(THE FOLLOWING POST WILL HAVE HEAVY SPOILERS FOR LOGAN, INCLUDING THE FILM’S ENDING. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)
As Logan’s final scene unfolded in the theater, and while I expect many were reflect on the character’s journey through the prior X-Men films, I found myself instead reflecting more on Hugh Jackman’s path through it all. The film’s finale felt almost poetically metaphorical to Jackman’s 17-year journey, though I’m sure not intentionally so.
I suppose that before I get too deep into that though, I should explain what Logan is. As for the factual, Logan is an X-Men movie, even though it only involves a few of the characters from the previous films. The fact that it’s an X-Men movie makes it a superhero movie, though as many others have written and said since the films release, only barely so. The film has an ‘R’ rating, and abuses that to a satisfying degree, so much so that many have been asking why Fox didn’t figure out that Wolverine, as a character, deserved every one of his films to be rated as such since the beginning.
As for what Logan is according to my opinion – well, for one thing, it vastly exceeds the high expectations that came with it. I’ve never been even remotely interested or invested in the X-Men franchise, and because of this, felt no real need to see Logan at all. However, as the film came out, and all any reviewer could do was rave about how fantastic it was, even from the perspective of one who hasn’t kept up with X-Men films or superhero films in general, I felt as though I needed to at least give it a shot. And I’m very glad that I did.
But back to the metaphor I mentioned at the beginning, because I think that the film’s excellence can be best explained in that context. As the movie hits its climax, and Jackman’s Wolverine lays dying in a forest crowded by mutant children, one of which being his daughter by way artificial insemination, he almost seems at peace. Mind you, this is at the height of nearly two and a half hours of grueling misery for the characters, Logan especially. And, provided with context, we are led to understand that it’s been years of hardship and hard times for all of these characters, and again, Logan most of all. However, with (nearly) everyone he cares for long dead and gone, Logan instead finds death to be a sweet release, which leads him to say with his final breath, “So this is what it feels like.”
And while that’s incredibly appropriate for the character, I couldn’t help but feel it was almost more so for Jackman. The man who had been with the franchise since it debuted on the big screen in 2000, and who would star in several films of varying success (though mostly not much of it, particularly those that his character had a large part in), and who, after all these years, felt like it was finally his time. He went through X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was rightfully panned for getting so much wrong, despite his performance. He came back for The Wolverine, which was good enough to be a fitting send-off on its own. He even came back to be briefly shown here and there in the conjoining timeline of movies with Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy – a universe of films with better plot and characters, but who still felt they needed Jackman’s Wolverine to help sell audiences. And yet, we still got Logan, a standalone X-Men that Jackman said was very much going to be his last. And it certainly seems that way coming out of it.
There’s even a fun sense of either regret or hesitancy from the studio itself, either for the past Wolverine films, or the idea of making more that focus on the character’s past. When a young, rage-filled clone of Logan is shot in the head with an adamantium bullet that kills it instantly, it almost felt as though someone somewhere was saying, “Yeah, we screwed that up. Here’s us acknowledging that”. And of course, that also was probably not intentional, but it’s fun to think that, while the studio was in the middle of finally getting the character right, that they felt a small need to apologize for making us wait so long in the first place.
I suggest you see Wolverine for a number of reasons. For one, it’s excellent, covering a variety of themes – fatherhood, death and dying, grief and loneliness – in a way that few films, let alone superhero films, can. Secondly, it’s so very different from any other superhero film. People always give DC credit for trying to go a different direction than Marvel, and are quick to criticize those that criticize the movies because they “just want another Marvel movie”. When, in fact, if DC could actually accomplish a film like Logan, which is heavy and depressing and full of violence and grief, then maybe they could actually get some credit for once.
But also, you should see this movie because Hugh Jackman deserves it. He’s put in more time and effort than anyone really thought he should, into a franchise that often did little to nothing for him. And despite how terrible the previous films were, he kept coming back, and kept trying to give us the depiction of Wolverine that we felt we deserved. And now, at the tail end of 17 years, we finally got it, and it’s very much to his credit.
“So this is what it feels like.” Yes, Hugh, this is what a good Wolverine movie feels like. You can rest easy now.