With the release of the first X-Men film in 2000, audiences not only witnessed the dawn of the modern day superhero film boom, but also the beginning of a complicated franchise that would span seventeen years and ten films. With Logan now in theaters, Kayleigh Hearn is revisiting the X-Men films from the very beginning, and examining the comic book storylines that inspired them. What would you prefer, yellow spandex?
Directed by James Mangold
Hey, bub! Spoilers below.
Kayleigh: After seventeen years and nine films, Hugh Jackman pops his claws for the final time as Wolverine. Logan takes place in a grim future world that’s still recognizably our own, but this is Logan as we’ve never seen him before: old, scarred, mortal. His vaunted healing factor finally wearing out and facing deadly adamantium poisoning, all Logan wants to do is protect the elderly, dementia-addled Professor X. In a world without the X-Men, Logan is all that stands between the cyborg Reavers and one of the last mutants on earth: a little girl known as X-23.
Alas, poor Logan! I knew him, Andy: a fellow of infinite snikt, of most excellent bub.
Andy Niemann: I’m a super-fan of Mangold’s The Wolverine, which featured a near suicidal Logan going on a ninja killing quest across Japan, so I was pretty excited for this latest offering from Fox. And, boy, it certainly delivers! I need to see it another time, but I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic in calling this the best X-Men movie ever made and one of the best superhero films ever made. Although, “superhero film” is hardly what I would call this. It’s more of an apocalyptic neo-western with X-Men characters and has more in common with Children of Men and Mad Max: Fury Road than, say, The Avengers.
Kayleigh: In a year there’s going to be “Wolverine Trilogy” DVD sets at Best Buy, and I can’t think of a more disjointed trilogy than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, and Logan. It’s like one of those “Evolution of Man” charts, but somehow ending on Hugh Jackman as a graying limo driver in CVS reading glasses. Logan is definitely the best Wolverine film, and probably Jackman’s best turn as the character, though I can’t call this the best X-Men film since it’s really not an X-Men film. The X-Men are presumed dead in a mysterious, unseen “Westchester Incident” that happened before the events of Logan, and after the happy ending of Days of Future Past this feels like a kick in the head. The only thing I truly hated about this movie is that it’s another example of mutants constantly facing genocide for the shock factor, whether it’s M-Day or the M-Pox, and I’m not sure it adds anything here, since Logan would presumably outlive them all anyway. Still, fannish bitching aside, this is a film that let’s you know it’s not fucking around when the very first scene is Wolverine getting his ass kicked.
Andy: I think it was the right call to not show how the X-Men were destroyed and I believe this was actually cut out of the original script. We’re told that seven X-Men were killed by Charles during his seizure, but not explicitly told which ones. I like that kind of ambiguity because it doesn’t create any unnecessary exposition and also doesn’t make any particular character a victim. I’m not sure where this film falls in the timeline of the movies but ultimately it doesn’t matter to me. It’s just a standalone what-if story that doesn’t need Easter eggs or post-credit sequences to tell its story. What do you think of the film’s ultraviolence? That’s something that suits a Wolverine film but would be completely out of place in an X-Men team film.
Kayleigh: The R-rating is Mangold and Jackman’s parting gift for all the fans who really wanted to see Wolverine completely annihilate people. The violence in this movie is visceral and pretty ruthless, with Wolverine and X-23 slashing through people like they’re tissue paper. This is night and day compared to the bloodless siege on the commandos in X2, though it doesn’t linger on the gore long enough to make me queasy like “Old Man Logan” did. What did you think of Dafne Keen as X-23/Laura? The casting of such a young actress was a surprise at first, but this is a fantastic, heartbreaking take on the “Lone Wolf and Cub” aspect of Wolverine’s history.
Andy: Keen was absolutely great from the very first time you meet her and shines throughout the entire film. The father/daughter-bonding-on-a-road-trip story isn’t anything new to fiction but something about this really works. Keen and Jackman have this undeniable chemistry that breaks your heart and I was in near tears at the film’s resolution where Laura turns the cross into an X. The movie is peppered with really good moments like this and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Stephen Merchant’s amazing turn as Caliban (of all characters). I’m not too familiar with Caliban in the comics but I suppose they chose him because of his mutant tracking power so the villains could use him to follow Wolverine, Laura, and Charles everywhere they go. The moments where Caliban is acting like Logan’s put-upon wife just absolutely slayed me.
Kayleigh: This movie is about a undocumented immigrant girl and her friends kicking the ass of some shitheel named Donald, and it was very…cathartic. Stephen Merchant’s Caliban was very, very good, and in keeping with the film’s subtle worldbuilding, we get a few tantalizing hints about his complicated history with Wolverine and the Reavers. Still, considering that Caliban was in X-Men: Apocalypse and a totally different dude, this is like Exhibit #785 of no one involved in X-Men movies talking to each other.
Andy: Oh man I totally just caught the Donald thing! Boyd Holbrook actually does a pretty underrated job as shitkicker cyborg Donald Pierce that it definitely elevates him above the “big bad” of Laura’s creator Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). I love the scene where Logan shoots Rice before he can fully deliver his big pompous villain speech because, like, at this point the world is pretty much over and the villains won so what does it matter. I guess this moment replaces the one in the comics when Wolverine finally uses his claws, because throughout the film he refuses to use guns until this moment.
Kayleigh: While this is getting a lot of press for being Hugh Jackman’s last turn as Wolverine, but I think it’s equally important that this is—presumably, for obvious reasons—Patrick Stewart’s farewell to Professor Charles Xavier. Stewart has always been good, but he’s almost a revelation in Logan, telling Wolverine to “fuck off” one moment, and then being heartbreakingly funny or sad the next. God, I have never wanted anything as much as I wanted Logan and Charles to get their damn boat.
Andy: Speaking of weird communication between films, remember when Singer suggested the main bad guy of this was going to be like Mr. Sinister? I’m actually glad that didn’t pan out and the villains of the story are just awful corporate human beings that experimented on children. Well, that and also high fructose corn syrup. What did you think of X-24, by the way? I feel like in a lesser film another Hugh Jackman running around would have been clichéd and ridiculous, but in this case it actually seemed to work for me.
Kayleigh: Between Logan and John Wick 2 this has been a good “Just shoot that fucker in the head” season for action movies. Yeah, Mr. Sinister wasn’t missed, he’d be too cartoony and over-the-top. X-24 was a nice, nasty surprise; as a living embodiment of Wolverine’s internal struggle against his animal nature he was pretty on the nose, but it worked. Logan whispering “It wasn’t me” to Charles after X-24 attacked him ripped my heart to pieces. I don’t know if it was an intentional artistic choice, but X-24’s look reminded me of Victor Creed all the way back in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which kind of brings everything full circle. This is definitely a movie where we see Hugh Jackman’s head explode, huh.
Andy: It’s a dark yet somehow hopeful coda to the X-Men films that have been running for over 17 years. It’s going to be interesting to see where the direction of the superhero genre is headed and I think this film has taken a great initiative in showing that, even more so than films like Deadpool. It’s such a treat that one of my favorite comic book franchises is paving the way for better superhero based media (see FX’s Legion which is equally as stunning). That about wraps it up for me. The only last thing I want to contribute is that I loved seeing baby Rictor of the X-Force as one of the mutant kids.
Kayleigh: Logan is an incredibly fitting end to the two main characters of the X-Men film franchise; the stunned silence in my crowded theater before Johnny Cash started playing will stick with me for a while. With Hugh Jackman’s retirement, I’m curious to see where the films go next. Will we see X-Force, New Mutants, or that rumored second take on The Dark Phoenix Saga? Time will tell. When the man comes around.
Enjoy the entire library of X-Education with Professor K!