Old Man 'Logan'
It's the end of an era for Hugh Jackman and the 'X-Men' franchise.
There is the old saying that tells us that “all good things must end.” For Hugh Jackman, the actor who has played Marvel's comic book character Wolverine since 2000, now would seem a good time to say goodbye to the character. Thus Logan, released earlier this year, was announced to be his last time in the role. Not only that but the film looked to be quiet different from any of the previous X-Men films or even the solo Wolverine outings. The resulting film is an interesting piece of work to say the least.
A large portion of what makes the film different is its tone from the script through to the performances. If previous films in the franchise had been largely overblown pieces of work more interested in set pieces than in its large cast characters (see last year's X-Men: Apocalypse), this is the film that set out to turn that whole notion on its head. For all of its action sequences, this film is first and foremost a character piece as we follow not only Wolverine but Charles Xavier (played once again by Sir Patrick Stewart) in a somewhat dystopian world not too far removed from our own where mutants are on the brink of extinction. The film then is something of a third act for both their characters and the results are fairly dark and bleak with Jackman wonderfully portraying a man who was apparently immortal now coming to terms with his own mortality while also being given something his life has apparently lacked for many years: a purpose. The flashes of humor, well played by both Jackman and Stewart, stop the film from ever going too far into the darkness though and help keep it on a more level playing field. That being said, it is far and away the darkest film the franchise has yet produced.
It's also a far more bloody and violent film than one might have expected as well. Though the character has been featured in eight previous films where Jackman has played the role (not to mention several animated TV series), none of them showed the level of violence that this film has with liberal amounts of blood flying and no attempt to shy away from gore. Having read the Mark Millar penned Old Man Logan comic that helped inspire the film, this didn't come as too much of a surprise. What did come as a surprise was that the film set aside the decidedly over the top violence of the comic and instead portrayed as being far more realistic than one might have expected. While it is never gruesome, Logan as a film never shies away from blood and the consequences of violence which definitely separates it from the rest of the franchise without a doubt.
Speaking of Old Man Logan, it is perhaps because of that comic that Logan the film bares far more similarities to an entirely different genre: the western. It is comparable to something like John Wayne's final film The Shootist which touches on many of the same themes of an old legend coming to terms with his morality and legacy while also passing on the torch to the next generation. The cinematography even evokes the genre in the film's opening and closing acts to a large extent with sweeping vistas of often bleak landscapes. There're also scenes set in a casino, horses, and the modern equivalent of the little guy being squeezed out by the rich cattle baron's men. The film even goes so far as to feature footage from and to pay homage to one of that genre's best known works in the form of the 1953 film Shane. Also, taking a cue perhaps from the aforementioned comic, the film is something of a road trip film that gives us a tour of the US in the post-mutant age. The result of these factors coming together is a film that is far different in tone and better made than any of its predecessors.
Yet, one left the cinema without the sense of “Wow” that a film like Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight left me with. Maybe it's the lack of a thoroughly menacing antagonist (though the combination of both Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant is quite effective) or the fact that, if one stops and thinks about it, the action sequences become repetitive after awhile. For a reason or reasons I can't quite put my finger on, Logan didn't leave me with the same sense of having watched a genre being reshaped in front of me that I was left with at the end of Nolan's seminal film (which this film has often been compared to).
While it is not perhaps the instant classic that some have made it out to be, there is plenty of reasons to see Logan. It is far and away the best X-Men related film we've had to date and one of the strongest comic book films out there at the moment. There's also its performances and its overall look and tone, something which makes it that rare film that defies expectations. Above all else though, it delivers a worthy last act to Hugh Jackman's long career in the role. For those wishing to see how to give a performer a proper exit from an iconic role, this is a prime example of how to do that right.
About the Creator
Matthew Kresal was born and raised in North Alabama though he never developed a Southern accent. His essays have been featured in numerous books and his first novel Our Man on the Hill was published by Sea Lion Press in 2021.
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