In the era of the superhero, it's hard to imagine a superhero film as dark and introspective as Logan was. The 2017 film starring Hugh Jackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen is a love letter to two of the X-Men franchise’s longest-standing characters, Wolverine and Professor X.
Directed by James Mangold, who also directed The Wolverine, the last solo adventure for Wolverine scales back on spectacle, opting instead for an intimate road movie that deals with regret, aging, and legacy.
As Marvel begins to take over the X-Men franchise as they explore the multiverse, I think it is time we look back at why Logan is special and its long-lasting impact on the legacy of the X-Men franchise.
Intimate character study over the big send-off
Unlike most films that take a big moment to celebrate the end of a character’s story, Logan is quiet with its goodbye, taking a moment to reflect on the characters’ journey and what legacy they will be leaving behind.
Mangold approached the script in a similar way he approached Girl, Interrupted and 3:10 to Yuma by building out a post-mutant world grounded with elements that could be within our real future. As Logan (Hugh Jackman) is set within the isolated beauty of the Southwest, the audience can see how emotionally heavy his melancholy life has become.
Logan doesn’t shy away from showing its age. Both Charles (Sir Patrick Stewart) and Logan are not the mutants they used to be, with Charles suffering from Alzheimer's and Logan, who is unable to regenerate as quickly as he once did, has to care for Charles. When Laura (Dafne Keen) comes into their lives, the two old-timers are faced with the responsibility of the new generation of mutants. They have to find a way to responsibly pass the torch down to the newbies, which is a heavy theme that most superhero movies would make a light and fun moment.
The film focuses on the idea of a chosen family, and the frustrations and responsibilities that come with it. While the frustration is on display for most of the film, the quiet moments reveal the level of sympathy and empathy each member of the trio has for one another. Those quiet moments make each death more painful, stinging the hearts of the audience as they reflect on their relationship with family and aging.
'Logan'Credit: 20th Century Fox
An R-rated superhero story
Largely thanks to Deadpool, James Mangold was able to secure an R-rating for Logan. For Mangold, the rating didn’t give him the freedom to use excess blood, guts, and foul language, but it allowed for his vision of a mature movie to come to fruition.
At the 2018 Writer Guild Association Beyond Words Panel, Mangold said:
“You have to have a slightly off-pedal goal for your film, and the people who are gonna go ‘What the fuck is that 8-minute scene between Professor X and Logan? That's a light 8-minutes of two guys in a tank talking.' And it's like 'Yeah. That's not gonna change because the vibe of this movie is an adult drama.' That's why, for instance, we wanted an R-rating. It wasn't because of the violence and it wasn't because of the language, but because I didn't have to write a movie, and neither did my compatriots, for 11-year-olds. If we had a rated-R movie there were gonna be no Happy Meals. There can be no action figures. There was gonna be no marketing on Saturday morning cartoons or anything like it, so that suddenly you're not making a movie written for someone under 14, 15. And that changes the length of scenes. It changes what they're talking about.”
The R-rating allowed for realistic action as Logan and Laura draw blood with every violent battle, and the realistic brutality that Logan has been trying to escape his entire life as Laura is just being introduced to the price for her freedom. The action has stakes, and we fear for the lives of characters we have known for almost two decades.
Logan was a movie for those who grew up with the character, and everyone on set knew this. The cast and crew had to work with a small budget relative to what we are used to seeing from the genre, and Jackman took a significant pay cut to portray Wolverine one last time.
'Logan'Credit: 20th Century Fox
The performances from the trio
The heartbreaking story of Logan would not be as powerful as it is if not for the phenomenal performances from the three lead actors.
Sir Patrick Stewart delivers one of the best performances of his career, taking the world’s strongest telepath and making him a man who can’t trust his mind. Professor X comes in and out of a senile state, lashing out at Logan only to apologize for his seizures that wreak havoc moments later. It’s painful to watch the few peaceful moments Professor X has as he slowly fades away from the powerful mutant we once knew him as.
For the majority of the film, Keen wordlessly carries the energy of the movie. As the daughter of Logan, she has the same intensity and aggression as her father as well as hope that inspires the younger generations to keep fighting for their desires. Rage and hope are difficult to balance, but Keen manages to create a character who is motivated by self-preservation and the desire to help others in a similar situation as hers.
Jackman’s performance as Wolverine has always been fantastic, but Old Man Logan is a more worn and cynical version of the character than we had seen before. He is too tired to keep his feelings from showing on his face, carrying around the emotional and physical scars from his 197-year life. Jackman conveys the weight Logan bears and the toll it takes on him through the physicality of his performance. As his final outing, Jackman holds nothing back, allowing the character he knows better than anyone else to exist as his true self with no hesitation.
The dynamic trio from 'Logan'Credit: 20th Century Fox
There is something to be said about the current state of comic book movies and how characters are re-examined as time moves forward. Audiences have a hard time learning to say goodbye, and it’s because we are never faced with that dilemma. I mean, how many times has Loki died and then come back somehow?
Logan did something most of these movies don’t do: kill their heroes with meaningful stakes. Yes, this was Hugh Jackman’s and Sir Patrick Stewart’s final outing as these iconic characters, and the film let us appreciate their roles in the franchise while passing the torch to a new generation.
What were some of your favorite moments from Logan? Let us know in the comments below!