Logan: Hugh Jackman’s last RRAARAG

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Before I starting gushing/reminiscing I think I need to emphasize just how much of an x-men/Jackman/Wolverine fanboy I really am. Back in 1999/2000 I still remember fast-forwarding through some adds (yes fast-forwarding, VHS) when I noticed something that looked kind of sparkling and cool. Rewinding I swear 15(ish) year old me couldn’t have been more excited to see a frickin X-men movie trailer. (not only was this in the VHS time, it was also a different movie culture, not every detail of a movie’s production and trailers were available online long before the movie even existed, so trailers where often your first heads up that a movie was even happening!)

At that time Jackman was relatively unknown, so at that time no-one knew that X1 would lauch a 17 year 9 movie spree of the Wolverine (although to be fair 1.5 of those are cameo appearances, still).

So how did Logan, Jackman’s send-off pan out?

In general the movie was bloody fantastic. Probably the best thing about it is that it feels looks and watches completely different from the myriad of superhero movies so far. Funny without being campy, violent and gritty without being Snydered Logan feels a lot like watching an old-school action film from the 80’s or 90’s.

Although I do have to add that while I’m not a Captain America for ‘language’ it feel at times F-bombs were used to cover up lazy dialogue which got annoying at times.

Comparing to other Wolverine outings Logan is clearly the best solo film for the clawed super-hero, in my opinion X1, X2, and Days of Future Past (which lets face it are strongly Wolverine-centric anyway) probably still sit as more classic and enjoyable, especially the nostalgic buzz of Days of Future Past. But as mentioned Logan will be remembered not just as a last hurrah but a strong film in its own right.

So was there anything wrong with the film?

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SPOILER ALERT MAJOR ONES TOO

I do have a couple of gripes which the inner critic can’t suck up even for my favourite superhero. While the film does a great job depicting Wolvy and where he has ended up and fully embraces the farewell nature of the film, the film is kinda lazy with character development. I think the trailers were pretty clear that the hero arc in the story was ye ole’ grizzled hero doesn’t want to help cos he is so old and jaded and not the hero everyone things he is (but of course is the hero we all think he is). Wolverine doesn’t really develop throughout so much as get constantly shoved into situations where he has to help. This is good start for a movie, but it would have made a bit more interest if Logan actually could have made some choices other than just fight or sit around coughing and looking terrible.

The lack of decent change made the 3rd act somewhat weaker. There is something incredibly frustrating about amazing potential in movies that seem to just be dropped or not bothered with in favour of blunt storylines.

The frustration I speak of is that the ‘big bad’ of Logan is Wolverine himself, or rather a raging mute clone of him. It’s kinda a weird choice, but has an awesome use of depicting Wolverine’s real battle as being against himself and his raging guilty history. This was sort of poked at, as if good character development was a hornet’s nest best left alone, and during the film its suggested that Logan might still be able to have a loving peaceful life. My frustration is that the film could have easily created a much stronger narrative, rather than just ‘will Logan overcome his general gruffness and help x-23?’ it could have been ‘can Logan overcome his horrific past and create a real relationship with x-23 and survive’ getting slain in the process of the latter would be much more tragic, especially if the film actually did more around suggesting Wolverine might not be doomed from the get go.

Another tiny complaint is that for 2/3 of the film x-23 is presented as mute, and the film does brilliantly showing her character through action and body language. The would have made Logan’s final farewell that much more powerful if done in the same fashion, but for some reason x-23 decides to suddenly start talking for the last act kinda ruining that whole deal.

Retcon edit: So I’ve been reading about Logan all day, enjoying other people’s views and whatnot and have sort of been rethinking the themes. What others have out is that the character development of the film was meant to overemphasize the exhausted sadness of Logan’s life. In reflection, I’m thinking yes maybe the option of healing would have perhaps added more tension, but actually the grim inevitability of Logan’s demise fit with the thematic nature of the film. As such the tension of the film wasn’t about Logan’s fate, simply whether he could die happy or not. Complicated the narrative with a lost potential might have successfully toyed with our expectations some more, however the actual film hit us with its emotions like a blunt force trauma, which fits with the action much better too.

Also if you use the measure of a film making you think about all the different possibilities then the film was exactly as it should have been. I often feel that the best stories leave me thinking: if only X, if only Y, if only Z. While in many respects Logan opted for a simple conclusion in many respects, it was a conclusion that reinforced the true themes of the film (i.e. Wolverine being spent after a horrific life, and giving one last gift to a child) not my wishful thinking themes of Logan possibly finding healing from said horrible life. I think its a message hard to hear, after all if one really interprets his battle with his cloned self to be a metaphor with his bestial nature and past, Wolverine actually loses the battle but x-23 defeats the clone, suggesting that while Logan couldn’t do it, she might.

Everything in Logan is hard edges, the ending included, even my disappointment of the 3rd act could be seen in that context. Suffice to say about my only criticism of the film is that x-23 started talking rather abruptly!

In summary it would have been cool to see a bit more thought given to the exact nature of Logan’s send-off, although one might argue that just enough thought was given to this to allow some over-analytic grump like myself to observe those themes, while still being a straightforward action movie.

I confess some part of me is still imagining Hugh Jackman will return, some form of denial I guess. I might have to spend some nostalgia time with the previous movies.

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