Dissecting Logan

Zac: Logan made a big splash with critics and the box office this past weekend, but I’m really left wondering why everyone is flipping their lid.

Ben: There are two big points that explain it for me. The first is that it marks the end of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine who many people grew up watching, myself included. The second is that it’s a fantastic movie, superhero or otherwise.

Zac: Fantastic is something I only felt once, maybe twice, and I think it really doesn’t work as a superhero movie or a standalone feature. It is stuck in this weird limbo, but please, try to convince me.

Ben: Well first, the action is top-notch. This “R-Rated Wolverine” that’s been hyped up by Jackman and Mangold is exactly what long-time fans of the character have wanted since X-Men in 2000. (Zac: Wolverine has been R-Rated in The Wolverine on Blu-ray! It was good!) The phrase “He’s the best at what he does, what he does isn’t very nice” has been used in the comics to describe Wolverine, but he never really seemed more dangerous or brutal than any of the other X-Men or Mutants until Logan. It’s gory, crazy, and exactly what I imagined it would look like if Weapon-X’s best subject let loose.

I also think the particular obstacles in each action scene where great. Watching Logan trying to protect the limo in the opening, withstand Xavier’s paralyzing seizures in the casino, and killing as many soldiers as he could before that green-liquid buff ran out were all interesting and fun little ways to make sure each action scene really stood out.

Zac: I have to disagree right off, Logan has never been weaker or less dangerous than he is here, he is literally dying. From an action standpoint Logan has never been more neutered. I’ll give you that each set piece felt differentiated from the others, but I only got excited during the silo escape scene and the casino. The casino scene, I think is clearly the high point of the movie. Its setup, conception and payoffs all work wonderfully and the filmmaking is top notch as well. I think we often take for granted slow-mo action like this, and Mangold’s direction is never sharper than it is here in Logan.

But, as entertaining as the silo escape/car chase scene was, I don’t think it fully took advantage of the set up it had at its fingertips. Protecting Xavier in that scene should have been the main focus, but in the whole set piece I only remember Logan and Laura each specifically shielding him once a piece? If the scene had gone full on with that idea I think it could have ended up on par with the casino.

As for the other two set pieces, I really wasn’t into either of them. Yes, I get the thematic nature of Logan having to fight himself in X-24, but, eh, it felt easy to me. Jackman is fully capable of internalizing that struggle for the screen, why do we need it physically manifested? Plus, the introduction of X-24 (along with Dr. Rice) completely derails the villain they had been very successfully setting up for the first half of the movie. I was all in on Boyd Holbrook’s Pierce and found him genuinely threatening, until he wasn’t needed anymore. If Logan was supposed to be weakening and on the verge of death, why would I believe he could go toe to toe with X-24 in any capacity whatsoever?

The finale also felt like another huge missed opportunity and I can’t believe we only got, like, one minute of Logan going full berserker on those guys. And it wasn’t even that great. That “single” take of him running past the guys in the woods was alright, but this berserker moment didn’t come close to touching his berserker scenes in X2; or X-Men Apocalypse for the matter. Both of those scenes felt more brutal and raw than the one we get in Logan’s finale. And again, yeah, this isn’t that same guy as those earlier films, but they had an out with the serum he shoots himself up with; why not go big one last time before he falls?

Also in the finale, the fact that they only used the batch of X-whatever kids for one or two moments was a complete wasted opportunity. Again, yes, I get this is Logan’s story, but I think the film could have certainly had it both ways. And, did it feel weird to you that half the kids got captured or tackled before anyone started fighting back? The film clearly established these kids are raw and want to fight, why not show it? Why not use Logan’s last stand to inform the kids that you can’t fight from the rage as a message to send off these new mutants with. I don’t know, man, this last set piece just didn’t work for me on any level.

Ben: Out of the snags you mentioned, the only one I can easily imagine myself possibly getting behind was the villains. I can see why you felt that baddies were a bit of a letdown, but, to me, that was fine because Logan wasn’t trying to be as formulaic as the traditional “Superhero defeats bad guy to save the day” kind of movies we’re so used to nowadays. And I think that this movie is more than just about Logan, but about Logan’s legacy.

Also, I don’t think the mutant kids (I’m going to call them the X-Kids from now on) wanted to fight. The X-Kids were raised to fight, but ran away because they DIDN’T want to fight. These weren’t fully trained soldiers, but subjects-in-training who never signed up. So, it makes sense that a bunch of highly trained full-grown commandos could capture them while they were running away. I think the X-KIds trying not to fight shows that they can be just as good as Logan (and Xavier) would’ve wanted them to be, which I think could’ve potentially made Logan happy in his final moments. To me, the ending worked perfectly.

And even more than the action, I think the most important piece that puts Logan head and shoulders above the vast majority of superhero movies is the phenomenal acting. Hugh Jackman is at his absolute finest as an older, world-weary Logan. Every line, every defeated sigh, grunt, or glare, every outburst, and just every moment he was on screen was awesome.

Then there’s Laura/X-23. Danfe Keen was incredible. I bought into every bit of story and emotion she was selling. I was slightly worried going in that it was going to be tough to acclimate to a “small girl Wolverine” (I’ve only read of her adventures as an adult in the comics), but it took almost no time at all. I really saw a strong-willed, yet scared, kid who could equal Logan’s reputation in time.

But, as brilliant as Jackman and Keen were, I would still say that the best acting had to be Patrick Sterwart’s. Seeing the once all-powerful mutant professor as the slowly fading, clouded, and confused “Chuck” was simply heart-breaking; and Stewart absolutely crushed it. “Crushed” is also the word I’d use to describe how I felt watching Logan and Xavier’s last scene together. I was fighting tears pretty darn hard.

Zac: Something we can agree on! Stewart was excellent and the best part of the movie, but I also didn’t feel like I was watching Charles Xavier anymore, but I’ll get into that later. Danfe Keen, she was fine, and Laura as a whole wasn’t all that interesting to me. 3 of the main elements of this movie is either Logan or some other version of him, and none of them are all that different. Yes, X-24 is supposed to be angry Logan to the extreme, but Laura isn’t really a counterbalance to that, like she could have been. Yes, she has time to change and learn from Logan’s mistakes, but I didn’t feel that in the film and she comes across as just another angry version of Logan running around. Where was the contrast with her to what we already know about Logan?

Also, Stephen Merchant deserves a shout out for his Caliban, he was quite excellent!

Ben: I agree that Merchant’s Caliban was great, but he was definitely overshadowed by Jackman, Stewart and Keen due to his screen time.

Moving on, Logan was an emotional roller coaster for me. I loved that neither Xavier or Logan could say out loud that one of Xavier’s episodes killed some of the X-Men, the ambiguity of Logan’s last words, (what does “So that’s what this feels like” mean? Peace? Death? Family? All three?) and Laura turning the cross on Logan’s grave into an X. Logan dying to protect the next generation of mutants also harkens back to X2, which was arguably the best X-Men movie that featured Wolverine as a main character until Logan.

Zac: I’m not trying to give you a heart attack, but I would take the first two X-Men films, First Class, Days of Future Past and The Wolverine before Logan. I didn’t pick up on the multi-meaning of his last words in the moment, but I think you are totally right. I assumed someone loving him is what the film was going for in the moment, but the entire arc of X-23 developing a fatherly love was completely unearned, forced and didn’t resonate emotionally one bit. In fact, I think I rolled my eyes and had to suppress laughter when she turned his cross to an X. Sorry!

Xavier’s death also didn’t effect with me at all and I think there are two reasons why. One, X-24 showing up was something I groaned at, even if I like how Xavier thought it was Logan because he’s his clone, so that threw me off. Two, I think the Xavier in this film bares no resemblance to the character that came before it, hence my emotional connection/arc for him was severed rather quickly. Yes, I bought this could be a version of Xavier, but the cursing and grumpiness really separated the character from his movie past for me. Again, yes, the film explains this change well, a degenerative brain disease is going to mess with people’s personalities, but since we don’t see the fall it never clicked for me.

Ben: I gotta say Zac, I just can’t understand your disbelief of Laura and Logan’s bond or how you didn’t love Xavier. Laura may have taken too long to talk (to me, her acting was amazing enough that she got a lot across just with body language), but her bond with Logan was built because of a few determining factors. One, was that Logan was probably nicer to her the most of the people she had known during her childhood. Logan definitely wasn’t warm and fuzzy like Xavier, but I doubt Laura would’ve have expected her father/clone-ancestor to be because she isn’t either. That segues into my second reason, which is that Laura is Logan’s clone-daughter. Kids usually bond with their parents fairly quickly, but imagine how much faster you could bond with yourself on a road trip. Plus Logan bonded with Rogue in X-Men way faster than he did with Laura, and he fell in love with Mariko in The Wolverine in even less time. Laura’s scenes with Logan were more impactful than any scenes in any of the X-Men movies; aside from some of the Logan/Xavier and Magneto/Xavier moments. Though, that isn’t really a fair comparison because Jackman, Stewart and Mckellen have had many more movies together.

Zac: You forgot Fassbender and Mcavoy!

I don’t know, I’m not buying their bond, Ben. They have, maybe, one real conversation in the film about anything besides plot, but otherwise they are mad and yelling at one another. Yeah, they are both acting like Logan, but I didn’t feel them coming together except for the film needing them to. Jackman and Keen did have a nice rhythm, but the script ultimately fails them as it hastily plows towards the finale. I mean, the movie’s final stakes are literally “We need to run past that imaginary line in the mountains and we will be safe, no matter what happens!” The film already established these Reavers will cross international borders to get what they want, why would an unguarded stretch of the Canadian border stop them?

I also thought some of the film looked a little cheap; similar to Deadpool. I know these films are operating on budgets far smaller than their Marvel Studios and WB/DC counterparts, but I couldn’t help be taken out of the film a couple of times when things felt a bit phony. A minor complaint for sure, but definitely something I felt a few times in the movie.

Did you feel like the film was sort of two movies, basically pre and post Charles’ death? I think that is where I started getting down on the film and I’m not exactly sure why. Losing Stewart in the film was a huge and entertaining loss, but the film really started rushing towards a conclusion at that point it never really earned. I honestly thought the house fight was going to be the final scenes of the movie, it felt that way, so the next thirty to forty minutes really labored for me.

Ben: With the Reavers giving up at the border, I figured it was because the guys running Transigen didn’t want an international snafu. They were okay with crossing the Mexican Border because they are (probably) an American company playing mad scientist in Mexico, but I think the Canadian border would’ve been a different story.

Zac: The fact that you are having to come up with this off the top of your head is why it doesn’t work.

Ben: I would also say that the tone of Logan changes after Xavier’s death, but it didn’t feel like a different movie to me. In fact, Logan’s downtime between the action scenes kinda felt like a slow-burning thriller. Each break in the action was an uncomfortably eerie calm before another violent, bloody storm. Seeing Logan, a guy who has survived things like being shot in head multiple times, look more and more hurt was so strange.

I’m not sure what else I can say to show you how amazing Logan is, so I’ll guess we have to agree to disagree on this one… Just like almost every movie we both see.

Zac: Yep, yes we will…

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