No, but seriously…
Something has been working at me since seeing Logan a couple times back in March. This won’t be a review per say. I think anyone with a brain having the minimal amount of creases will agree that it’s as close to a masterpiece as comic-to-film adaptions have gotten.
What I want to talk about is the idea that the story was more than a send-off for a beloved character played by a man who saw him as more than spandex and metal and gruff machismo, who truly found the humanity of an archetype and made him come alive through his love of the role. While all those things are true (and don’t tell me they’re not, I’m warning you), that’s not at issue here. That’s the obvious thing.
My thing is that the ship which has sailed is instead the end of an era, the admittance of an error in the calculation of what the future could or would look like. But with the caveat that no age lasts forever, so you had better nurture that age in those coming after you. It’s the preservation of hope, a realignment of expectation. Just with a lot of gleeful murder. It’s kind of like the French Revolution in that way. Watch Les Mis, you’ll understand.
Logan is a different experience from Jackman’s previous appearances as the character. That’s plain straight away. The title is Logan, not Wolverine, not X-Men 9: Old Men with Normal Pants This Time. Just Logan. It’s pure comic book with all the flair dropped away, the curtain pulled back. Sure: Marvel has pulled this trick a number of times, across a number of franchises, but this time there’s just a little twist. What brings this interpretation home is the presence of Jackman himself, who’s aged with the character since taking on the mantle. Having been with him as Wolverine continuously across the X-Men film franchise, knowing this is his last round as the character, really creates and solidifies the dramatic message of the film.
We meet him as he’s trying to hold together the pieces of yesterday, a better day, then follow him as he is forced into guiding the way to another and one that he does not believe can exist. His disillusionment is our disillusionment. There is a series of small victories set against a larger backdrop of gloom. The triumph of the enemy is so thoroughly complete, we wonder what the point is and yet we keep watching, waiting to see what the old vanguard of comic book morality will do. An air of impotent frustration hovers close around every scene, infrequently dismissed by periods of stolen respite.
Leaving the theater, all of this engendered a mixture of sadness and hope. The final scene is enough to get Wolverine himself choked up, but beyond this I could not help but feel in a way that the jig was up. The old king was dead, so long live the king. It was almost an acknowledgement that the torch was being handed off and the flame was dithering, but would go out entirely if not given to a new generation.
And yet: what really bites deep is that, in the world we are presented, this is the best we can hope for. The point of no return has been reached, the old days are gone and the magic is done. That’s what hits home and hits home every time the old soldier makes his final stand, goes out on his final ride, takes the Long Walk into the wasteland. Or, in this case, a franchise dies because Fox will only let go of X-Men if Marvel pries the IP from its cold, dead fingers.