EDITORIALS

Hugh Jackman's Final Wolverine Movie Explores 'Logan' for First Time

by
March 5, 2017

Hugh Jackman as Logan

"Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long." Hugh Jackman has made nine appearances as the Wolverine over seventeen years. In that time, I don't think we've really ever gotten to know who Wolverine is until Logan this year. It is Jackman's definitive, and coincidentally final, performance as the feral mutant. It's hard to realize that it took nine movies and nearly two decades to finally understand what drives this hulking, angry loner. However, let's examine how Logan, even though it marks Hugh Jackman's final time playing Wolverine, actually feels like the first real Wolverine movie yet.

First of all, before delving into this discussion, please note this will be a spoiler-filled editorial. The only way to concisely analyze this new movie involves delving into the movie's hard-hitting moments, which in return give away some of the narrative. So, if you haven't seen the movie yet, please turn away now. Also, go see Logan right this very moment. Need reviews? Read one, two, or three of them. Still here? All right.

When Hugh Jackman first slipped on the claws in X-Men in 2000, no one could have predicted how popular he would be in the role. Sure, Wolverine has always been a popular character in the comics, but Jackman's casting had all the signs of a unique melding between actor and character. The same way Christopher Reeve was born to play Superman, Hugh Jackman was born to play Wolverine. It was also addled by the fact that Jackman's casting came as a result of Mission: Impossible 2 actor Dougray Scott getting injured and having to pull out of the project before shooting. Jackman's casting seemed so serendipitous, like the right confluence of good luck, timing and being at the right moment at the right time. It worked out, and Jackman has enjoyed a healthy career not only as Wolverine but as a great, Hollywood actor ever since.

So here we are, now seventeen years later and nine appearances over ten different X-Men movies. The only X-Men related movie Jackman hasn't made an appearance in is Deadpool - which is amusing given a certain pre-credits cameo teaser at the start of Logan. So how does Logan truly, intrinsically explore the Wolverine character in ways the other films haven't? Well, starting off, Logan is above anything else a character study for the character. Wolverine in the X-Men films has generally been portrayed as an archetype, one that has changed and evolved over the years as his popularity rose. He started out as an angry outsider and loner in X-Men before morphing into a leader and team player by the time X-Men: The Last Stand rolled around.

Logan

When X-Men: Days of Future Past first came out in 2014, it was a big reversal on the relationship between Charles Xavier and Logan. In the first X-Men, it was Xavier who was being a mentor figure to a confused and lost Logan. In Days of Future Past, it was Logan's turn to give a younger, more confused and lost Xavier guidance. I would argue Logan (and the filmmakers behind it) wishes to ignore Days of Future Past, which technically erased the events of the previous movies. In order for Logan to truly work, it has to build upon the relationship that Logan and Charles has had over nearly two decades and four or five films.

As a result, the relationship Logan has with Charles in Logan is an evolution of the relationship they had in the very first X-Men. Yes, Logan is taking care of an ailing Charles, but even with a confused mind he is still dispensing advice and guiding him to embrace the better parts of his true nature. Some might see it as an extension of their dynamic in Days of the Future Past, but I would argue the relationship in Logan only works if you somewhat ignore that film and instead focus on most of the other films that came before. In a way, you can enjoy Logan without having seen any other X-Men film, but Logan works on a different level because of the history between these two characters.

Logan is also the first time the character hasn't been portrayed as an archetype. As soon as the movie begins, it is clear this is a Logan we haven't seen before. I'm not even talking about the violence, which does add to the proceedings and I'll touch on that in a bit. He's taking pain killers, he's an alcoholic, he swears when he's angry. He's sick, possibly even dying. He's not really living, but moving from place to place, doing a job he doesn't even like, and being dismissive of anyone who comes along and needs help. Logan has always worked best as a loner, but as a loner who wears that title reluctantly. He has always been someone that doesn't want to admit he craves the very thing he would openly deny to anyone who asked. In essence, a family. I would argue the big theme driving most of Logan is exactly that: family.

Logan

X-23, or Laura, is very much a daughter to Logan. For the first time in the character's cinematic history, he has a responsibility to someone unlike any other. This dynamic has been somewhat hinted at in other films, such as Logan and Rogue's relationship in the original trilogy. Logan takes those ideas and really fleshes them out, in ways no other previous X-Men or Wolverine film has done before. For much of Logan, Logan is a character trying to deny what he truly wants. He's lived a very traumatic life and has had to presumably watch every person he's cared about die. He keeps people at a distance, such as Caliban. So, the very idea of a daughter is very unnerving to Logan for multiple reasons. This forces Logan to care about someone. He takes care of Charles, but as much as he does, Charles is really the one taking care of Logan. Logan doesn't initially know how to react to Laura, who in many ways is the spitting image of himself. In some of the film's best scenes, he has to find a way to relate to this feral, angry girl. When he was mentoring Rogue, he was dealing with someone who was ultimately different than him, besides sharing the characteristic trait of being a loner. With Laura, she represents something for Logan that he's never had to deal with before, and in that struggle allows us to really understand Logan in a way we've never been allowed to previously.

As Logan and Laura continue get closer (while on the run), Logan begins to realize his attachment for the girl. In one of my favorite scenes from the film, Laura gets the sense that Logan is going to bail once they leave Eden. Logan basically tells Laura that killing comes with a price, and that anyone he's ever cared for, such as Charles, has suffered the consequence of him being in their lives. He doesn't want that for Laura. However, Logan is a character who cannot help but intrinsically needs to help others. There's a moment in the film where Eriq La Salle's character Will Munson and his family require assistance. Logan is hesitant to help, saying "someone will come along." Charles tells him very simply, "Someone has come along."

If Logan is about anything, it deals with the consequences of violence and the physical and emotional toll that has. For the first time in the character's history, he is starring in a film that was conceived, shot and released with an "R" rating. The film's ultra-violent tone is not a tacked-on addition just because Deadpool was successful. The darker, more violent tone is absolutely essential to Logan working as strongly and as well as it does. As Logan fears, violence comes to the family he helps on the road. It also comes for Charles, in a heartbreaking moment full of consequence. As Charles was always the one who pushed Logan to help others, his last words involve reminiscing about a mistake he once made, which resulted in the deaths of countless others. It is tragically fitting that Charles is killed by X-24, who he thinks is Logan at the moment.

James Mangold Directing Logan

Logan explores the consequences of violence, and in order for that to have any weight or thematic impact the violence absolutely needed to warrant that kind of introspection. Logan cannot escape a life where death and violence comes to anyone he crosses paths with. He tries to save Laura by further distancing himself from her, even though his innate desire to help bursts through sharper than his claws. He realizes, though, that in order to live life, as Charles advises in one of his final moments with Logan, he has to feel life. Like any good Western or superhero story, Logan understands that a story can be dark, gritty and relentlessly violent, but at its core it needs to be about hope. Logan is, at its core, a story about hope and redemption.

It also works so fundamentally well because, unlike most current superhero/comic book movies, Logan tries to tell a singular story that isn't beholden to X-Men continuity. It's not trying to set up future stories. As a matter of fact, it acts as a perfect send-off for Jackman's Wolverine and Stewart's Charles Xavier. With the restrictions of continuity unburdened like shackles, and with a rating that allowed the filmmakers to tell the story they truly wanted to tell (see Alex's interview with director James Mangold for more), Logan shines as an exceptional example of how a superhero story can transcend genre. There are some truly devastating and heartbreaking moments in this film and they work solely because audiences know they aren't going to be undone in the next film. So when characters make decisions, or when they leave us, it truly has an impact.

The reality is that the nature of comic book storytelling, which is often episodic and continual, sometimes doesn't work for films which eventually have an ending. When you read a comic-book, you normally don't get a definitive end - even when a series finishes. If a series is ongoing, you wait for the next issue for a dangling plot thread to be resolved. The characters are going to come back, even if they die in an issue. At this point, both Marvel and DC have been rebooted so many times it is hard to keep track. So when Superman dies, it might be momentarily depressing - but you know he's not going to be gone forever. Which is why when he does die in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I felt emotionally manipulated. I knew Warner Bros wasn't going to kill him off so early in the series, so his death felt premature. My reaction was not emotional, but one of mostly annoyance. The Marvel movies commit this act of emotional manipulation much worse, however. At least Superman stayed dead when the credits rolled on Batman v Superman. In most Marvel Studios movies, characters won't even stay dead for the movie in which they die. Case in point, Nick Fury's "death" in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It removes any real emotional impact, and the lack of consequences result in movies that don't feel like movies, but just another comic book issue.

Wolverine Suit

Logan, directed by James Mangold, is a game-changer because it knew, from the very beginning, what it was going to be. Mangold, his writers (Scott Frank and Michael Green) and Hugh Jackman had a very clear idea of the story they wanted to tell, and they succeeded. So when Logan ends, there's a sense of definitive closure that you don't really get reading a comic or even watching a modern comic book movie these days. If we're also talking about similar comic book movies, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises almost feels safe and pedestrian by comparison. Bruce Wayne's "death" at the end and his eventual reveal feels like a cheat, a thematic ploy to trick the audience into thinking one thing and then revealing another.

With Logan, though, there are no cheats. When characters die, they die. There are consequences to actions. When our main heroes try to escape by hitting a fence, the fence doesn't fall away like it would in a typical action movie. Logan isn't always effective at what he does, and as a result of that we feel like he's in actual jeopardy in the film. The theme of consequence is something Logan tries to explain to Laura, but it is Laura that ends up teaching something very valuable to Logan: it is okay to love. In one of the most emotionally devastating scenes, Logan dies knowing that someone cared for him, that someone learned from him, and he can die passing on advice to someone who will take that advice and hopefully be a better person. He doesn't die as a loner. He dies as a loved father. He has lived. In Logan, the character lives for the very first time.

It's one of the most affecting scenes in the film, and it shows Logan's true trajectory over the course of these movies. When he starts the film, he is someone who rejects the very idea of helping others, especially after all these years. When the film ends, he is someone that has not only helped someone and countless others, he is someone that has made peace with the life he's lived. Logan is a tremendous film with hard-hitting consequences and themes that speak to the very core of some of the best X-Men comics - themes of sacrifice, redemption and hope. Even the inclusion of an X-Men comic in this world has a nuanced level of meaning.

Most of all, Logan is the first time we've learned just who Logan really is. It's a fitting send-off for Hugh Jackman, and a fitting send-off to one of the most beloved cinematic characters of the last two decades. Here's to you, bub. What do you think? Do you agree that Logan finally gets the character right?

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  • SillySock
    thought it was incredible
  • ragethorn
    This is what celluloid justice looks like.
  • SillySock
    Wait...so because Nick Fury faked his death that removes any emotional impact?? lol...oh ok
    • Dominic
      when u see him alive before the film ends , that removes the emotion from it . AS Dan noted ...
      • SillySock
        No it doesn't actually.
        • Dominic
          sure it does , esp to someone not used to CB story-telling... maybe those in the Story that don't know he faked it , have the emotional impact ...
          • SillySock
            no
  • SillySock
    "Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises almost feels safe and pedestrian by comparison" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA...who is this hack? Can we get a real writer here? Batman is dead...that was the point...not Bruce Wayne but Batman.
    • Robert
      A world class surgeon like the HUD secretary couldn't separate Wayne and Batman, and that is the primary reason the viewer feels cheated.
      • Payne by name
        Add to this that the ending was telegraphed so far ahead with Alfred doing the whole 'I'd love to see you dining in a restaurant one day Master Bruce'. The final Batman (i.e. of the Dark Knight trilogy) film was just flat out poor and very unengaging.
        • Dominic
          the only comparison , is that Bane was to Batman as X-24 was to Logan ... but Yes "Logan" was a better movie , just because it didn't bow to the CB tradition of leaving a death uncertain ...
      • SillySock
        So you and the 4 people who felt cheated picked Ben Carson as your surgeon. Nice choice moron.
  • El_MUERkO
    Watched it tonight. Really enjoyed. A fitting finish for Jackman and Stewart.
  • Prem
    what is your email address Dan? Can't seem to find it anywhere on here.
  • Jon Odishaw
    I agree with all the hype around this film. Not only is it one of the best comic book movies ever made, it's one of the best films I've seen.
  • DAVIDPD
    Ahhh!!! Can't wait! It is going to be awhile for me...but I want to watch it now..
  • Angela Weaver
    Agree with you 100%. I've seen it twice and plan to see it a few more times.
  • Payne by name
    Good piece. I really enjoyed the film. The darker, grittier tones, the feeling of an ageing body giving up on you, the chance of redemption or rather peace through helping someone important and the fantastically violent set pieces. The girl playing Laura was just outstanding and the ferocity of the two of them fighting was really a sight to behold. I saw it twice at the cinema over the weekend and am pretty confident that this will be making it into my Blu Ray collection.
  • Brandon Cole
    Real good film, although I though the third act could've been better. x We could've did without the clone-that was unnecessary.
    • Dominic
      NO that was KEY , as it's being a metaphor in the end it was WOLVERINE that killed Logan ...the " purer " version of the Beast within him , which he matured past after becoming a team leader , and killing Jean ..we see the adamantium is poisoning him , but that is internal ; we needed an external threat as the denoument .... In the end , he couldn't escape himself ....just like none of us can
      • Brandon Cole
        Good point, still could've been done better. It felt shoehorned in to me.
        • Dominic
          it just wasn't explained , with a Jackman line like " It's like I'm fighting Me ? ! " ....as Logan would never say that .. Mangold left it for you to figure out ... this also pays homage to the REAL origin , and how Ultron sent some of his other "creations" after Logan , when he escaped ..
        • Shiota Matsukaze
          This is exactly why the world is decaying so hard nowadays. People are no longer satisfied with anything anymore. They always want more and don't enjoy what is done. The movie couldn't have been done better than this. Honestly. If you think it could why don't you grab your stuff and become a director? Criticizing stuff is easy but doing it yourself is another story. Seriously just enjoy stuff as they are made and stop being a guy who criticizes everything.
          • Brandon Cole
            It's funny because I am a director-shooting another project the first weekend of April. x Since I became one, I do critique every movie (hate that sometimes) but I genuinely care about the art. Logan was a real good film like I said; I didn't say that I didn't like the film. I overall enjoyed Logan for what it is.
          • Brandon Cole
            Even with the metaphor explained the clone still felt forced in but it didn't take me out the movie. It's not that i thought I could've did it better-it's that I've seen the third act before in the previous X-Men films already.
  • CyraNOSE
    Way too much to read, you had me completely bored within the first 2 ramblings.
    • Dominic
      why don't you just go watch the movie , and stop being a jerk in these Comments sections
  • RAW_D
    First "real" Wolverine movie indeed. Well said. It's a pity there won't be anymore with Jackman...
  • thomas.longoria@mail.ru
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  • Dominic
    Firstly I want an Oscar Nomination for Jackman , Mangold , Dafne Keen as Laura X-23 , and the Film itself ....maybe they won't win , since it's still a CB movie , but the nomination will be glass ceiling-breaking in itself ... 2ndly ,you forgot , Dan , that Logan is this way ... " He's taking pain killers, he's an alcoholic, he swears when he's angry. He's sick, possibly even dying. He's not really living, but moving from place to place, doing a job he doesn't even like, and being dismissive of anyone who comes along and needs help" MOSTLY because he's running from the Law with Charles and hiding him . I doubt he would care about the limo driver role , except he has to pay for Charles' Alzhemer's drugs .....and stay off the 'Net so that nobody finds Charles to hold him accountable . We're seeing the end result of seriously stressful times for both of them .. 3rdly , the Charles-Logan-Laura dynamic is actually representative of SO many Baby Boomers' lives , where they may finally have had a kid or two , but then also be a parent to their mothers and fathers as well . and the parent in the middle gets frustrated with both of them ....def a metaphor for many people's lives today ... 4th , I guess they didn't want to call the film " The End Of Wolverine" as less people would go . But This Is what the film is about ....heartbreaking , when Laura screams " Daddy " at him , too late ... I'll watch it again , but I think I'll wait for the Bluray , to see the deleted scenes and how they merge into the film .. 5th I'll answer my own question : Don't go see it in IMAX ...there's no need - The killing scenes of claws ripping bodies and entering heads , don't really need the IMAX treatment ...the unhealed claw rakings of Logan's midsection , will be just as shocking in SD ... 6th Yes this IS the way the 1ST Wolverine movie should have been , just with a happier ending ....had to wait for Deadpool ?? to convince the Hollywood talking heads that such a Wolverine movie could work .... 7th - Mangold makes a movie with those kids , as the New X-Men ? all loners like Logan .. 8th - The Reference to the Alpha Flight Origin ( his actual 2nd life - nobody wants to remake the real origin story of Ultron as an alien robot creating mutants , who was the only Thing who could work with adamantium ..) was priceless , But used as the reason to create all the kids and X-24 ...and we saw the iconic Yellow-and-Blue costume as well , to keep the fanboys happy 9th- more priceless stuff -Logan decrying the comics as fake (" half of that stuff never happened ! " ) but it's the same Actual comic where they got a key thread of the plot ...
  • Dominic
    Do a screen capture of the part where they show the Yellow-and-Blue costume , instead of the pic above with the Gold-and-Brown Ninja Clan costume
  • SLKite
    I thought it was wonderful..the story and acting from everyone top-notch...I agree with virtually all of your points, Mr. Marcus. So often, these days, in the finale of a TV or movie series, the ends feel contrived or completely unsatisfying, because somehow it seems to dishonor the underlying truth and appeal of the character and their REAL story and growth, which may not have been seen throughout, or may not have adequately fleshed out...but not so in this case...the story revealed, through the actions of these two characters/friends (Logan & Charles) leaves us, their fans, with confirmation that who we always suspected they are, is, in fact, who they REALLY are...it doesn't get any better than this - joy, at their triumphs, sorrow at their loss, with a dash of the bittersweet - so true-to-life....my thanks to all, for this incredible adventure....
  • edward.hatch@mail.ru
    I was paid 104000 bucks last year by doing an on-line job a­­n­­d I did that by w­orking in my own time f­o­r 3+ hours daily. I used work opportunity I came across from this website i found online and I am so amazed that I was able to earn such great money. It's so newbie friendly a­­n­­d I'm just so happy that I found out about this. This is what i did... http://s­.­id/272
  • Cyberdine
    Meh.....wasn't what I was expecting as a comic book reader. I am simply just not satisfied with "Mangold's story". I had a feeling there would be an enormous deviation from Old Man Logan comics. Maybe Mangold was just trying to come up with a story to end Wolverine, but, still, the ending and death of such an iconic character like Wolverine deserves a much deeper ending than what was given.

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