As I mentioned in my Apocalypse review, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was the worst thing to happen to the X-Men movies. The Singer-Verse, as ComicBookGirl19 calls it, was from a time when superhero films were ashamed of their origins, embarrassed by the bravado and spandex. To compensate, a darker tone was established, all the color replaced with leather and cold, steel corridors. We did not mind the monochrome until Iron Man showed you could be awesome if you keep the color and play it straight, a tactic first employed by Raimi’s Spider-Man.
The mounting success of the MCU contributed to the gradual decay of the Singer-Verse. The leather and steel became anachronistic, a reminder of a bygone era in the superhero genre. Fox tried to keep up, but it did not help that director Brian Singer was still embarrassed by the X-Men. Matthew Vaughn successfully reset the series with First Class, Marvel’s first real competition, before Singer returned and brought it all back to square one.
That being said, it is impossible to deny that the Singer-Verse had three good things going for it: Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and Hugh Jackman. Even when the movies were bad, that triumvirate made the experience worth the trouble. All three clearly loved their parts and over the years made the characters their own. Jackman is a special case because his Wolverine is the reason the X-Men films have lasted as long. Perhaps if Singer stopped jerking off to him and focused on being a director, the series would have turned out better.
With the Singer-Verse more or less a shambling corpse begging for death (good), it was only right to give them a proper send off. With Days of Future Past a failure, Stewart and Jackman needed a suitable conclusion to their cinematic legacies. I understand if McKellen could not be included as the man is ancient. Good thing Michael Fassbender is there to carry on as Magneto. Was Logan the final farewell these actors needed or another Singer-Verse piece of garbage?
With his health declining and Xavier dying from a neurological disease, Wolverine struggles to get by so they can live in relative peace. Things turn upside down when he becomes involved in a conspiracy with the mysterious mutant Laura, played Dafne Keen.
Logan is the best thing to happen to the Singer-Verse since First Class. Not only does it surpass David Mangold’s previous and under-ratted effort, The Wolverine, the movie stands on its own as a paragon of quality in storytelling and character. It barely qualifies as what we have come to know as a superhero film, a transcendent work that focuses squarely on the drama of the titular character.
From the outset the dark tone is obvious. Unlike the rest of the Singer-Verse, the darkness is not out of embarrassment, but in service to the tragedy. Logan is about dying heroes who are hanging on to a world that does not want them. Wolverine is bitter about life while Xavier is consumed by delusion and a hope that seems impossible. One wants to survive in the face of overwhelming despair while the other wants to thrive despite the darkness of the situation.
The conceit of the narrative is Wolverine denying the possibility that the world can get better. With the appearance of Laura, he is forced to accept the idea, but pushes back. So traumatized by the past and his current situation, he cannot open up for fear of loss. Even the strongest of influences, the clearest of proof cannot get him to think otherwise. Logan is about Wolverine learning to be a hero when there is no place for them in this new, decaying world.
With the dark tone the movie takes it all the way in the action. For the first time since the beginning of the Singer-verse, there is actual blood and gore when Wolverine pops his claws. People are stabbed, maimed, and murdered like they should have been all along. The blood and some effects are clearly fake in many places, but the fact anyone bothered to include them is good enough. We have never seen Wolverine actually kill with visible consequences. Any fan that has been dying to see him murder people will be more than satisfied.
It should be noted that Old Man Logan, a comic written by Mark Millar before he became a sellout, loosely inspired Logan. I love the book with its cool set-up, fantastic violence, and one of the most shocking twists in comics. It was impossible to adapt given the character rights issues between Marvel and Fox, which is one of many reasons why my Fantastic Four story will never be made. To anyone familiar with the book, do not expect to see Wolverine eating an inbred Hulk relative or my favorite depiction of the Red Skull gouging out Captain America’s eyes. A part of me is actually thankful the original story was not adapted because Millar’s work is already difficult enough to adapt (see Wanted, then read the comic).
That being said, Logan sets itself apart in a way that it stands alone. Take out everything X-Men related and you have a fantastic Western tragedy about a gunslinger unable to move on from the past. There are many parallels to Shane, which is referenced and quoted in the film. Logan does enough in terms of exposition that you do not have to know about the previous movies to understand what is happening. You are given bits and pieces of backstory, ideas of how the characters’ powers work, and the state of the world without a barrage of dumps to give it all away. Logan has a lot of respect for itself and trusts you to pay attention.
It is no surprise that Stewart and Jackman utterly steal the show. I think this is the first time they have been together on screen for such a long time. Their chemistry is flawless as a father/son pair. Wolverine is trying to keep everything together as Stewart holds on to the possibility of a better future. They were perfect together and I hope they do more work in the future.
As her breakout role, Keen is pretty good overall. She does not talk much for a majority of the film, but proves to be a decent physical actor. She conveys just how feral and savage she is with a stare or a scream that is not annoying despite her age. I also give a pass to her fight scenes that involve a lot of grappling, one of the most over used techniques since Iron Man 2. It works for her character because she is so small and being ferocious it makes since she would get so close to her enemies.
Logan is a sad movie. It is symbolic of an era that, though embarrassing in retrospect, represented the dawn of the superhero movie. Regardless of who or what you think started it all, Jackman and Stewart were monumental in bringing the genre to the fore. The MCU would not exist without those guys and Logan is their farewell. It is the finale they deserve and a respectful one at that. Go see it.