Oh, man. I don’t even know where to start with this. And this might seem untoward, but I’m getting a bit choked up just writing these opening sentences. That aside, though, I just want to show my appreciation toward Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of everybody’s feral X-Men these past 17 years. My god, can you believe that? 17 years! That’s literally a span of time where fans could legitimately say, “I grew up watching Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.” As for me, I just think there is no better description for the Australian actor’s performances throughout the years other than that old Wolverine adage: he’s the best there is at what he does. So, thank you, Mr. Jackman. Without you, the whole tableau of pop culture – and not just superhero movies, mind you – would not have been the same had other put on the adamantium claws.
So, Logan was just released, and believe me when I say that it’s the perfect send-off to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine character. For more than two hours, I sat there in the theater not exactly knowing how to describe how I should feel. Sure, I was ecstatic: it was one wonderful movie, after all. But I just can’t shake off that feeling I get whenever I realize that this is the last film I’ll ever be seeing the Wolverine onscreen. At that point, I just forgot about how this was all just a movie and Logan was just a character being played by an actor: in my sad little mind, they’re one and the same. But let’s stop talking about how I felt for now and focus on what makes Logan the best Wolverine movie there is (how fitting a description for a movie about the character indeed). Now, you might have heard this countless times before because of how other writers always refer to it whenever talks of the greatest superhero movies are abuzz – which is rightfully so, if you ask me –, but I’m doing it anyway. I am talking about none other than the universally accepted truth that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight stands as the greatest superhero movie ever made, and I will fight you if you don’t think it is. So, what does this have to do with Logan? Well, simply put, Logan is the kind of movie that I strongly believe follows along the footsteps of what Nolan’s masterpiece did almost ten years ago.
In other words, this is how you keep in the tradition of creating groundbreaking genre movies. In this case, superhero flicks. The long and short of it is, Fox did it right. If you are wondering how you do this wrong, though, just check out the WB’s whole DC Extended universe catalogue. I’ll say no more about that, however; this article is about Logan, not DC.
Going back to Logan, not only is it a perfect swan song to Hugh Jackman’s career as our favorite amnesiac but more importantly, it was able to break the whole Wolverine mold that started way back in the year 2000 with the first X-Men movie. Don’t know what I’m talking about? All right, here’s a little test: think of all the X-Men and Wolverine movies where the adamantium-laced hero appears and look at what his main problem is in all those films. I am talking about none other than that old Wolvie trope where almost all stories about him involve his past. From the first X-Men movie right up to Days of Future Past and 2013’s The Wolverine, each and every film where Marvel’s resident hothead mutant appears always deals with something from his past. During the first trilogy, it was all about Logan being an amnesiac looking for his memories; in the much derided X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it’s all in the title: it’s a movie about the man formerly known as James Howlett’s past; in Days of Future Past, Logan literally travelled to the past; and even in his 2013 self-titled film, it’s about how the character is trying to confront an enemy from, you guessed it, his past. In fact, the only time Wolverine didn’t shut the hell up about his past was on X-Men First Class wherein he just had a very brief yet totally memorable cameo (you know, the one where he tells Prof. X and Magneto to go stick their mutant agenda where the sun doesn’t shine.). And that’s playing it loosely, since that movie is basically an X-Men origin story that’s set nowhere else but, uh oh, the past! In all fairness, though, all those films by Fox about Marvel’s mutant franchise were highly entertaining. Yeah, say what you want about the third X-Men movie and the first Wolverine movie, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.
So, what makes Logan different? Well, as we said it broke from that whole trope. It’s the only movie – in fact, the only storyline within the X-Men cinematic universe – that doesn’t dwell on James Howlett’s past. And when you look at it, that’s actually one of the motivating themes of the whole movie: when you’re done with the past, what’s left for you in the future?
[Now, before we go on, it’s time for me to give you the usual warnings: SPOILERS AHEAD, true believer! Read at your own risk!]
As I just mentioned, one of the main themes that Logan sets is about asking the question about what is left for a man who is done, or at least over, his own past. Right in the first act of this instant classic, the audience is treated to a picture of a man named James Howlett, which keen fans know as Wolverine’s birth name, and this gives us an immediate idea of how the character has been in between installments (yeah, Fox says this movie is set in a different universe from the main X-Men timeline, but a quick blink-or-you’ll-miss-it shot of a katana instantly links the 2013 movie with Logan). This is a man who has an idea, or at the least doesn’t care, about the past anymore that what once was one of the most exciting parts of his adventures, the search for his past, has become such a commonplace occurrence for him that it’s simply just something you can put on your I.D. without any sense of wonder to it. It’s become just that: a name. And now that the past isn’t an issue anymore, what else is there?
Well, in Logan the titular character, as we all know from the press releases and trailers, is at a point in his life where, for all intents and purposes, he’s at a dead end. Now, I won’t give too much away about the movie, because I want you to enjoy it the way I did when I saw it for the first time without it having been spoiled by the god damn internet. Suffice it to say that Logan is a beautiful film that manages to balance both the bombastic quality of superhero action, which if I may add is the greatest portrayal of Wolverine fight scenes there has ever been onscreen or within the funny books (and we have its R rating to thank for that), with the more profound themes of mortality, age, and acceptance.
And as millions of New Age bozos would say, every end has a new beginning; Logan is no exception to that. Yes, it is truly heartbreaking to think about this being the end of the Hugh Jackman era of Wolverine, but it is as much that as it is a passing of the torch. And I think no other Wolverine derivative is a better fit to take on the claws other than Laura Kinney herself, portrayed by Dafne Keen in a breakout performance that I think won’t be forgotten for quite some time, also known as X-23. As an aside, have you noticed how Fox seems to be setting up this young actress to be THE X-23, given how her surname’s eerily similar to the superheroine’s? Hey, if not Fox, then let’s just call it destiny.
So, if you’re not keen (I live for puns, and I’m not apologizing for it) to who X-23 really is, allow us to give you a brief history of the character. Originally, Laura Kinney appeared on TV instead of comic books. Back in the mid-2000s, Fox produced the animated series X-Men: Evolution, which focused on teenaged versions of Marvel’s mutants, and X-23 had her debut there during its third season. In 2004, though, she’d make her comic book debut on the pages of NYX. Right from the beginning, X-23 had proven to be an instant hit with fans and she became a constant presence in the Marvel universe, being members of numerous teams like the X-Men and X-Force. In fact, by the end of the 2000’s, she’s become popular enough to have her own solo title. Currently, though, she’s no more the budding property she was just a few years ago; she’s a bona fide A-lister in the Marvel universe these days. In fact, she’s taken the Wolverine mantle ever since he “died” (although we all know nothing ever really sticks in comics) in the Death of Wolverine miniseries.
So, there it is. Although it is indeed a cliché to say there is always a new beginning, Logan just proves there is still some truth to it nevertheless. It’s sad to see Hugh Jackman go, but I can’t wait to see what Fox is planning with X-23.