In 1997, Joel Schumacher released a film called Batman & Robin. Except, Batman & Robin isn’t really a film. It’s more like a porn parody, minus the only thing we actually look forward to when we illegally download fine art like Star Wars XXX and Joone’s masterpiece, Pirates. BOOBS! What it did have, however, is closeups of George Clooney’s ass, an abundance of ice-puns and the culmination of Uma Thurman’s career disintegration. A fucking tragedy, to say the least. Comic book fans went into hiding and everyone else simply believed that there’s no place for comic book movies in the modern world.
We did see glimmers of hope, though. Bryan Singer’s X-Men and X2: X-Men United are good movies that still hold up to this day, while Batman Begins is an origin story unlike any other. But it wasn’t until 2008, when Christopher Nolan released his sequel to Batman Begins, did everyone go, “HOLY SHIT!” The Dark Knight changed the game, big time. For the first time, we watched a comic book movie that transcended the genre itself. The Dark Knight isn’t a comic book movie. It is a crime-thriller that has comic book characters in it. Since The Dark Knight, we’ve had other amazing comic book movies – The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Captain America: Civil War and Fucking Deadpool. But, amazing or not, these were still COMIC BOOK MOVIES.
Then came Logan…
Talk about a fucking game changer. Calling Logan a comic book movie would be severely underselling it. This is a western-drama that just so happens to feature a man with metal claws and regenerative abilities. And it’s quite honestly the least exciting comic book movie I’ve ever watched in my life (including Batman & Robin). But do not mistake least exciting for least inspired. Logan is great. It’s just not very fun to watch. This is an emotional journey, one that starts of violently and ends brutally, yet perfectly. It’s painful, but I’m going to watch it again and then again. Is this what BDSM feels like?
When the movie starts, Logan is sleeping at the back of his car. A bunch of thugs try to steal the rims of his car. In any other X-Men movie, he would’ve taken them out in a blink of an eye. But here he’s old, worn out and his alcohol stained breath seeps through the giant screen. He’s a mess. He slurs his words, wobbles around and even allows them to blast him with a shotgun. He eventually kills them all in an extremely graphic fashion, but not before dropping some F-bombs, as if to say, “you’re going to get your money’s worth bitches.” But no, this isn’t Deadpool, which uses violence and profanities for comedic effect. This is Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and we’re just getting started.
Logan is about three characters who are at different stages in life. On one end we have James Howlett AKA Logan AKA Wolverine who is 197 years old. He’s a shell of his old self, broken and lost his cause for living. He drowns his suffering in alcohol and carries with him an Adamantium bullet, – a shot to the head with that will finish him off – contemplating suicide. We often talk about achieving immortality. Wouldn’t it be fun if you could live forever? After watching Logan, I’m not so sure anymore. What’s the point of living when everyone you care about is buried six feet under?
On the other end, you have 90 years old, Charles Xavier, a father figure to Logan. He too is a shell of his former self. Super powered being or not, Charles suffers the same faith a lot of old people do: he’s losing his mind. Sometimes he gets random seizures. And when he does, he risks killing everyone within the vicinity. There’s a dark cloud lingering over his shoulders. Something isn’t right. It’s implied that he killed all/some of the X-Men when he had his first seizure. That’s right, Charles Xavier the man who has been a caretaker and father figure to many young mutants for oh-so-many years, killed them all. Like I said, this movie is the opposite of fun.
Then comes along Laura/X-23, a mutant born and bred in a laboratory. When we’re first introduced to her, she seems like a regular, albeit socially awkward kid. She doesn’t talk, so we assume she’s mute. Then THE SCENE happens. A bunch of mofos try to nab her. She decapitates one guy, then goes ape shit on the rest of them. Not since The Joker’s pencil trick have I seen such a powerful introduction to a comic book character. What I love about the pencil trick and this introduction to Laura is the fact that they’re not just written for shock value, but rather, provides a deeper look into these characters. Laura is merely a 11-year old kid, but yet she’s fearlessly killing one guy after another, without guilt nor remorse. Is she badass? Sure. She makes Black Widow look like Mother Theresa. But it’s also very sad knowing that she wasn’t raised like an ordinary kid, she was raised as a weapon. A blood-thirsty monster. Oh, before I forget. Laura is Wolverine’s clone and in many ways, that makes him her dad, whether he likes it or not (he doesn’t).
Despite the incredible action set-pieces, my two favourite scenes in the movie has no action at all. In one scene, Charles and Logan have a chat in the car, while in the background we see Laura riding on one of those electrical ponies you find outside of grocery stores. On the surface, it may seem like a pointless throwaway scene, but I beg to differ. Superbly directed by James Mangold, this scene highlights one very important aspect of Laura: Despite her animalistic behaviour, deep down, she’s just a little girl. In fact, while this movie will most likely be remembered by most for it’s hard R violence, it is nuances like this – penned by Scott Frank, Michael Green and James Mangold, directed by James Mangold – that makes Logan a truly unique beast.
The death of Charles Xavier comes to mind. Many of you, just like me, probably figured that Charles Xavier was going to die in this movie, judging by the hints that can be found in the trailers. I mean, there is a scene in the trailer that shows Wolverine holding a shovel in his hand, looking distraught. I don’t think any of us saw that and went, “Yeap, he’s totally burying his pet goldfish.” Add that to the fact that Patrick Stewart has repeatedly said he’s not reprising his role as Charles Xavier, we all knew that he’s definitely kicking the bucket in this film. But the manner in which he dies, no one could have predicted.
One of the important plot threads in Logan is Charles desperately wanting a normal life for himself, for Logan and for Laura. And when a civilian family invites them to stay over, Charles merrily accepts. This is the turning point in the movie, where we see all three protagonists sitting at the dinner table, eating a delicious home cooked meal. For the first time, they seem genuinely happy. It’s also the first time in the movie where we as an audience get to catch a breath. But of course, this is followed by the most terrifying scene in the movie. LOGAN KILLS CHARLES XAVIER. Okay, fine. It turned out to be Logan’s made-in-a-laboratory evil twin. But for a second there, we all thought he had actually done it. The confused look on Charles’ face is soul-crushing. In his mind, he’s betrayed by the man who he has cared for like his own son. And the look on (the real) Logan’s face, carrying his dying father, murmuring “it wasn’t me… it wasn’t me.”
What’s even more tragic about that scene is the family that is laid waste by Wolverine’s clone-evil-twin. Because when you actually think about it, it is Charles’ action that caused the death of that family. Charles accepted their invitation against Logan’s wishes. Charles wanted to stay overnight, although he knew that the Reavers were hunting them down. Is it Charles’ fault that everyone in the family – the mom, the dad and the teenage boy – died? Yes. But the brilliance in the writing is the fact that we understand why Charles made those decisions. He’s desperate for a little bit of normality in his life, that when the opportunity presents itself, he can’t help but accept. It kinda reminds me of people who resort to cannibalism when they’re stranded and starving.
The performances in this movie are brilliant. When we think of actors who have made certain characters their own, we think of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Heath Ledger as The Joker and maybe even Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. But none of them come close to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Look, I’m not saying none of them acted as well as Hugh Jackman – Ledger’s Joker is legendary after all. What I mean is Jackman is so intertwined with this character that you actually believe Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine.
Here, he gives the performance of his career, even better than his great work in Les Miserables. This is also Patrick Stewart’s best performance to date. I hope come next year’s Awards season, there is Oscar buzz surrounding both of them. The biggest surprise though, is Dafne Keen. There is a scene where she sucks the blood and bullet from her hand and spits it out. How do you tell a 12-year old kid to do that convincingly? I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I think Dafne Keen’s Laura could be my favourite on-screen female character. She’s magnificent.
WE HAVE GOT TO TALK ABOUT THE ENDING
The action sequences in this film are glorious. This is especially true for the emphatic climax. Laura and a bunch of mutant kids are running towards the border of US and Canada – North Dakota is supposedly a safe haven for mutants – when the Reavers arrive. Even without Wolverine, this scene is pretty great, with the kids using their various mutant abilities to take down the Reavers. The Icegirl freezing a Reaver’s hand then breaking it stand outs in particular. But eventually, almost all the kids are rounded up. From a distance, Logan injects himself with some steroid-thingy and starts running. Then we hear him ROAR and you know what’s about to come. If you Google the word FUCKING MENTAL, it will read, “THE FINAL SCENE FROM LOGAN!” If you’re a fan of the X-Men/Wolverine comic books and graphic novels, then this scene will send shivers down your spine. Wolverine goes full berserker on those assholes and you see blood and guts spilling left and right. Then Laura joins him. It is undoubtedly one of the best action sequences ever, comic book movie or otherwise.
When you think of great comic book movie action sequences the likes of Nightcrawler breaking into the White House in X2, Batman going nuts in the “warehouse scene,” in Batman V Superman and “the airport scene” in Captain America: Civil War, comes to mind. What separates the action scenes in Logan from the aforementioned action scenes is the fact that it isn’t necessarily fun. Despite the abundance of blood, Logan isn’t a film that celebrates violence. Logan and Laura (and the other kids) are forced beyond their wishes to unleash their claws. And watching Laura stab a Reaver’s face over and over and over again isn’t exciting, because she’s suffering. And you know, with every stab, she loses a small part of her soul.
Following that, is one final action scene between Logan and his evil clone twin. The steroids have run out. Logan knows he probably isn’t going to survive this fight, but he fights anyway. He fights because he wants the kids to survive. He fights and he fights. Laura shoots Evil Wolverine with the Adamantium bullet and he dies. But it’s too late. Logan is already at the brink of his death. And right before dying he looks at Laura and says, “so this is what it feels like.” Is he saying, “this is what death feels like?” I don’t think so. He’s talking about the feeling of loving someone deeply, the feeling of having a family. Because it is during his final breathing moments in which he realises exactly what Charles Xavier meant.
And then he dies.
And for the first time (I think), Laura starts crying. “Daddy,” she says. But daddy is gone. After 17 years, seven films and two cameos, Hugh Jackman is gone.
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