Will Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine also be his finest?
Hugh Jackman has played the character of Wolverine aka Logan an impressive eight times including cameos of varying length in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse, but early next year will see him wear the claws for the ninth and (reportedly) final time in the new film, Logan.
The first trailer has been released, and it’s difficult not to think James Mangold’s film – his second with the character – will be the superhero movie to beat next year. To be clear, I’m talking quality and effect rather than box-office. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming will be fun, and Wonder Woman promises an exciting and long-overdue adventure, but Logan seems poised to hit audiences where so few superhero movies dare to go. The gut.
Check out the first trailer:
Come on you guys. This looks beautiful and devastating.
I’m not a comic reader, so I’m only aware of Marvel’s Old Man Logan series – considered the spiritual inspiration for the film as opposed to a literal one – as a reference point, but this iteration of the character looks and feels incredible. Jackman’s always made Wolverine a charismatic bastard, and seeing him drained of his smug charm is as enticing as it is alarming.
This will be the rare time where Wolverine’s reluctance to play the hero is powered as much by inability as attitude. He’s always been an old man, but in this story we finally get to see it. His regenerative powers are failing, his wounds have left scars, and if that shift away from the invincible isn’t enough the world he’s occupying is also one where other mutants have mostly died off. Only Professor X aka Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) remains – and he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s.
It’s an incredibly bleak take on the typically bright world of the X-Men universe – and yes, the last couple films have been darker than most, but they still featured levity, superhero costumes, and happy endings. There’s no guarantee of any of those here. It looks instead like we’ll get a cemetery visit, presumably to one or more dead X-Men, as well as Logan burying the professor.
The young girl Logan’s tasked with helping is X-23 aka Laura Kinney (Dafne Keen), and it’s probably safe to say she’s cloned from his own DNA and presumably gifted with similar adamantium claws. Logan’s already had something of a fatherly relationship with another young mutant (Rogue), and it always worked well as a tender thread in his gruff exterior. Making this girl’s protection the main focus here adds to a heart and emotional weight already fueled by Logan’s golden years and the professor’s dementia. It’s unclear if she’s being set up as a way to keep “a” Wolverine in the film universe without having to recast Jackman, but there’s no denying the appeal of a female hero whose weapon of choice is sheer brutality instead of excessive CG.
The emotional toll pairs well with the film’s smaller-scale action. It’s still a superhero movie, but it’s one without characters flying through the air or buildings and heli-carriers crashing to the ground. There may be bigger action saved for later trailer reveals – I won’t know though as I like to stick with just the initial teasers – but as it stands Logan has the feel of a far more earthy action picture.
Mangold in the director’s chair seems at first like a mixed bag. One need look no further than 2013’s The Wolverine to think maybe the franchise (and superhero films in general) isn’t a good fit for his talents, but go back a little further in his filmography and I think he becomes far more ideal for this story in particular. I’m thinking specifically of Cop Land and 3:10 to Yuma.
Both films are westerns – one literally and the other a modern descendant – and that feel looks to be similar to what Logan is going for in both narrative and appearance. Cop Land in particular shares more direct similarities in its focus on an authority figure whose best days are long behind him. He’s a man hobbled physically but empowered from within to do the right thing despite both the odds and his own perceived limitations. Applying that to Wolverine is a fascinating take on the character and the actor.
As I mentioned above, this is reportedly the final appearance for Jackman as Wolverine, and while that’s perfectly understandable – the guy’s forty-eight years old and would probably like to see what carbs taste like before he dies – the pull of the Hollywood machine is a strong one. He’s been fantastic in the role and truly made it his own, but it’s okay if he chooses to walk away. We’ll be fine if someone else steps into his shoes. We’ll be even better if it’s a kick-ass lady Wolverine.
And let’s be honest. The way the X-Men films play fast and loose with timelines mean he can easily reappear down the road without causing the least amount of head-scratching.
Logan claws its ways into theaters on March 3rd, 2017.