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X-Men movies – the good ones, anyway – have almost always functioned as broad political/social metaphors. They’re about the minority – the “freak,” the outcast, the outsider. They’re about how society treats them, what that does to them as people, and how they respond. They’re about what kind of future we want, and what kind of future we’re actually building, sometimes in spite of what we want. In the midst of all that symbolism,  understandably the individual characters and their stories get lost – the X-Men themselves can feel interchangeable, even disposable. It doesn’t help that there have been so many of them in so many movies.

The throughline, going all the way back to the original X-Men in 2000,  has always been Wolverine.  He’s the only X-Man to get his own movie – not even a movie but a trilogy, counting this one.  Here’s what I had to say about the character in 2009, when I reviewed X-Men Origins: Wolverine:

“Because the movie doesn’t tell you, I’m going to: Wolverine originated out of the pent-up rage and disillusionment with authority that most Americans felt in the wake of the Vietnam War and Watergate. He is the superhero version of Dirty Harry, and was popular for the same reasons: he was inner moral and good-hearted, but outwardly brooding, angry, and subject to fits of rage. He had no patience for red-tape, two-faced politicians, or discussions about moral ambiguity. He has the power to do the right thing, and the attitude to not care less if others don’t like him.”

And this is what I said about The Wolverine in 2013:

I wonder if, as an audience, we’ll ever grow tired of Wolverine. 1974 was a long time ago, and it’s been a while since we nearly impeached a president or lost a war. I suppose there’s always plenty to be angry about, but successful, entertaining and even humorous movies featuring more brightly colored, optimistic superheroes – guys like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America – make me think the age of the dark, angsty protagonist may finally be coming to an end… I’ve enjoyed the Wolverine movies — most of them — but don’t really feel like I need any more of them.”

I think it’s funny – and forgive me for continuing to quote myself — that I also said this in 2009:

“Clint Eastwood recently revisited his Dirty Harry character in Gran Torino, showing us an angry old man who desperately needs to reevaluate his take on the world. Maybe it’s time for Marvel[actually it’s Sony] to do the same thing with Wolverine. That’d be a movie I’d feel a need to see.”

Because that is basically the movie that director James Mangold has given us in Logan. This is, without a doubt, the last Wolverine movie (until the inevitable reboot), and what an ending it is. Character-driven, unrelenting in its violence, and imbued with deeper, more personal themes.

The year is 2029. All of the mutants are dead, or in hiding. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is in his 90s, and suffer from an unspecified mental issue – dementia, seizures, etc. It happens when you get old, and it doesn’t always have a name. But with his mental powers, it has terrible consequences for those around Xavier. Logan and an albino mutant named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are caring for him in an abandoned foundry in Mexico — Xavier is in a giant iron tank, which is supposed to dull the effects of his mental freak-outs. Logan has this plan to save money and buy a boat, get them out in the ocean where Xavier can’t hurt anybody, and… wait for him to die, I guess.  There are worse ways to go.  As the movie demonstrates.

But there’s a little girl, who might be the hope of the future, and a group of bad guys who are after her. So Logan, Xavier and the girl are on the run for most of the movie, trying to find a place where they might be safe. Logan doesn’t think it exists. I got the feeling that Boyd Holbrook (who plays Pierce) really wanted to give us a memorable bad guy; he’s borrowed Doc Holladay’s accent from Tombstone, which is wonderful, but this movie didn’t really have room for a memorable bad guy. I wonder how much of his best work ended up on the cutting room floor.

Logan not just dark, it’s sad. It’s not just sad, it’s world-weary (in a way I think a lot of us can identify with right now.) It’s not just world-weary, it’s heartbreaking. It might make you cry. For real. It’s about regret, and the way past acts haunt you even after you’ve repented of them and done all you can to make restitution. But perhaps more than anything, it’s about the grand disappointment of growing old, and realizing that neither you nor the world are ever going to be what you hoped they would become. Was it foolish to hope?  Is optimism a cruel joke?

I was tempted to end the review with those questions, but that wouldn’t be fair.  Logan isn’t quite that bleak; it does find a note of redemption for its main character, and a satisfying ending. Logan reinvents yet again what a comic book movie can be. I didn’t think that was possible anymore. Mangold has done here for the comic book genre what Sam Peckinpah did for Westerns.



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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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