Old Man Jackman: 8 Ways “Logan” is the Best There is at What it Does
Mar 15, 2017   •   Mikhail Lecaros
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Mar 15, 2017   •   Mikhail Lecaros
In 2003’s X2: X-Men United, there is a sequence in which enemy troops invade Xavier’s School for the Gifted under cover of night. With his uncanny teammates away on a mission, defense of the mansion falls to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and a handful of young students.
Taking full advantage of the first X-Men film’s success, director Bryan Singer used his newly-minted blockbuster clout to go as far as the PG-13 rating allowed; as Wolverine cut, stabbed, and sliced his way through the enemy troops, moviegoers were treated to their first taste of the character’s lethal berserker rage. Sanitized treatment notwithstanding, the sequence was visceral as it was thrilling.
For the next 14 years, that would be as good as it got for Wolverine, as the filmmakers and films that followed Singer’s initial salvo alternated between forcing the mutant antihero into conventional protagonist roles or just plain wasting him in superfluous cameos.
Which brings us to the newly-released Logan, the third in the character’s solo adventures, after X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and The Wolverine (2013). Marking Jackman’s ninth go-around in the role, Logan is reportedly going to be the actor’s last turn as the clawed mutant.
Read on to see if everybody’s favorite X-Man goes out with a whimper or a bang!
Unlike the increasingly unwieldy Marvel Cinematic Universe being produced by Disney, you don’t need a working knowledge of every previous film to understand what’s going on in Logan, and the story is all the better for it. This isn’t to say that the X-Men films don’t try for continuity, it’s just that nearly every attempt they’ve made has been uniformly terrible, thus the need for 2014’s soft reboot with Days of Future Past (that was sadly forgotten about when 2016’s X-Men Apocalypse came around). You know you’re doing something wrong when even Deadpool – which is set in the same universe – devotes dialogue to pointing out your problem.
Similar to films like Looper and Interstellar, Wolverine’s latest adventure is set far enough in the future (2029) to be somewhat fantastical (self-driving car and harvester robots!), yet close enough to our time to still be recognizable. In this instance, the two decade-gap is effective in distancing Logan from any self-contradictory continuity in one broad stroke, while driving home the idea that our long-lived hero is a man out of time. The paradigm shift helps immensely, as the Wolverine here is one whose healing factor isn’t what it used to be, with the former X-Man now an alcoholic eking out a meager living as a limo driver.
Similar to DC’s Batman, Wolverine has always been the brooding loner who somehow always seems to have a ridiculously-large supporting cast. Here, the superfluousness is largely done away with off-screen (the oft-cited “Westchester incident”), with supporting roles taken up by the unlikeliest of companions: a decrepit Charles Xavier (a returning Patrick Stewart) and Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen), a young girl with a secret.
As a roadtrip adventure, Logan has less in common with romps like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987) and more with dramatic fare such as Rain Man (1988) or Little Miss Sunshine (2006) as our heroes struggle to evade capture while, despite themselves, managing to bond under impossible circumstances.
Halfway through the film, Charles and Laura manage to squeeze in a viewing of Shane while hiding out, with the ending proving to be of special interest to young Laura. In case that and the trailer’s effective use of Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” didn’t give it away, Wolverine here is very much representative of an Old West gunfighter seeking redemption in a changing world. However, as films like Unforgiven (1992), The Shootist (1976), and Shane (1953) have shown, attempts of this sort tend to result in even more blood being spilled, and Logan is no exception.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of bloodshed…
Remember what we said in the intro about X2’s PG-level violence back in 2003? Well, thanks to Deadpool reminding everyone in Hollywood that it’s possible to make a successful R-rated superhero flick (was 1998’s Blade really so long ago?), all that’s gone out the window: Regardless of your stance on film violence, Logan represents the truest non-comic book representation of the Wolverine that we’ve ever seen.
Before this, the only place to see the character go full berserker was the fantastic video game based on the godawful X-Men Origins: Wolverine. From Logan’s opening brawl in a neon-lit parking lot, director James Mangold (Walk the Line) lets the audience know that he knows exactly what kind of film this needs to be.
However bad the X-Men movies got, Jackman was never the weakest link, acting-wise (that honor would go to Halle Berry as Storm, but I digress). In Logan, he goes all-in, projecting a world weariness that leaves nothing in the proverbial tank. Indeed, as the above clip from a Logan recording session shows, Jackman put in 110%, going thespianic toe-to-toe with the legendary Sir Patrick Stewart. Stewart, of course, is excellent as ever; while Xavier himself is decrepit, the acting prowess behind him remains among the finest in the business, as Stewart nails the former Professor’s ailing physical and mental states in devastating detail.
Co-creator of The Office and voiceover artist (most memorably as Portal 2’s snarky robot assistant) Stephen Merchant lends a degree of surprising pathos and comic relief to the otherwise bleak proceedings. His Caliban is an albino mutant with the ability to sense the powers of others, a talent that the villanous cyborg Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, Netflix’s Narcos) and scientist Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant, Withnail and I) use to effectively track our heroes.
As genetic experiment Laura, Keen is a revelation; whether she’s taking care of a sleeping Logan or eviscerating their pursuers, she effortlessly exudes a star-level screen presence and intensity in a largely wordless role. No matter what direction the franchise goes after this, we’re hoping like hell that she’ll be a part of it.
Aside from the obvious gaps left in the narrative by the filmmakers (ie.what the hell happened in Westchester? Who’s publishing comics about a specials hated and feared by the ones they protect? How bad is the mutant job market that Caliban accepted Wolverine’s offer to be a caregiver?!), Logan leaves the viewer wanting more in the best of ways: by reminding us just how much we love these characters.
After so many godawful sequels and prequels, this film accomplishes the impressive trick of stripping away years of narrative excess to make us truly care about Wolverine and Charles Xavier while thematically tying loosely into their first encounter, while leaving the door open for their legacy to continue.
At any rate, Charles has already died at least twice in this series already, and seeing as the first time didn’t even bother with an explanation for his resurrection, who knows what can happen if the studio offers the actors enough money?
Everyone involved with this flick wanted to send Wolverine off on a high and, for the most part, they’ve succeeded, crafting a superb coda to the modern cinematic superhero era that began with 2000’s X-Men. While we can’t help but wonder what Jackman will get up to now that he doesn’t have to work his way up to superhero shape every couple of years, he can definitely rest easy in the thought that, at least this once, he, and everyone involved with the production, nailed it.
Have you seen “Logan”? Share us your thoughts about the movie, below!
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