Logan Is No Country For Old X-Men

X-Men: Apocalypse gave Andrew Birchenough such extreme PTSD that Jack Gattanella was forced to install me as his Brand-X substitute for The Wages of Cinema’s Logan review! Is Logan the best there is at what he does, or is what Logan does not very nice? Going by Wolverine’s catchphrase, these options might not be mutually exclusive.

SPOILERS below, bub! SNIKT! SNIKT!

The best part of the movie is the surprise pre-credits scene! An alternate version of it has been posted online for international audiences & folks boycotting the movie altogether. I won’t spoil it for you (because the rest of the Interwuzzle’s already done that by now).

Believing it’s their final outing as these characters, Hugh Jackman & Patrick Stewart act the Hell out of Wolverine & Professor Xavier. Stewart gets to show off many more sides of Xavier than the stately exposition mode he was previously stuck in. It’s unfortunate that their A-game swan song had to be this movie. Logan is exactly the movie its trailers promised, which was a huge turn-off for me. This movie is thoroughly unpleasant in terms of tone & subject. Rather than a triumphant farewell to they franchise they launched, it’s a downer sucker-punch that makes the prior nine X-Men films seem retroactively futile.

This movie very loosely adapted from Mark Millar’s & Steve McNiven’s overrated “Old Man Logan,” in the sense that slightly more elderly Logan no longer has his signature haircut (a travesty!) & all the X-Men were massacred. (Too bad they couldn’t include the Tyrannosaurus rex bonded with the Venom symbiote!) In the comics, Wolverine murders everyone because Mysterio’s special effects make him think his teammates are assorted supervillains, even though his enhanced senses shouldn’t have been fooled by non-telepathic illusions. In the movie, Professor X apparently killed all his students & colleagues by accidentally giving them simultaneous aneurysms ala X-Men 2/ God Loves Manacles, Man Kills during a bout of dementia. That makes more sense, but it’s also even bleaker. It’s not directly shown or stated, so it’s possible Eye-Scream framed Xavier by giving everyone lethal ice cream headaches. Regardless, the X-Men all died off-screen!

So this movie is about Wolverine slowly succumbing to Adamantium poisoning because his healing factor is finally giving out. This might’ve been more compelling if the previous Wolverine solo movie didn’t feature his healing factor being inhibited. (It’s a cliche that the second superhero movie must put their powers on the fritz.) Wolverine has regressed into a brooding loner that doesn’t want to help strangers because character development is hard. In order to prevent Professor X’s powers from killing anyone else, Wolverine has to work as a limo driver to buy him black market power-inhibiting drugs. The better solution would be to just put one of Magneto’s anti-telepathy helmets on Xavier. The way Magneto goes through movie helmets, there’s gotta be a few laying around.

I wasn’t fan of X-23 a.k.a. Laura Kinney (named after Andie MacDowell in Multiplicity) in X-Men: Evolution or the comics, but newcomer Dafnee Keen’s portrayal of her is legitimutantly excellent! The movie refers to her as Logan’s daughter, but everywhere else she’s his clone (with some tweaks to make her female & change her claw placements). Did the movie not realize that she would actually be his much younger twin sister, or is movieverse X-23 the product of conventional artificial insemination of unfrozen Logan sperm? (A moment of silence for all the Weapon X grunts that died harvesting it.)

This movie is ridiculously violent to make up for Logan’s previous cinematic appearances being PG-13, which I appreciated. Even children get in on the hard R gore! Its world is so banal & dour that the carnage functions like comedic relief. Considering all the murders later, it’s absurd that Logan doesn’t kill an unconscious Donald Pierce after he’s threatened them at their hideaway in act one. Then he still doesn’t kill Pierce or Dr. Rice while they’re down after they’ve slaughtered an innocent family. It makes no sense other than to prolong the run-time. Apparently it’s not worth explaining how to drive a bullet-ridden & battered limo across the Mexican border without incident either.

Richard E. Grant would’ve been a fantastic Mr. Sinister (apparently the reference to him at the end of last movie is a set-up for the eventual Gambit flick), but he’s actually playing obscure & generic Dr. Zander Rice. At the climax, he reveals he’s the son of the Adamantium bonding process’s pioneer. This comes out of nowhere, because in the movieverse, Willaim Stryker’s only known child is Mastermind. Or is he supposed to be the son of Professor Andre Thorton or Dr. Abraham Cornelius, who exist in the comics but haven’t appeared in the films? Either way, it’s pointless since there’s already a connection with him running the corporate successor of the Weapon X Project (that’s potentially tied to Mr. Sinister unless Apocalypse’s stinger doesn’t connect to anything like The Wolverine’s).

While X-23 is the movie’s best addition, X-24 the raging male Wolverine clone is its worst. It makes sense that the villains would make one since they already have his DNA. I also get the metacommentary of Hugh Jackalman Jackman fighting himself. But X-24 is just such a huge failure of imagination! X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s Deadpool & The Wolverine’s  Silver Adamantium Samurai may have been bastardizations, but at least they added some novelty. X-24 is so boring! Dark Phoenix murdered Xavier so much better the first time. Why couldn’t the final boss have been someone more unique like Omega Red, Cyber, a Predator X, or some cybernetic dingoes?

Or an even better idea than another secret weapon villain, why not make the Reavers not suck? In addition to Donald Pierce, there’s several dozen nameless & interchangeable cyborg commandos that exist solely to get claws rammed through their brains. It’s quantity over quality, as none of these red shirts could’ve crucified Wolverine in the Outback. Why not have a handful of recognizable Reavers that are legitimutant threats to our heroes? Somebody’s credited as Bonebreaker, but I didn’t notice anyone with a miniature tank for a lower torso like Mandroid of Eliminators. They didn’t even put a stuntman in a skull balaclava to be be Skullbuster! Many of the comics Reavers became cyborgs after being maimed by Wolverine, but the theme of violence reaping violence is yet another compelling relationship omitted from the X-films.

Throughout much of the film, it’s implied that X-23 is the sole survivor of Dr. Rice culling the mutant clone kids. When Laura & Logan get to Eden, however, her experimental pals (including actual character Rictor) are all there already. How did they all make it there safely without any adult help? The Reavers didn’t manage to catch & kill any of the escapees? Why didn’t Dr. Rice microchip them so he wouldn’t have to rely on the fortuitous capture of Caliban (recast since his appearance in the X-prequel prior apparently without aging 46 years because Fox doesn’t expect viewers to notice movie continuity discrepancies at this point) to track them?

An Adamantium bullet from Origins made a surprise return as a potential suicide tool. If Logan shot himself in the mouth or an eye, that bullet could potentially destroy his brain. When X-23 shoots X-24 in the back of his head with it, half his noggin explodes off! Since the movies established Adamantium is still impervious to itself, it should’ve just ricocheted off. Or going by Origins physics, X-24’s Adamantium skull would’ve absorbed it & given him amnesia.

Wolverine ends up buying the farm after being impaled on tree stump during his fight with X-24 as if he’s a vampire. I’m not sure if there’s a satisfying way to kill off a character whose power is being nigh-immortal, but this was anticlimactic. It would’ve been more uplifting if Wolverine survived to carry on Xavier’s legacy for the young mutants that look up to him, as in Jason Aaron’s delightful Wolverine & the X-Men. (It seemed like The Last Stand was building up to this premise before The Wolverine reverted him to a depressed loner.) Wolverine & Xavier are definitely dead because their actors have officially retired. Of course this movie is set in 2029, so Fox still has time to airlift tons of greenbacks to Hugh Jackman & Patrick Stewart to star in prequels. Each have mentioned that they may be tempted by a Deadpool sequel. Look for both actors to return in 2020’s Deadpool 3: Wolverine Has Risen From The Grave!

As if all the X-Men dying wasn’t depressing enough, there are no longer any mutants being born either. This is because Dr. Rice had been genetically modifying corn crops for years to eliminate the X-Gene in unwitting consumers. It’s debatable whether this is more plausible than Scarlet Witch wishing mutancy away or Inhumans’ Terrigen mists suddenly being fatal to mutants, but boo to GMO fear-mongering. I’m not inherently opposed to dark stories, but they went overboard on making the end of Days of Future Past less idyllic. (Apparently there was still some mutant hunting initiative in this future too.) A bittersweet end for Wolverine would be fitting, but the genocide of the entire mutant population is just too depressing. Not only did the (insert any group mutants can be a metaphor for) activists self-destruct, a clandestine eugenics program has eliminated the issue of integration!

Unlike Disney-owned Marvel, Fox doesn’t have a reason to marginalize mutants with bummer extinction plots like this because it does have the X-Men movie rights. It also effectively kills Fox’s superhero golden goose (nobody wants to see it attempt Fantastic Four again) unless it retcons the timeline again. Can’t we get a movie about how society is reshaped by mutants becoming dominant? As ex-X- scribe Grant Morrison wrote in the superlative Flex Mentallo, “Only a bitter little adolescent boy could confuse realism with pessimism.” The only smidgen of hope is that X-23 & Rictor could join Canada’s answer to the Avengers if Fox is wise enough to make an Alpha Flight film.

logan

We do not live in the best of all possible worlds.

Wolverine’s vocal disdain of the fictional Uncanny X-Men comic books continues the self-loathing trend established by Cyclops’s jab at yellow spandex in the original movie. (Had the fictional artists never seen their movieverse costumes, or did they just recognize that black leather uniforms are boring to draw regardless of accuracy?) Director James Mangold doesn’t even think Logan would wear a Wolverine costume, despite four movies  of him wearing (ugly) Wolverine costumes as precedence. It’s a massive disappointment that after seventeen years of X-Men movies, Hugh Jackman doesn’t even wear a masked Wolverine costume for his final outing. Since his regeneration is failing & he realizes he’s become an icon to young mutants, it’d be a perfect justification to wear an armored costume designed by Colleen Atwood. Fox can definitely afford to make a costume at least as good as cosplayers’.

The franchise’s hatred of Wolverine’s classic costumes is infuriating. Sure, Wolverine’s powers aren’t dependent on his clothes like Iron Man, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t wear something reminiscent of the signature costumes he’s worn for decades. My favorite part of his costume is that his mask is the same as his face. Rather than concealing his identity like Batman, Logan is totemically invoking his idealized mutant self. The bright colors draw enemy attention away from his less impervious teammates or serve as a warning like poisonous animals’. Or he could go with a less eye-catching but more stealthily drab brown & tan number. Logan shouldn’t be self-conscious about dressing ridiculous in public, & this confidence imbues the costume with coolness. It’s this unique outfit that makes him stand out as an icon for mutantkind & comic book fans.

I harp on the costume because it’s emblematic of this movie’s & the franchise in general’s embarrassment by the source material. Logan was so stripped down it could’ve almost been a generic sci-fi thriller. (I would give the movie more credit for being a Western Horse Opera it it didn’t beat audiences over the head with it.) Of course throwing all the superficial trappings at the wall without any context as in Apocalypse is terrible for opposite reasons, but it isn’t grounds for not trying. Embracing the weirdness of comic books leads to a richer & more emotionally satisfying experience than putting up a one-note serious facade. This approach has paid off wonderfully for The CW’s The Flash, The Lego Batman Movie, the current TMNT toon, Deadpool, & the X-adjacent Legion TV series.

Thanks to its tight character focus, gore, & great acting, Logan is a much better film than the previous installments in his mini-franchise & many X-movies in general. It’s nowhere near as good as Deadpool or X-Men : First Class though. Unfortunately it mistakes embracing nihilism with the height of sophistication over exploring the wonder of the mythos. The humongous problem is that this movie didn’t adapt anything from the X-Men comics I wanted to see.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next week, but keep watching this space for updates! It’ll be mildly diverting!

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6 thoughts on “Logan Is No Country For Old X-Men

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