementia-addled Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and eventually a supremely powerful young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen), who resembles him in a range of increasingly predictable ways.
The film structurally resembles a road movie, as Wolverine travels cross-country to get Laura to safety, pursued by a metal-handed monster named Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, working admirably hard with an underwritten character) and a laughably pointless master antagonist named Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant, woefully underused). Logan also wants desperately to be a Western, and even makes the mistake of paying unsubtle homage to a much better film, the classic Shane, in attempt to legitimise its own graphic exploration of a bitter, violent man trying to make it in a bitter, violent world.
Ostensibly to serve that character exploration, Logan is unremittingly bloody. A particularly lengthy scene of Logan stabbing a range of paralysed soldiers in the head and mouth pushes the very boundaries of good taste for no discernible reason other than for Mangold to prove his film’s own extremity, and his shallow misinterpretation of what makes a movie difficult means that Logan often feels like a Michael Bay remake of The Road.
And underneath all that gore, Logan still sticks to the trademark superhero plot so familiar to audiences that they should be able to recite the narrative beats as they happen on screen. For its last half-hour, the film descends into a stretch of nonsensical rambling about magic serums, superhuman clones and weaponised mutants, and Dr. Rice’s rushed villainous speech concerning his own motivations is so uninteresting to Mangold that he can’t even help cutting away from it, rendering it impossible to understand.
In that way, Logan is nothing more than a sheep in wolf’s clothing: a pointless, poorly drawn exercise in grimness that leaves one hell of a bad taste in its wake.
Logan opens in cinemas on Thursday March 2.