Over the past twenty years comic book fans have had the immense pleasure of being able to watch nine films set in the X-Men universe (if you include the stand-alone Wolverine and Deadpool movies). For a generation of film goers now Australian actor Hugh Jackman is Wolverine while acclaimed actor Patrick Stewart has shared the role of Professor Charles Xavier with James McAvoy, who has played the younger version of the fearless leader in the newer films.
Now as the curtain falls on this world of mutants and heroes for Jackman and Stewart they team up with director James Mangold (who dipped into the franchise in 2013 with The Wolverine). The film has a much darker tone and this time is more graphic than its predecessors… something that has earned it an R-Rating from the classification board.
That ‘different’ tone is something that the man himself Hugh Jackman is only too happy to talk about. “I think the whole film feels different,” he says shifting his chair. ‘Tone, character wise it’s different to any of the others. And that was our goal, I didn’t want it to feel like the final chapter of a saga I wanted it to feel like a whole new, fresh thing. I wanted to stake some new ground. Logan in this film is more human… hence the title… he’s sick, his powers are dwindlering, he’s vulnerable, he’s also looking after an aging father-figure in Charles Xavier and hiding him out. He’s also under stress, he doesn’t have money – he’s a limo driver trying to earn enough bucks to get by and to buy the meds that Charles needs and he’s got a lot of very mundane, everyday stuff going on. But clearly he has checked out, he is at the bottom and so want James Mangold and James Frank did was kind of create a world for a character whose biggest fear is love and intimacy, because that only brings pain, but now he is surrounded by a family that is forced upon him.”
The new story brings about a whole new relationship between Logan (Wolverine) and Charles Xavier with Jackman explains precisely. “Charles has dementia,” he explains. “Charles Xavier has been a father figure and mentor and probably understands him the best because Logan is a closed book. He quips and he is tough and all that but Charles knows where he comes from and knows his background – he knows the demons that he is fighting. So he knows him and but in this one the tables are turned a little bit because he has dementia, so he is confused and he is vulnerable and he’s angry and he is many, many, many different things. At times he is child-like and then at other times he is abusive and Logan is just in that carer role, that role of taking care day and night day in and day out, he also has to keep him hidden from authorities so it is a great dynamic and it was a lot of fun to play. And it was even better because it was with a great friend and one of the greatest actors I have ever met.
But then a quick look at the poster and of course trailer and fans of the series will notice that there is another potential relationship for Logan in this film as well. “Yes, then there is a young girl that has been created from DNA,” Jackman says almost teasingly. “And that DNA may very well resemble my own, and that was stolen so it wasn’t like he chose to have a daughter, which she may be, but he is confronted with genetics that are very similar to his own and a task to rescue/protect/save her. He doesn’t want that task and he pushes it away for as long as he can but that relationship between those two characters, that father/daughter relationship, is very strong, and this young girl Daphne that plays that part is absolutely astonishing.”
So what does Jackman hope that fans will take away from this film? “My hope for fans with this film and I talk to them every day, maybe every second day, over the last seventeen years is that they say that this is ‘the Wolverine movie that they have always wanted to see,” he says smiling. “That is my hope and dream and that was my guiding star while making this movie.”
The other actor also farewelling the series here is Patrick Stewart and he says audiences will also see a very different side to his character, Charles Xavier. “Not only will you see a different side to Charles you will see a transformed Charles,” he explains. “The controlled, intelligent, sensitive intellectual has been replaced with a scatter-brained, crazy, physically-fragile and highly dangerous individual. No one could ever imagine that Charles Xavier could become a dangerous being in society, it’s unthinkable, but here he is putting the world at risk.”
He to explains how this changes his relationship with Logan. “From the very beginning Charles has had a very caring relationship with him. He knew everything about Logan – his past, how he came about, what had been done to him, the misery and agony of that. He always felt a protectiveness towards him. Logan has always been a difficult personality – independent, sometimes aggressive, sometimes mean-spirited, hostile even, but essentially he has always had his heart in the right place. Now there has been a turnaround and the carer is Logan and the vulnerable, weak, fragile one is Charles. And as I said not only vulnerable but also very dangerous.”
“Our primary duty is to entertain,” says Stewart talking about his hopes for the film with fans. “But entertaining can have very different aspects to it. There are themes within this film which some people have already identified as being a contemporary commentary on present day society, particularly in Europe and the United States. I don’t think that was the overt intention of the producers and the writers of this movie but I think that has unfortunately come about that way. But yes there is some instruction in this movie. There are warning contained within this movie and if they are listened to in any way whatsoever then not only have we entertained then perhaps we have also been a benefit.”
Of course fans have also been very excited to see director James Mangold return to the franchise so what was it like for Stewart to work with him and the rest of the cast. “I had only ever done one days work with James previously,” explains Stewart. “Ian McKellan and I shot a one day short movie scenes as a fill-in for the first Wolverine movie, but I met with James very early on in the process and I enjoyed that two/three hour conversation that we had about the screenplay and about the character of Charles and particularly about his disintegration. I love working with James, he is a craftsman and he knows filmmaking so well. He knows on the one hand exactly what he wants, but I have never before worked with a director that is so open to other possibilities and to input from his cast, even bringing up the unexpected and at times even inviting us to improvise which is something that always appeals to me and some of those little improvisations even made it into the movie. With the cast – well the X-Men are reduced down to two in this film and to have such a close relationship with Logan being Hugh Jackman has been a delight as it always has been for seventeen years.”
So it seems that both cast and fans alike are sad to see Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart leaving the franchise, but at least they all have one last film to savour before the curtain-call.
Logan is out in cinemas right now.