Second Opinion: Logan (Spoilers).
Hugh Jackman’s final turn (I’ll believe it when I don’t see it) as the ol’ canucklehead is kicking ass and taking names at the box office this weekend. I will delve into some of the Easter eggs and spoiler content in a second look at Wolvie’s swan song.
Neil already wrote up a review of Logan, one that tiptoed (tippy-toed maybe?) around the spoilers. As such, this won’t be a standard review, more a musing on the film and discussion of the Easter eggs and whatnot that added context and nuance to the film.
So, without further ado:
…Logan is a mutant with blades coming out of his hands!
BWAHAHAHA… seriously though, Spoiler content ahead.
First order of business. We here at Deluxe Video Online might have strongly recommended coming to the movie on time. Something about lil old ladies and orphans. Well, here’s the reason: in the US, the final trailer before the movie starts is a fake trailer for Deadpool 2, starring the redeemed merc with a mouth Ryan Reynolds. It’s delightfully funny, both crude and morbid, and it gives us a pretty accurate date for the next movie: Not Soon Enough. It was nice to come full circle on the Logan/Wayde Wilson cycle of life: a shitty first outing for both Jackman and Reynolds was the catalyst for a fantastic Deadpool movie, which green lit the R rating that elevates Logan beyond typical comic fare.
…Oh yeah, I hope you like pork, because Reynolds sends us a pressed ham. Now onto the movie proper.
Professor X stretches his legs.
Many critics heaped praise on Sir Patrick Stewart and his purportedly final turn as Professor Charles Xavier. Some even used the O-word (Oscars). I mostly agree that his performance was superlative, a tour de (X) force that provides a lot of the heart of the movie. I do disagree on one point in all the praise lavished on him, and on the film in general. Many say that this movie, as well as Stewart’s performance, were strong enough to make this a great film, even without the comic-book elements. I dissent.
Stewart’s performance reminded me of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, both in power and in precedent. Ledger’s performance was heightened due to the breathless speculation on whether he could succeed such quintessential iterations as Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman(1989) and Mark Hamill’s clown prince of crime in Batman: The Animated Series. That his character was both new and improved was a colossal achievement, and I believe Stewart does the same in Logan.
We have had two other touchstone portrayals of Prof. X; one by James McAvoy, and one by Patrick Stewart himself. There was also the added expectation surrounding using Professor X as a stand in for a Blind Hawkeye, the character originally used in the comic “Old Man Logan” upon which much of this movie draws inspiration, at least visually. That this character is both a distillation of McAvoy/Stewart(1) and a totally new take at the same time was brilliant. He vacillates between the impotent fury of an elderly man trapped in a situation and a body he has no power over and an empathetic moral dreamer. He also surpasses the amazingly written but legally verboten Hawkeye; he is both the road trip buddy and moral compass Logan needs. It is a fantastic soup, spiced up by the hype surrounding the role.
The movie itself shares some of this alchemy. The first two Wolverine movies were a bit shit. Jackman was adamant(ium) that this would be his final turn as the character. The movie had minor love letters to Jackman and Stewart’s previous work, referencing things like the Statue of Liberty fight in X-Men and the Samurai/Military origins of Logan in the previous movies. This was a great movie, but if none of X-verse (both the good and comically bad) had preceded it, would anyone really give Oscar buzz to a ginsu-fist and his clone/daughter bodying a couple hundred assholes? Well, I guess Mel Gibson got a nomination, so anything is possible.
The Killing Fields.
Speaking of said bodied assholes, I got a little tired of it. One of my major gripes about the X-verse so far is that if they aren’t beating on Magneto, the X-Men are constantly just fighting military stooges. I get that much of the social commentary of the comics is about governmental oppression, and nearly all of Wolverine’s enemies not named Sabertooth are just regular guys (if reavers and ninjas count as regular), but I get a little sick of it. That Laura (in a fantastic performance by newcomer Dafne Keen) does the destruction of nameless goons best very early on in the film also kinda made repeat throuncings a little repetitive. The only super powered baddy Wolverine fights is… himself. X-24 is just the Hollywood Hulk Hogan persona of our titular character. Bleh.
Purportedly, the original script bandied the idea of one final showdown with Sabertooth. I don’t know how I feel about that. My idea for keeping X-24 fresher would have been to pull a trick used very well in Terminator: Salvation, and kinda decently in Terminator:Genysis and Rogue One – CGI the original Jackman Wolverine from X-Men 1 over the older Jackman, bad hair and all. It would have been a nice bookend to the Wolverine role, and it would have made sense that a clone of Logan would be in his prime, not a slightly-less-really-fucking-old Wolverine.
Callouts and Easter Eggs
I promised spoilers did I not? If the Deadpool and X-24 reveal weren’t enough, here are some random musings on the various minutiae of the film.
- Comic Books: the film has a subtext about a fabled mutant haven that is referenced in “X-Men” comics. The comics are a fabrication of Joe Quesada exclusively for the film, but the numbers on the comics reference actual X-Men comics that had relevant story lines to the film. Neat.
- There is no stinger at the end of the film, but if you stuck around for the credits, many iconic X-Men/Wolverine writers/artists are thanked. Notably Chris Claremont, who wrote many of the best X stories and Mark Silvestri, arguably the best Wolverine artist ever. Silvestri is even more relevant because he was the artist alongside writer Larry Hama who created Albert and Elsie Dee, two cyborgs created by Donald Pierce (Logan’s main baddy) and the Reavers to kill Wolverine. Albert is a robot clone of Wolverine and Elsie Dee is a little robot-full-of-TNT girl. Wolverine has a history of young females paired off with him to soften his edges, but this duo was one of the first explicit attempts to show that Wolverine’s real weakness was his begrudging chivalry when it came to women and children. Albert and Elsie’s camaraderie are also suspiciously analogous to old Logan and Laura, especially given that Laura wasn’t a part of the “Old Man Logan” comic.
- Everyone but Laura dies. No real commentary about this, just being a dick. You were warned.
- The Deadpool opener has the graffiti “Nathan Summers is Coming” on the phone booth Reynolds changes in. This is a fairly explicit promise that Summers, AKA Cable, will be in the second movie. It’s been an on again, off again plot point, so this pretty much tamps that rumor down.
Lastly, I’m gonna put on my crazy pants and reopen the X-files. Get your tinfoil hats on. A tweet by Jackman showed off his “Taxi”, the giant Chrysler limo he uses to make ends meet in the film. Since then, a lot has been made about the license plate: WER 112. Some possit it refers to Uncanny X-Men 112, where Magneto depowers the X-Men. It might nod to how mutants have been eradicated in this universe. Others posit 1991’s X-men imprint #112 that shows a captured Xavier and the rise of artificial mutants: mutates. That’s just child’s play kiddies! A google of WER 112 yields a Wikipedia entry of a military regiment that was formed out of the Logan’s Guards of Lewistown PA, and was later designated a Stryker brigade. Logan? Stryker? Jinkies gang! A clue!
All in all, I really liked Logan. It had heart and great performances from both old and new characters. I really hope we can see more of Dafne Keen in the X-verse, and many signs point to that being a distinct possibility. The universe that Logan (the movie) exists in seems to touch base with the first X-Men movie, but as it is set in a future not destroyed by Sentinels, it must have diverged from the Days of Future Past timeline. Between that time travel MacGuffin and the confirmation that the time traveling son of Cyclops and Jean Grey, Cable, will show up, there are all the hand wavey elements needed to bring this young starlet into the current X-verse.
Maybe when the next needless retread of the Phoenix saga sinks the current lineup of X-men they can do a double whammy and bring Laura back in time while bringing the classic X-lineup forward in time (which is a thing; the current comics have a teenage X-Men lineup from the past that boasts an out of the closet Iceman and a Cyclops and Jean Grey that don’t end up together…yet). Maybe if the next X-film stinks Fox will pull a Sony and let Marvel take some crossover/creative control, and we can have the best movie ever made: X-23, Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel all together, eating nuts and kicking butts!