The Last of Wolverine
No, I don’t think Logan is the greatest comic-book movie since The Dark Knight (which isn’t even great to begin with). But it’s probably the best X-Men movie yet. I used to agree with the general consensus that X2 was the best of the lot, but Logan is also a remarkable movie and it gets Wolverine right. And that for me, says a lot.
While the first two X-Men movies by were generally well-loved by both critics and fans, I’ve always find them lacking. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto respectively, brought gravitas to these surprisingly earnest comic book movies (the much maligned third movie had actually more fun to offer, especially with Juggernaut, Mystique and Multiple Man).
Hugh Jackman took the role of Wolverine, and made a career playing the fierce but sensitive mutant from Canada. Unfortunately, the other supposedly key characters (Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast) were sidelined, and nearly forgettable. While Rebecca Romijn, in her very physical and almost dialogue-free role as Mystique, steals the show from almost every one of them. Sure, Bryan Singer has style, but it’s a style that muted the colors and voices of these supposedly motley crew of outsiders.
Yes, these movies touch on relevant issues (i.e., xenophobia, LGBT). But so did the comics and the ’90s cartoons, which, arguably did better doing so than the movies. In fact, that is only to be expected of these movies. What I did not expect was how Wolverine-centered they were. Were they called Wolverine and the X-Men, I won’t be complaining how the rest of team didn’t get to do much. Also, I thought these movies were just too serious for their own good. Logan was allowed to make jokes, but at the expense of the other characters, like Cyclops and Beast, who were both badly underwritten. And sometimes, the seriousness lapses into something silly, unintentionally (i.e., X-Men‘s amusingly inept fight scenes, Prof. X saying goodbye to Cyclops in X2 (couldn’t Jean talk to Scott directly?))
Same can’t be said of Logan, Hugh Jackman’s third solo and final outing as Wolverine. While James Mangold’s film has a setting similar to Days of Future Past—takes place in the future, the few remaining mutants hiding, hunted—Logan works as a kind of post-apocalyptic drama, where the fancy stuff in Future Past—the Sentinels, time travel, Warpath, Bishop and Fan Bingbing (characters I’d love to see in another movie) never happened. Here, Logan is old, his body’s regenerative ability is failing, and he drives a limo to buy medicine for an aging Prof. X to keep him from killing half the world’s population with his Alzheimer’s-inflicted brain. Think of it as a movie about old people taking care of old people, them sticking together, wading through the odds.
I know that for a lot of people Hugh Jackman is Logan/Wolverine. For me, his “too pretty, too soft” portrayal of the man with adamantium claws, secret past and weird hairstyle, is one of the many things past X-Men movies didn’t get right. The hurt look on his face, his full of guilt “I really hate killing people” facial expression every-time he fights, had always run in contrast to the Wolverine I grew up with. You see, I’m more into that “Come and get me, Bub” kind of guy, the bad-ass berserker who relish cutting anything with his claws, and hides the pain behind that nasty grin, instead of showing it.
Jackman’s portrayal makes Wolverine look vulnerable, much more than Cyclops, Jean Grey or Storm, but that doesn’t make his character complex, rather contradictory. Why? Because vulnerability should be the last thing one should expect from a mutant who’s lived hundred years, fought and survived countless wars and is nearly unkillable. Wolverine should be more like the T-800 than Harry Potter, but Jackman’s Logan is closer to the latter.
What I’m really trying to say is, finally, here’s a movie where Hugh Jackman’s softhearted and world-weary Wolverine fits and belongs to. A movie that has enough drama to justify the R-Rated violence. A movie that has the proper tone and weight to tackle intolerance, violence, and inequalities. If you take away the part where an evil corporation experiments on mutants, it’s hardly a superhero/comic book movie.
And that’s why the best part of the movie isn’t the final showdown between Logan and his clone X-24 (also played by Hugh Jackman). Nor is it the father-daughter relationship between him and Laura/X-23. (Actually, when Logan tried to push her away, it brings to mind bad memories from The Last Stand i.e., Dark Phoenix, the Logan-Jean Grey romance.) The best part of the movie happens in the farm, when Prof. X, Logan and Laura were accepted as guests by a family they helped in a traffic accident. Prof. X finally felt home (after a long time, here he is under one roof with the humans he spent his life protecting) while Laura befriends the teenage boy in the family. Logan on the other hand tried to reciprocate their kindness by helping them get rid of the greedy farmers from the nearby corporate farm. It touches on a number of relevant issues and while it ends with ultraviolence, it’s one of those fights where blood, death, and violence, really meant something.