Logan: A Brutal and Epic Sendoff

For the longest time, I had a list of my top five favorite movies. They were Die Hard, The Dark Knight, Hot Fuzz, Casino Royale, and Gladiator. Then in 2015 Mad Max Fury Road was released, and my top five became a top six.

Well, now it might have to become a top seven.

James Mangold’s Logan is a deeply moving film, and I left the theater with tears in my eyes. I was saddened by the end of the film. Saddened by the end of a story I love, and by the fact that one of my favorite fictional characters will not be seen again onscreen the same way. But at the same time, it was a good sort of sadness, the kind of sadness that you feel when a story you love is over, but you feel that it couldn’t have ended any other way.

Logan is an aptly named film. In many ways, this is not a superhero movie. It’s not a story about Wolverine, the superhero. It’s a story about Logan, the man.

It’s also a story about the toll that all the years of fighting and world-saving can take on a person, even one with superhuman regenerating powers. This movie takes beloved and iconic characters and brings them lower than they’ve ever been before, and the results are breathtaking.

Unlike its predecessors, this is a not a family-friendly movie. Seriously, leave the kids at home for this one. The success of Deadpool last year paved the way for R-rated superhero movies, and Logan takes full advantage of the freedom provided by the R rating. This is a far more violent film than Deadpool, much more realistic and less exaggerated. There are buckets of blood and gore. Limbs and heads are severed, bodies and craniums are slashed and impaled in gruesome detail.

But the film isn’t violent just for the sake of being violent. The violence in the film comes from a place of character, and all of it has meaning. Fans have long wanted a Wolverine movie that lets him really cut loose with his claws, and this is that movie. One review I read described the movie like this: the language is blue and the violence is red. It’s a completely accurate description.

In the movie, which takes place in 2029, mutants are a dying breed. We’re told that no mutants have been born in 25 years. Logan makes a meager living as a limo driver, and hides out in a compound on the Mexican border, where he cares for an ailing Charles Xavier.

Logan and Charles have both seen better days, to say the least. Logan’s healing factor isn’t as potent as it once was, and his body has started to betray him in other ways. He wears reading glasses because his eyesight is starting to go, and when he pops his claws early in the film, one of them only comes out halfway, prompting him to look at it in bewilderment.

Charles is in arguably worse shape. He’s now in his nineties and is starting to become senile. He takes medication to suppress his seizures, and what happens when the world’s most powerful telepath has seizures? Nothing good. The first time we see Charles, he’s rambling incoherently and refusing to take his meds. He’s belligerent and uncooperative, and tells Logan how much of a disappointment he is, and accuses Logan of wishing he would just die so that he wouldn’t have to take care of him anymore. As a person with a grandparent with Alzheimer’s, all of this cut me right to the bone.

But even if you don’t know someone with a degenerative brain disease, it’s not hard to sympathize with Charles. This is a character who in his previous appearances has been the embodiment of civility and intelligence, a bastion of order in the chaos. To see him brought down so low is upsetting. It hurts.

This is a film that deals with things no other superhero or comic book movie ever has. It’s about getting old. It’s about the inevitability of death and the unstoppable current of time. It’s part western, part road-trip movie, part passing the torch to the next generation.

That next generation arrives in the form of Laura, an 11-year-old girl with the same powers as Wolverine, right down to the claws that come out from between her knuckles, who is being pursued by sinister forces. Logan reluctantly agrees to take her north to the Canadian border, to a safe haven for mutants that may or may not even exist, with the bad guys in hot pursuit. Along the way we find out more about Laura, where she came from and what she has already gone through, and the three of them, Logan, Charles, and Laura, start to become a family.

Laura is played by a young actress named Dafne Keen, making her big-screen debut. And she knocks it out of the park. Laura is silent and unexpressive for much of the movie, and when her ferocity is unleashed it’s truly frightening. The mystery of Laura’s origin is compelling and provides a strong driving force for the movie’s plot.

And it conveys so much about the personalities of Logan and Charles. Logan doesn’t want to help Laura at first. He doesn’t do that kind of thing anymore. But in the end, he can’t help it. He simply has no other choice. Charles does want to help her, perhaps feeling the same kind of motivations that led him to open his school for mutants all those years ago. Maybe he just wants some purpose to his life, some light in the darkness that the last years of his life have become.

It’s hard to tell exactly where this film fits in to the X-Men series’ cinematic continuity. The series has gone through several reboots over the years so it’s not clear what is canon and what isn’t. But that doesn’t bother me with this movie. I prefer to think of the X-Men films like I think about comics. They’re different interpretations of the same characters, and maybe they’re not meant to take place in the same universe. The point is that the fractured continuity of the X-Men film series doesn’t effect one’s enjoyment of this film. I don’t care if it takes place in the same universe or not, it’s still a superb movie.

And let’s talk for a second about Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. The first X-Men movie came out in 2000. Jackman and Stewart have been playing Logan and Charles for nearly two decades. When we see them in such dire straits, part of the reason it’s so affecting is that we’ve never seen them this way before, and we have memories of them in better days. Seeing them brought so low would have been moving anyway, but the fact that the movie carries nearly twenty years’ worth of previous movies behind it lends it even more weight. Needless to say, both actors are magnificent in this film, in what both have said will be their final appearances as these beloved and iconic characters.

There is a lot of action in this movie, and all of it is thrilling, but not necessarily what I would call “fun.” The action is well-filmed and choreographed, and it is easy to tell what is going on. But again, this is not a fun movie in the way that, say, an Avengers movie is fun. I would equate the experience of watching it to something like watching Gladiator. Spectacular action scenes, but hard to watch because of the brutality and the sheer emotional weight. The movie is beautifully directed by James Mangold, who also co-wrote the screenplay. He also directed Logan’s previous solo movie, 2013’s The Wolverine, and has a strong understanding of what makes Logan a compelling character. He directs the film with skill and grace, and it really feels like he cares about the characters. He has created a riveting film, from its startling opening scene to its haunting final image.

The movie’s first trailer was accompanied by a Johnny Cash song, “Hurt.” The trailer was one of those rare movie trailers that turned out to perfectly encapsulate the feel of the film it was promoting. It captured the movie’s melancholy tone, while conveying the emotional strain of the pain these characters experience. The song includes the line “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel. I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.” Logan and Charles live in a world of pain of all kinds: physical, mental, emotional. But the movie is about them realizing that there’s more to life than pain. There are things like love and family, and those things are what matter, those things are what last. It’s a lesson Logan and Charles have to learn the hard way, but it resonates throughout the film and beyond.

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What to Expect From Wolverine 3

Wolverine 3 Trailer Speculation

Last week, two trailers dropped for big Marvel movies coming out next year. The first was for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, James Gunn’s hotly-anticipated sequel to the hit 2014 movie. The teaser for Guardians 2 reveals next to nothing in terms of plot, but serves its purpose in whetting the audience’s appetite. It shows the zany humor that made the first film such a hit, and prominently features the same song, “Hooked on a Feeling,” that helped make the first movie’s trailers so memorable.

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But what I’m here to talk about in more detail today is the second trailer. The second trailer was for the third solo Wolverine movie, simply titled “Logan.” The movie is directed by James Mangold, who also helmed The Wolverine in 2013. The filmmakers have said that the film’s storyline will be partly inspired by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan storyline, and there are strong whiffs of that story in the trailer.

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But just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a little background. Millar’s story takes place in what you might call a dystopian or maybe even post-apocalyptic world, where the United States have been conquered and subsequently divided up by supervillains. The heroes are all either dead or in hiding, with Logan living a quiet life with his wife and two kids. Of course, Logan’s quiet life does not last long and he is pulled into a cross-country journey with Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, who is now blind. The story is kind of like Mad Max with Wolverine.

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The trailer for the movie really sells the grim nature of the story. It features a Johnny Cash song for crying out loud, so you know they’re serious about the pain and suffering. I’m sure the movie won’t follow the Old Man Logan comic 100%, but there are hints of it in the trailer. The big twist in the comic is that (spoiler alert) Logan was tricked by the villains into killing all of the X-Men, which is part of what enabled the villains to take over in the first place. And while that sounds way too extreme for a movie, there is a possible allusion to it in the trailer.

At the beginning of the trailer, Professor X is heard saying, “Logan…what did you do?”

It could of course just be misdirection or tricky trailer editing, but that line has got me thinking. The movie’s story synopsis on the Internet Movie Database reads: “Set in the future, Logan and Professor Charles Xavier must cope with the loss of the X-Men when a corporation led by Nathaniel Essex is destroying the world. With Logan’s healing abilities slowly fading away and Xavier’s Alzheimer’s forcing him to forget, Logan must defeat Nathaniel Essex with the help of a young girl named Laura Kinney, a female clone of Wolverine.”

Well, that gives us a few more possible hints. It also ties in to the post-credits scene from this year’s X-Men Apocalypse, which featured a mysterious group of men taking Logan’s blood sample from the Weapon X program and putting it in a case marked “Essex Corp.” Nathaniel Essex just so happens to be none other than the infamous villain Mr. Sinister.

So…in the movie, it seems highly likely that Sinister is involved in whatever has happened to the world. And maybe Logan had something to do with it as well…intentionally or otherwise.

I’m excited for Wolverine 3. Since the success of Deadpool, it has been confirmed that Logan will be rated R, which will finally give us a chance to see some really brutal violence. Wolverine has been in like six movies now, but we have yet to see him lop off any limbs with those razor-sharp adamantium claws, and I for one am quite looking forward to seeing him put those claws to use.

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But the trailer also delivers the emotional heft. Professor X is a character who has always been known for his mind (he is psychic after all) but this movie seems to be, if not taking that ability away from him entirely, then severely limiting it. Both Logan and Professor X are looking downright grizzled, and since it’s said to be the final appearance of both actors as these characters, it’s entirely possible one or both of them might die.

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Man, March 3 can’t come fast enough. Given the extremely convoluted timeline of the X-Men movie universe, all of my rampant speculation here might very well turn out to be completely wrong, but we’ll all know one way or another in just a few months.