The second in an ongoing series of film conversations where I track my daughter’s reaction after she’s been introduced to one of my favorite movies.
**Spoiler alert** – I’ll tread lightly because the surprises are worth it, but If you don’t want to know what happens in the film, you should probably stop reading this now.
What’s the movie about?
A man’s burgeoning career as a chauffeur is upended when he’s introduced to a daughter he never knew existed. Embarking on a cross-country road-trip, he must contemplate difficult life decisions while stabbing multiple people in the head with his Adamantium claws.
Why did I pull this particular movie out of the cabinet?
Because it’s freakin’ Wolverine. He’s the best at what he does, and what he does in this film isn’t very nice (finally!)
What did I think of the movie upon revisiting it?
It’s pretty damn close to being a masterpiece of the genre. This is not your standard comic book film, there is no sense of adventure, very little humor, and no flashy costumes. It’s honestly kind of depressing…but in a good way!
Why do I like it?
It’s the perfect send-off for one of the greatest actor/character castings of all time – Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine. Over seventeen years, if you include brief cameos, Jackman has made nine film appearances as Wolverine, he owns the role. I recall a lot of internet bellyaching over Jackman’s height being an issue (Wolverine is 5’3” in the comics) but I’m glad Tom Cruise didn’t play the part. I shudder to think of the poor bastard who’s expected to come in behind him when the MCU attempts the reboot, whoever gets the role is going to have big claws to fill.
The film subverts expectations all over the place; while Jackman has previously played the character as being a bit cantankerous, in Logan he’s pretty much a flat-out asshole. Old, bitter, and angry, he’s not living the life of a superhero, he’s an old man waiting to die who’s begrudgingly providing support for the elderly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Their relationship is strained, and Logan is decidedly unsympathetic towards Charles, for reasons which become clear later in the film.
Stewart plays the aged Xavier as a fragile old man, frustrated and confused by his circumstances – it’s a brave performance. The formerly polished school teacher from previous films is now frightened and vulnerable, but he still has moments of genuine nobility. Dafne Keen plays the newly introduced X-23, and Stephen Merchant rounds out the good guys as the albino mutant Caliban. The bad guys come in many forms including Boyd Holbrook as Pierce (a significant character from the X-men comic universe) and Richard Grant plays the standard scientific psychopath – Ben Mendelsohn must have been unavailable.
As details of the production began to leak, much was made of fans finally getting “a real Wolverine movie,” online debates raged as to whether or not the film would be a “hard R.” Over the course of seventeen years we’ve seen Wolverine fight hard, but with the exception of his mansion defense in X-2, we’ve never really seen Wolverine’s patented “berserker rage” onscreen. Thankfully, Logan pulls no punches in that regard, those of us who’ve waited to see a balls-to the wall Wolverine offering are richly rewarded – limbs are sliced off, heads are punctured, and no character is ever truly safe which raises the stakes of the overall film.
The ending of the film is a mixture of sadness and satisfaction, both Wolverine’s death and a small graveside service are incredibly poignant. If you’ve been a fan of the comics or film series, the final scene of the film will stay with you for a long time, I recall audibly gasping in the theater – it’s an incredible sendoff.
Upon rewatch, what didn’t work for me?
It’s definitely not the feel-good movie of the year, so you need to be prepared to be entertained and depressed at the same time – Logan starts the film in bad shape, and things only get worse for him as the film progresses, it’s not an easy watch in that regard. Also, seeing “James Howlett” on his chauffer’s license is a reminder they made a mistake in telling Wolverine’s origin story – he was a far more compelling figure when his history was shrouded in mystery.
Anything else I’d like to add?
A quick digression – the year is 1983 and a twelve-year-old version of me enters a comic book shop called Comics & Fantasies in San Jose California. Interested but not overly familiar with current comic offerings, a cover catches my eye:
Who is that dude, and does he have CLAWS? Who are the “Uncanny X-men?” Cut to several years and several long boxes worth of comics later, and I was definitely a huge fan of the X-universe. For my 12th birthday I recall receiving several Comics & Fantasies gift certificates from my friends (which annoyed my parents, they were obviously not in the loop on the amazing speculative opportunity comics present, it really should be 20-30% of anybody’s retirement portfolio). I used those gift certificates to secure important comics from the X-men timeline, Frank Miller’s Wolverine limited series, the first appearance of Kitty Pryde, and most importantly the Death of Jean Grey (X-men #137) which was briefly the holy grail of any X-men comics collector.
I’ve been emotionally invested in the X-men ever since, and while some of the movies have stunk (I’m looking in your direction X-men Origins: Wolverine) Hugh Jackman has killed it as Wolverine…and I’m not just talking about him ending the lives of 90+ people onscreen. Jackman brought the right mixture of irritability, nobility, ferocity, and honor to the role, his death is the perfect way to close out the Fox X-men universe.
Am I still happy I chose this to share with my daughter?
Definitely, she’s seen all the other X-men films, I probably should have taken her to see this in the theater. At the time I wanted to check it out in advance to see if the violence was going to be too much, but then I found out later she’d already watched most of The Walking Dead online after I apparently gave her the go-ahead (shhh….don’t tell my wife, she also doesn’t know that my son has watched all of Breaking Bad).
Please let me know where I can pick up my father of the year award…..
So, what did she think? Check out the podcast to find out!