It takes all of 5 minutes into Logan to let us know that we’ve never really seen Wolverine well and truly mad, which in many ways means we’ve never seen Wolverine at all.
* Spoilers for Logan and ‘Old Man Logan’ comics follow*
Sure, we’ve seen Hugh Jackman run and rage around screen for 5 X-Men movies, 2 solo Wolverine adventures, and a scene-stealing cameo, but the opening of Logan almost instantly unleashes the visceral berseker fury in a new blood-soaked light. Limbs fly around, blood stains the camera, and an old, limping, weary Logan takes an absolute beating from five car thieves.
From there the stage is set beautifully, as the most down-trodden and depressed Wolverine we’ve seen grapples with mortality, lost hope, and his perpetual struggle between man and monster.
Just as there was with Deadpool, much has been made of Logan’s ‘R-rating’ as a jumping on point for more ‘R-rated’ fare across the superhero movie genre. In the case of Logan, the conversation overlooks that Wolverine is a character steeped in violence. It isn’t just that Wolverine can fit in the context of brutality, it’s that his every waking moment is a fight to calm murderous impulses.
Additionally, attributing the success of Logan to pure violence and foul language would be a tremendous disservice to director James Mangold and the creative forces behind Logan. As a movie, Logan is a masterclass in pacing and world-building, crafting an all-too-real dystopian future of fear and hate wiping out mutantkind by 2029.
In perhaps Mangold’s most brilliant move, Logan never overshares. Although it’s clearly based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s “Old Man Logan” storyline, in many ways Logan is more comparable to X-Men cinema’s Dark Knight Returns. This is meant to be a conclusion all the way through, and unlike Days of Future Past, this timeline is very much the unavoidable end. Although there are just enough minor hints spread throughout to provide enticing mystery, Logan isn’t about how the world of mutants went to hell. It’s about how the Wolverine responds with the flames up to his neck and the devil on his tail.
The tone of Logan never steps too far out of the dark, but takes care to offer brief moments of light (though almost never from Wolverine himself). Whether it’s Patrick Stewart’s Professor X exhibiting just enough control to calm wild horses, or a group of children playing pranks with Wolverine’s playoff beard, Mangold and company know how to find small moments of humor in a sea of despair.
Make no mistake, though, Logan will break your heart. The most devastating blow comes from Professor X, riddled with Alzheimer’s and unable to control the immense power of his telepathy. Stewart somehow walks the line between dimensia and distinguished pride, and shoulders the burden of Old Man Logan’s twist ending with horrified grace. Creatively, aligning the blame of the Old Man Logan comics on the Professor is so much more devastating than the Mysterio-induced haze put upon Logan. Again, Wolverine is a creature of violence, but Stewart’s Charles Xavier has always been a man of learning and generosity. The implications are beyond tragic.
Likewise, the introduction of X-23, aka Laura Kinney, played with omega-level charisma by Dafne Keen, highlights just how far gone Jackman’s Wolverine has let himself go. I had a certain expectation that Logan would adopt a reluctant father figure role for his cloned daughter fairly quickly, yet there he is speeding away from mercenaries in a limo with the Professor, leaving behind a little girl with nothing but a bowl of cereal.
Any time there’s a comic book movie that adapts clear comic book storylines, it’s a challenge not to nitpick what it got wrong, or what you resent the movie leaving out. Batman v Superman is a clear example, with Dark Knight Returns and Death of Superman adapted quite directly in many scenes, yet never forming a cohesive whole. Logan, on the other hand, adapts Old Man Logan and X-23: Innocence Lost so smoothly, and so successfully, that it’s hard to think of a single change. Sure, there are Marvel Universe tie-ins throughout Millar and McNiven’s version that give the comic a certain hyperbolic thrill (there’s a cover with the Red Skull wearing Captain America’s torn uniform, for one), but those tricks were never an option in the Fox X-Men movie verse.
The only trick Logan really had its in bag was 17 years of legacy and character building from Jackman and Stewart. The call for more “mature” superhero films is one I endorse, but don’t overlook the fact that there are zero franchises that have the time and familiarity of Wolverine and Professor X. No matter the form or the critical acclaim, the characters have been with superhero movie audiences for the entirety of the 2000’s! This gives incredible weight to Logan, and allows it to function in the vein of the first overwhelmingly successful cinematic “ending” to a superhero franchise.
At the end of the day, Logan lives up to the hype, and is without question the best Wolverine movie of all time. As for where it stands in my X-Men movie universe rankings:
X-Men Movie Universe Power Rankings
- X2: X-Men United
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
- X-Men: First Class
- X-Men (1)
- X-Men: Apocalypse
- The Wolverine (Wolverine 2)
- A blank screen
- The sound of screeching tires and innocent screams
- X3: The Last Stand
- That feeling when you’ve lost something important
- Wolverine: Origins
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