Whenever I finish something, or feel like something is coming to a close; something big and has taken me a long time to do, my mind always jumps to the scene of the fourth Doctor Who regenerating into the fifth. I don’t know why, but it’s a nice poignant scene which carries the incredible line; it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for”. It’s that line that comes to mind when I can feel like something is the end, or that I have reached the end. But knowing what I am like, I will have prepared for it, so like when I finished reading the GONE book series, I found something to read to replace it with for instance. Well, in the case of this film, the moment has been prepared for, but the hardest hit is that it truly is The End!
Released in 2017 by 20th Century Fox, Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg, and Directed by James Mangold; Logan is a superhero film starring Hugh Jackman returning for what is intended to be his last portrayal of Wolverine, a role he has held for 17 years. When the film was first announced on the heels of The Wolverine, I was really excited as I really loved The Wolverine. Come 2015 however with Jackman announcing his retirement from playing Wolverine, I was very sad, and had begun chasing my mind around for replacement actors (if there were any), forgetting of course that before that bridge is crossed, Jackman would still provide us with one last glorious hurrah.
The year is 2029; all mutants are supposedly dead except for a small group, and a now aging Logan (Hugh Jackman) works as a chauffeur on the border with Mexico and lives with friend Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) at an old smelting plant. Xavier is now growing old and senile with his psychic powers now grown beyond control with devastating effect and has to take medication to control it. One day Logan is approached by a lady called Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who asks him to give her and a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen), escort to a location in North Dakota. Logan reluctantly accepts the job as the money provided will allow him to buy a luxury yacht he wants to purchase. As he comes to collect them though he finds Gabriella has been murdered. Laura stows away in his car though and goes to the Smelting Plant where she becomes friends with Charles. Just as they arrive though, a platoon of soldiers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) arrive having captured Caliban, and are demanding that Logan hand over the girl. As men try to capture her though, she quickly attacks them in a very savage and brutal way, with steel claws coming out of her hands, decapitating and amputating several limbs.
Logan, Laura and Charles escape, and using Gabriella’s phone, discover that Laura or X-23 as she was designated; was one of several young children born and bred by the Transigen Program headed up but surgeon Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). The kids are injected with Mutant DNA and are bred to become mindless and dangerous soldiers, however unable to control the children’s souls, they all don’t want to do what they’re told anymore and most of them escape including Laura. Because she was made from Logan’s DNA, it is deduced that he is her father. Pierce with the help from the Reavers, use Caliban’s ability to locate other mutants to find Logan, and while staying at a casino in Oklahoma City the trio are nearly captured, but Xavier has one of his moments and near paralyzes everyone in the city except Laura and Logan. Logan is able to get them out of the city, but does not believe in the mythical Eden of North Dakota where they are going, especially when he finds the co-ordinates referenced exactly in an X-Men comic. The trio are eventually given shelter by a family they help out on the road and the group bond together, as Laura discovers more of the outside world, one she never experienced having been locked up all those years. During the night however, Xavier is murdered by X-24, the final project of Transigen to replace the children, who also happens to be a copy of Logan, claws and all. X-24 captures Laura placing her in very restrictive shackles and takes her to Rice, but Logan arrives just in time to face himself having found the murdered family and the dead Charles. With some help, X-24 is pinned down, and Caliban uses a grenade to blow up rice’s van. Logan saves Laura and the two head out in the night, burying Charles in the morning.
Beside himself, and with his healing still failing, Logan agrees to take Laura to Eden, still not believing it. Eventually they arrive at a mountain range with a community filled with the other surviving experimented children all run by Rictor (Jason Genao). There Logan learns that the children will be making an 8 mile hike across the Canadian border. Logan is ready to send Laura on her way, but Laura wants to know him as a father, although he is still down and out about losing his own friends, and sees himself less as a father, and more of a threat, and just wants to die. The kids attempt to make the hike, but are soon surrounded and chased by the Reavers. Using a healing serum from Transigen, Logan takes in the full dose knowing it will kill him but should give him strength to save the kids. The kids are soon rounded up and shackled except for Laura who gets surrounded, but rescued by Logan. The serum though begins to ware off just as he meets Rice, who happens to be the son of the man behind the Weapon X Program. X-24 is set loose on Logan, but Laura is able to free the other kids who kill Pierce. Logan is impaled on a tree during the fight, but using an Adamantium bullet, Laura kills X-24, which Logan had kept for years. Eventually succumbing to his wounds, Logan dies, unable to heal and the kids bury him before crossing the border.
In 2007; the German heavy metal band known as Scorpions released a single called Humanity. It is a song which poignantly depicts the destruction and downfall of the human race through its own acts and nothing more. It is a very heavy track and whose lyrics basically suggest, as delivered in the music video with a young boy simply saying “It’s The End!” Now this track does not appear in Logan I should point out, but that is what comes to mind as I think on this film. It’s the end of Hugh Jackman playing this part. This is an actor who has played a movie role for 17 years now. During that time there have been 3 American Presidents, 4 UK Prime Ministers, 4 (technically 5) Doctor Who’s. It is an incredible amount of time to play a film role, most WWE Wrestlers don’t even last that long, but here is Hugh Jackman still playing this role, now deciding he wants to leave. He deserves it rightly so, he is allowed to walk away given the energy, passion and devotion he has put into just one character. He has played other parts which help prevent typecasting, but possibly for the rest of his life, will be best remembered for being The Wolverine, you do not forget 17 years of the same thing in a flash. So, yes, it’s the end of Jackman as Wolverine; but not just that. It’s also the end of 2 major characters in a film series that has become one of the most critically and financially successful franchises in movie history. The X-Men film series is not ending, No! There are still more films to come including Deadpool Sequels (YES!). No, what we have here is something of what could be best described as a tragic ending, which is sad for Xavier, but more so for Wolverine as he has led a pretty tragic life.
The story of Wolverine is a tragic one as it’s the life of a genuinely good person who has led a rough life. He is very old given that his healing prevents aging on a grand scale. Over the years he is going to meet people and see people die, a lot of people die if you live that long and that is not good for the mental soul. As life has passed by, something horrid happens to him, something so dark and miserable, but something that he has only partial memories of. So as life ticks by he has to remember these things not knowing entirely what it was, and spends life running instead of facing. Eventually though good things happen for him, he gets friends, and a family, and can care for people again, and have a proper life, but given as to who he is and what he is, none of this could possibly last, and as the years have gone by, and seen more people die, some by his own hands for the good of others, he resigns to a wishful death, and waits for it. It is a very sad story for someone who is not a bad man, someone who is actually a very good man, a caring man, a protective man. Yes, he is prone to a little bit of violence, but only when it is called for; doing what must be done, because without him to protect his friends, no-one can. Into this, we find ourselves confronted with the final act of The Wolverine. But it’s not really a super hero movie, more of a personal journey as one man reaches his eventual end, but has one last thing to do.
Logan is actually a rather small film. It’s not a mega big one like other super hero films of note, as this is not a character trying to save the world, but those around him, and as such we go less on a journey to save the world, but a more personal one. As such he is not referred to as The Wolverine, but because it’s a personal story is known better as just Logan. Logan starts off in a similar vein as does The Wolverine, with Logan having to live and come to terms with his life and the death by his own hand of someone he loved. Now coming into this film we are told something similar has happened, but we don’t know exactly what. But just like before, Logan is beat up and ruined and has resigned to live as much a recluse as possible while caring for Xavier who has become rather senile. Eventually though he is given a duty he does not want, that of looking after a little girl very much like him. He is meant to be the father, but has no care for her, caring for his friends than her; something which falters in the mind of Laura who wants to know who she is and know her father too. As the story continues and things happen as usual, the similarities between the two emerge as Laura is very much like he was in the first first X-Men, with Logan now having grown up. Logan is still resigned to wishing death upon himself, but knows that once more, he needs to do the right thing to help those that need his help resulting in one last blood bath for those who deny him and others peace. His Death though is not nice, nor peaceful, but more brutal for someone who has earned better. It is a film that makes you think deeply upon issues such as the harsh and sometimes quick deaths of others while others get a more natural one. It looks into how people desire Death, and how Death actually comes. It features a brutal end which dies just like death is a final stop. It really makes you think on if you believe that the world is a better place without you, how can you be certain of this? How do you not know that life right now is in fact better, because ‘you’ are around!
Logan is a small film and bolsters a small but pretty strong cast. Stephen merchant I find was actually pretty good as Caliban. Caliban has featured sort of twice in the past with his most recent piece being in Apocalypse as some garish and camp clown; here instead we see what he is truly like and capable of but also what kind of person he is given his history as one of the Morlocks. Gabriella’s part is small but sweet and shares some backstory light on some of the films major issues and themes including who Laura is and why we should care. One thing though I find the film lacks is a strong villain. There are some good villainy characters and others who help fill in those parts like a few extras. Pierce himself has the nice sinister mechanical arm and some god talking points but feels more like a hindrance than a villain. Same can be said for Rice, who while is a deceptive schemer with a good voice, again just feels plain. I am not saying he’s bad, it just feels like the villains are strong because they are many, but not because of whom they are. I mean X-24 feels like a wasted opportunity and a mistake being rewritten. His appearance as Logan is a bit like the Undertaker vs Undertaker match at SummerSlam 1994; kind of surprising, but still rather silly. It feels like a wasted opportunity to bring in a new monster. I thought maybe an enhanced Sabretooth, or Maverick, or someone big and scary to introduce. With a double Wolverine, it felt more like Weapon XI in Origins all over again, and we know what happened there don’t we!
What villain’s lack, heroes make up. The Transigen kids are a nice addition although faint on the film’s radar, mostly as people to get into trouble and allow a moment of heroism, but for this film, it really comes down to Logan, Laura and Xavier. Xavier’s part in this film is still pretty similar to past films but does do a lot more and shows what Stewart can do when allowed to do something very different. He is in some sense the comedy side kick and delivers some incredibly funny moments, but it’s through his disorientated new life that shows how bad things have become. He remains something of a hindrance to Logan after all these years, but one Logan has come to care for, as rightly he should, as Xavier is practically his last and now only friend. His death in the film is a big shock, but not a sincere one, as don’t forget we have seen him die before in more dramatic circumstances with this one more lost in the moment, but you do see his life pass in his eyes.
Laura spends most of the film rather quiet, does not say a single word until just before the final Act. Yes there are shouts, yells and screams, but no words. This form of silence allows retention of mystery as to who she is, but also allows expressing more deeply the life she had and the new world she is experiencing. Silence can be golden at times and really works in her favour, as we see this young girl come face to face with new things, not knowing what they involve or how to interact, but when finally realising who she is and where she is, she finally speaks, knowing that she needs to for the sake of Logan, but also so she can be heard. Her desperation to get to Eden comes more as a cross between hope and instruction from others, not necessarily her own entire belief, but somehow knows it’s there even if Logan doesn’t. Her skills as a fighter are incredible and are very similar to Wolverine, but she has some heart too, not a lot as this is crowded with the same anger Logan once had too, but as things come to a close, she knows that she must carry on, even though her father; something she wants and desires cannot help her, but in some way knows that still lives on inside her, respecting his death, and making his legacy live on in more ways than one.
Logan’s design and perception of being much older and on the verge of death is an interesting one. We have seen him go through emotions before, but then he was not on the ultimate verge of giving up, more just conflicted. Now though he desires it, more than anything else. It’s kind of hard to speak on his performance after 3 or so paragraphs of detailing his character, but one thing stands out more than most; his Death; His final hurrah. Coming into this film, I was thinking his last stand was going to be like in The Wolverine, one last heroic but still cynical fight to the death where he would come out on top but now no more energy left to continue. No, this time his death is more personal. It wasn’t a long lasted blood bath, more one which required others to save him and take on his role, and one that required others to do the work, while he acted as a decoy, once again being more of a team member than a loner. But his death does have something else in it though. Going into this I thought it would be like The Wolverine, but in that, he was The Wolverine, now he is just Logan. Calling him The Wolverine, it’s like a promise (like The Doctor), you know what he is, who he is and what he can do, but by putting ‘the’ before it he becomes a thing, not a person; this film is a much more personal one, so in this case it’s not the death of The Wolverine, it’s the death of Logan. That carries a more significant weight to it; it’s not the death of a thing, but the death of somebody. Laura in a future film could become the New Wolverine, or someone else could take on that name; but you can’t replace or take on the identity of Logan.
The film does come packed like many other X-Men films with a cavalcade of special effects. These of course include ‘very’ detailed claws including spots of graphic detail and blood splatter; especially when piercing through the heads of some people. The mechanical hands are a nice treat showing off some more blood and limb coverage than usual. The film uses its special effects department in other ways too to create visions of the future including a scene involving driverless, but dangerous trucks. The film also comes with a soundtrack once again produced by Marco Beltrami featuring quite a few slow pieces which are used to heighten the level of reality but more a sense of realisation than anything else possibly to state that this is the end! Pieces like Old Man Logan, Don’t Be What They Made You and Goodnight Moon cover this pretty well, but the soundtrack does of course know when to get busy though and of course creates action packed pieces for when a fight is on especially in a scene like the Forest Fight at the end and also when Logan is facing X-24. The one thing though that really stands out about this soundtrack though is the inclusion of several classic pieces by Johnny Cash. Logan’s first trailer of course famously features the song Hurt, which really shows the direction the film intends to take so that the audience can really see how the film is likely to turn out but also more likely what it is all about. This piece though does not actually feature in the film, what does feature though is not a slow grim song, but a rather pleasant, peaceful and also happy song that really turns around the film’s great tragedy and helps you gain some perspective.
A few months ago I went to see the film Ethel and Ernest based on the book of the same name written by Raymond Briggs. The film has a very sad ending, but turns this around in a sense by featuring a piece of music and images within the credit roll that suggest that while the ending was sad, it does not mean that everything was as there was some really happy moments. Here we have the sad ending and conclusion to the story of Wolverine (in film), but, while he has had great tragedy in his life, and it ended as such, there is some peace we can look back on. For one Logan has attained a peace from the devastation of his dark history, but also in that history there was also, happiness, joy, peace and of course love. This is held by the film playing The Man Comes Around in the credits, a light fluffy as well as casual piece, signifying not an entirely sad ending, but shows that there has always been another side to the coin, that in the misery, there was joy, and in the darkness there was also light; and so while Wolverine does bow out, we can take a moment of knowledge and recognition about the life he had, and the legacy that he leaves behind, not just in story, but also in the entertainment and joy he has given us as cinema goers.
Logan is a pretty sad point. I know the series will continue and new stars are appearing to take the helm and the future such as Ryan Reynolds, Sophie Turner and hopefully Dafne Keen too, but it is a sad point, more so when I think that there could have been more. When X-Men Origins came about and really failed like it did, that is the series lowest point, so when The Wolverine came along and excelled so much, it felt like a new beginning, like that is what Origins should have been, forgetting that film and becoming the first a Wolverine Trilogy. But now it has come to an end, it feels like only the surface was being scratched, and that more was on the way. It’s like when Castle was cancelled last year; it was in it’s prime, there was more to be told, and it just ended. That’s what we have here, like something more could have come, but now we may never see that. You can only play a character for so long though, and an end would have come eventually. The end of something is exciting because you don’t know how it’s going to end, but eventually realization sets in, and you realize that it truly is the end. So even if it did continue, it would eventually end: but what an ending it was! Logan does not disappoint in providing one last fight, one last match, one last scene of steel claws, blood curdling action, eye grossing violence, but also one last moving scene as the great hero finally comes to rest in peace. Logan is a sad and tragic little film, but shows off plenty of emotion and heart in a film series that has defined just that in the super hero genre; and now Hugh Jackman can now go do something else, leaving a legacy that will live on in cinema forever, and one that no-one can match. There is only one true Logan, and only one true, Wolverine.