17 years ago, I remember going to McFarland Mall in Tuscaloosa with my friend and his mom to see X-Men. We all grew up watching the X-Men cartoon on Fox and now we got to see our heroes on the big screen. If you’re around my age, you remember how big of a deal this was.
Being the huge X-Men fan that I was, I remember feeling lukewarm about the movie. I didn’t think it was bad, but my expectations were so high that they were probably impossible to even meet. Plus, I missed the big Statue of Liberty fight scene because I have a very small bladder and that large slushie was definitely a bad idea.
The one part of the movie I could find no issue with was Wolverine. He was portrayed by some unknown Australian actor but surrounded by a cast of relatively known actors, he still stole the show. Everyone else was just playing their characters (with the exception of Patrick Stewart) but Hugh Jackman was really Wolverine.
Over these 17 years, a lot of actors have walked through the X-Men franchise. We’ve even had a new Professor X and Magneto. The one mainstay has been Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. And during this 17-year span, he’s also become an accomplished actor outside of the X-Men franchise, earning himself an Academy Awards nomination for Best Actor.
So what’s been confusing to X-Men fans such as myself is the fact that this great actor and iconic character hasn’t received the respect he deserves on the big screen. There has been X-Men Origins: Wolverine which was terrible as it was pointless. The Wolverine, which was an ok movie but was still held back by the studio. And a weird cameo in X-Men: Apocalypse, which is the Casablanca of shitty superhero movies.
It was apparent that Hugh has been growing weary just like the fans. So for Logan, Wolverine would return only on one condition: He gets to do things his way. With more creative control and an R rating, does Logan stack up to the test?
Before I answer your question, let me give you a playlist to get you in the mood:
Now, press play.
Logan succeeds on every single level. It’s the bloody spectacle we’ve deserved since we fell in love with this iconic character. Often, when discussing comic book movies, the new phenomenon to discuss is “dark content”. We don’t need a scowling Superman or Captain America with a bloody lip, just because. But we’ve always needed a bloodthirsty Wolverine. He goes berserk. Violence in this instance isn’t done because of vanity; it’s a major device of the story.
Early on, we see battle-torn Wolverine. He doesn’t heal as quickly, so he scars. He can’t extract his claws easily anymore, which causes his hands to ache in pain. The adamantium fortified skeleton that once made him invincible is now the very thing that’s slowly killing him. So now, he’s even more impatient because he has absolutely nothing to lose and welcomes death.
What sets this movie into motion is this older Logan meeting Laura, or X-23. It takes this movie from the panels of a comic book and turns it into real, legitimate cinema. This sounds like an underhanded comment, but I mean it with the utmost respect. Simply, you can’t compare Logan to any other comic book movie. It echoes the themes of Clint Eastwood’s classic Unforgiven–An old cowboy going on one last job. He knows how it ends, he’s even reluctant to embark on this journey. He goes on this path anyway because it is the honorable thing to do.
See, Logan isn’t just Wolverine chopping off arms and scowling, it’s a modern-day Western. Halfway through, I forgot I was watching a superhero movie. Hugh Jackman delivered a powerful performance that carried the movie. You could see the fatigue of a long life in his face, the pain in his eyes, the uncertainty in his voice. This is the first time we see Wolverine vulnerable. Scared, even.
[Sidenote: The mark of a good actor, to me, is the eyes. Both Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen (X-23) excelled at allowing their eyes convey their emotions]
Like most westerns, Logan is long. As hell. But not one minute is wasted on this journey. After watching the movie, I realized that it’s not even that action packed. This is an emotionally driven movie. We get to take the scenic view on this long journey, going from coast to coast of the United States. Also, like westerns, the landscapes are everything. This movie treks across beautiful locales and balances the violence with elegant visual aesthetics.
The underlying element that made all of these things possible is something that usually scares us tremendously: finality.
We hate conclusions. Conclusions mean that if a decision is made, it’s final. Since Logan had zero obligations to tie back to any X-Men movie, they could do what the hell they wanted to. The world from Old Man Logan couldn’t be translated verbatim without a room of lawyers involved, but the world created here is just as good. There are no more mutants in the world because Charles suffers from seizures and he’s killed them all. The only other mutant remaining, besides Logan and Charles, is Caliban. He’s not exactly a villain in X-Men lore, but he’s the unlikeliest ally to Logan in the X-Men movie canon.
Finality means you have your destination in mind, but you can take your time getting there. It’s no secret that Logan wasn’t going to make it out of this alive. Back in the real world, both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart stated this would be the last time they would portray these characters. So finality gives Logan purpose.
Throughout all the X-Men movies, Wolverine has always been a fringe member. He came and went as he pleased, but mostly spent his long life looking for a purpose. Logan is nearly 200 years old and he’s spent the latter part of his life searching for his identity. In this movie, he’s back to his original identity (James Howlett), now he just needs his purpose. What purpose can a man who is indestructible find in life? Making the ultimate sacrifice by swapping in immortality for humanity.
Logan ends his chapter by avenging the death of Charles and giving his life so that X-23 and a new generation of mutants can live on.
The most moving part of this moving is hearing him speak the words “So this is what it feels like”. He never thought he would be here, face to face with death. Although the idea of a X-24 being a younger Logan isn’t my favorite part of the film, it’s poetic that the indestructible man meets his death while facing a younger version of himself.
After X-23 gives the best eulogy ever, she turns Wolverine’s cross on its side to form an “X”. This not only ends the end of Logan’s chapter but to me, the X-Men. I don’t know (nor do I care) what’s going on with the X-Men franchise going forward but one thing is for certain: we won’t see Hugh Jackman or Patrick Stewart again. The new cast of X-Men aren’t the guys we began with 17 years ago.
Yes, I know, all good things must come to an end but Logan‘s conclusion has me feeling empty. Yes, I’m fulfilled but empty. I’ve seen several actors play Batman and I don’t really mind. I’ve seen three actors play Spiderman and I haven’t developed an emotional attachment to any of them. When it comes to Wolverine, there is only one and he is Hugh Jackman. The guy who made me a fan 17 years ago. The man who took a pay cut to make this movie happen, because he cares about the character as much as we do.
Logan serves as not only a conclusion in Wolverine’s cinematic life, but a conclusion in mine. Wolverine won’t be in movies anymore but it was one hell of a ride. I can’t rank Logan right now or call it an all time classic, but this movie will always mean a lot to me. This movie will not only be one of my favorite comic movies of all time but one of my favorite movies period.
[Additional note: If you loved Logan, you need to check out one of my favorite movies of all time, Children of Men. I wouldn’t lead you astray]
Very hard to follow up that Ph.D level dissertation by Ronnie, but what the hell, let’s try. As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m not a fan of “dark” superhero films. Particularly when they’re dark for the sake of being dark. My criteria for how I judge comic book movies is simply “Did I feel like I was watching a living comic?” In the case of Logan, I didn’t care. Everything about Logan is masterful, the acting, the script, the story, it all was done beautifully.
This film lives up to its R-rating without being violent for the sake of violence. Every time you see a claw piercing through an enemy, there’s anger behind it. The fury of Wolverine that’s normally tempered in the rest of the films in this series so that kids can watch, was unleashed in all its glory. While there wasn’t really a true berserker moment by the titular character, X-23 brought all of that on her own. She is the embodiment of Wolverine and certainly is the one to carry the moniker forward.
Logan is dark, it’s violent, it’s an emotional roller coaster, but more than anything, it’s the culmination of 17 years of work. Fox has shown us that they can make great films, if they back off and let the directors and writers handle the heavy lifting. You can tell everyone involved with this project gave their all and wanted this movie to be something we’d all remember for years, they succeeded. Time will tell where this ranks but for my money, it’s the dark comic book movie we deserve. Logan didn’t bother to harp on themes or force anything down your throat. What happens in this movie feels organic and it feels right. Fox can never make another X-Men movie and I feel like they at least got this right.
Thanks for reading another review. We’ll see you again in May, because it seems like we have a busy summer ahead.