Mildly surprised to see that Logan didn’t get screen 1 at the Somerville, even though there’s not really a bunch of live events or special screenings there this week to offer up a “moving the DCPs around is a pain in the neck” rationale. I guess Get Out is just doing really well, especially since it’s splitting screen #3 with Logan in addition to having the main screen, and the show I was at was packed.
I liked Logan a lot - you can read about the specifics below and on eFilmCritic - and I’ll miss the Jackman/Stewart/McKellan X-Men series a bit, although not as much as I will other comic-derived properties and other sorts of adaptations of things I like. Of course, part of it is that I don’t really love Wolverine or the X-Men; I’ve got fairly lengthy runs of a fair number of comics, both in single and collected form, these are characters I’ll dip into based upon who is working on it. Brian Bendis and Stuart Immomen on All-New X-Men? Yep! Warren Ellis’s Astonishing? Yes, please! Frank Cho pitting Logan against dinosaurs in Savage Wolverine? Uh-huh. Writers and artists I don’t have quite so much affinity for on the same books? Well, hang on, let me see what new titles Warren and Stuart are doing.
From what I gather, X-Men is something you fall in love with in your teens, or not at all, and that may go double for Wolverine, who is built to be a teen’s idea of a cool, brooding anti-hero: Mysterious, gruff, able to take a near-infinite amount of punishment, often disdainful toward the more idealistic members of the team willing to use lethal force when the others won’t. Different writers can graft different things onto him, making him a samurai, giving him shady underworld contacts, and all that, but as someone who discovered comics in college, he seemed a bit too exaggerated to me, trying too hard to be cool. To a certain extent, the same thing would happen a generation later, when smart-alecky self-referentiality became teens’ new measurement of what was cool, especially when wedded to higher levels of violence, and Deadpool started blowing up in the way Wolverine used to.
As it is with comics, so it is with movies - I wind up watching all the X-stuff, if only because it’s easier for me to a bit of a completist with films than it is with comics, but my excitement is a lot more contingent on the people involved than the brand name. Bryan Singer (circa 2000), James Mangold, and Matthew Vaughn are better at grabbing my attention than Bryan Singer (circa 2016), Gavin Hood, and Brett Ratner. It happens, but I find it kind of amusing, because while I probably won’t be the only American guy writing about comic-based movies to be more excited about the idea of a Valerian & Laureline movie than another outing for Wolverine, I suspect we’re kind of a small fraternity.
I suspect that the same is true for those of us that look at the last act of Logan and lament the limits on what this sort of comic-book continuity and interconnectivity will allow:
Seeing Laura and her friends escaping a corporation’s paramilitary troops on their own, after Laura kind of shockingly makes the killshot on X-24, makes me think of what a next-generation X-Men could be: The heightened version of millennials and the generation to come after them, stuck in a world where former-hippie baby boomers and [hopefully not too many] Generation X’ers have opted to feather their own nests and to heck with the environmental disaster, spiralling costs and devestated job market that their kids and grandkids face inherited, but still being shockingly altruistic and civic-minded even if they often sound bitter, sarcastic, entitled, and silly to their elders. It’s a potentially great take on the material, one that would be even stronger with the old X-Men to compare to.
It will never happen, of course - movies are expensive, and even if comics aren’t expensive, they have thin enough margins that moving on from the characters who have long-term fans and the strength of brand recognition and pop-culture history on their side. It’s much simpler to just roll the timeline forward or do a reboot, even if doing so pulls them further from the forces that shaped them. Even when someone tries to make a clean break, like DC did with the New 52, they can’t entirely let go, and they don’t wind up creating something new or even making something old relevant again. It’s churn that seldom recaptures the emotional core that made something resonate in the first place.
But, like I say, don’t ding Logan for this. It’s got people who are for-real done, and it’s kind of a valuable skill in superhero fandom to be able to appreciate and feel the power of an ending or transformative event even as you know that, someday, perhaps even soon, it will be moot. It’s part and parcel of liking to read or watch but being educated enough to know the rules.
The most important thing: It’s a really good movie, no matter what type or level X-Men fan you are.
* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 March 2017 in Somerville Theatre #3 (first-run, DCP)
If Logan is not the actual end of the line for the X-Men movies that began in 2000, it probably should be, because there is not going to be a better opportunity for the cycle to end both fittingly and well than this. Twentieth Century Fox doesn’t have to make stop making stuff with Marvel’s mutant characters - just say that Deadpool and Legion are the start of a new continuity and take the lesson that they and this film offer to heart - that there is room for a lot of different styles under the X-Men umbrella, even if this finale doesn’t seem like an obvious match for the other films using the same characters and setting.
It opens in 2029, some time after mutantkind has ceased to be a major concern for the world and at least twenty-five since the last known mutant birth. James “Wolverine” Howlett (Hugh Jackman), known for much of his extended life as “Logan”, lives under the radar, driving a limo in El Paso but actually living across the border, where he and another former X-Man, Caliban (Stephen Merchant), care for Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Charles is still an immensely powerful telepath, but that’s more a danger than a super-power now, as the 90-year-old professor is suffering symptoms of dementia and his outbursts and seizures can have dangerous effects on the people around him. Logan isn’t doing so hot either - his healing abilities keep him spry as he approaches the end of his second century, but the adamantium bonded to his skeleton has started poisoning him faster than he can heal. Enter Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a Mexican nurse who wants to hire Logan for a far longer, more dangerous drive than usual, bringing her and 11-year-old Laura (Dafne Keen) - a mutant with powers similar to Logan’s - to North Dakota. But, of course, also enter Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a bounty hunter working for the corporation that created Laura and a host of other children like her that want their property back.
Put like that, it sounds a little absurd, not like the more serious-minded, spandex-free, mature superhero movie it pitches itself as, and indeed, I would not necessarily recommend it to those who have looked down their nose at the genre but have some interest in this one because it is different. Like the comics that inspire the film, a great deal of the gravitas that Logan can boast comes from the sheer weight of in-story continuity and the history that the viewer has with the characters. The little moments that Jackman has had in seven previous movies over seventeen years give the audience an affinity for the character that would be hard to build from scratch, while having previously seen Patrick Stewart play Xavier as a wise mentor for as long (and even seeing James McAvoy as a cocky younger iteration) lend an extra level of tragedy to his degradation. Even the lesser movies in the series - and they don’t get much lesser than X-Men Origins: Wolverine - help build this one up; director James Mangold (with co-writers Scott Frank and Michael Green) can reference the Weapon X program without showing it or skip a lot of exposition about Xavier’s powers and history, thus not shifting the tone they’ve created for broad science fiction.
Full review on EFC.