Logan: All These Broken Parts
RUTHLESS, VICIOUS, RELENTLESS.
BEAUTIFUL, WARM, BITTERSWEET.
On the one-week anniversary of my death by (at least) a thousand cuts, I bring you this short story of the cause of my demise. What happened to me? Who is responsible? Why did I let my guard down? Was there anything that could have been done?
Let's start with the what. If your eyes skipped over the title up there, I went to see a little movie you may have heard of called Logan. A little movie that has made $535 million worldwide in the three weeks since its release. It's not the highest haul a superhero movie has ever had, but that's nothing to scoff at and it's still a great finish for an emotionally rough goodbye. This is the X-Men movie I was waiting for, the definitive Wolverine movie, one of the best ever superhero movies, and just a damn great movie.
Usually, I don't write about movies. I find there's not enough specifics that I can remember afterwards when I can't take notes in the theater. Sometimes, though, the visceral power of it ensures that there's enough feeling to go on. In Logan, those feelings were provided by the intense Hugh Jackman (Logan), inimitable Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier), lovable Stephen Merchant (Caliban), and amazing newcomer Dafne Keen (Laura). They made a wonderful dysfunctional family. I wish their time together could have been longer; still, they left an indelible mark on me. I was so impressed and depressed when I left the theater that I had to tweet my appreciation.
So many swears. I loved that. In a situation like this you wouldn't be like, "Oh, fiddlesticks" or "shoot" or "darn it." And you sure as shit wouldn't cut the swearing off at "shit." No, you swear like you never have before and earn that R rating. And don't forget I also said bloody. "Wowee" might be the best response I can come up with to convey my surprise at how violent it was, the violence in direct proportion to what was at stake. It was a life-and-death situation, and there is a satisfaction, but also revulsion, in seeing the villains get what they deserve.
It gets a bit SPOILERY past here. I don't exactly give everything away, but you'll probably get an idea if you don't have one already.
The scene that captures this feeling best was when poor Xavier was having a seizure. He'd already nearly killed Logan and Caliban early on. Logan had been giving him medication to prevent that. When the Reavers found them, another seizure was triggered, and Logan had to fight through a wall of sound and fury in slo-mo to get to Laura and Xavier. The resulting agonizingly slow and unavoidable slaughter was brutal. Even more brutal? Finding out this now out of control psychic power of Xavier's was responsible for many deaths, including members of the X-Men. Logan had been carrying that weight around with him, keeping Xavier drugged so he wouldn't remember, carrying it along with all the deaths he himself was responsible for or could not prevent, dealing with all that sorrow and anger alone.
No one could accuse Hugh Jackman of not always giving everything he has to the role. He gets ripped for it with a punishing routine and he treats the material like he would any other, instead of the attitude that some people have that it's just a silly comic book movie. Hugh couldn't have been a better Wolverine. What a treat it has always been to watch him perform, to give real life to this character for the past 17 years.
I certainly had no real idea of how it would feel or how it would be presented. Logan turned out to be some incredible combination of ruthless, vicious, relentless, beautiful, warm, and bittersweet.
Dafne Keen was an amazing find. Laura was ferocity and vulnerability in one and a terrific performer. #Logan— Erin Bates (@Reinbeast) March 25, 2017
It's strange, but it really felt like a loss in the hours and days after I saw it. There's an empty space even as I hold on tight to the memory of a fantastic character played by an incredible actor. I have teared up thinking about it. Hugh Jackman was the perfect Wolverine and has, with this final movie playing this character, brought us his absolute best.
Underneath that gruff exterior lies a lot of broken parts.
Kevin P. Sullivan (Entertainment Weekly, 3.10.17) said that Logan/Jackman was the "bruised, beating heart" of the X-Men franchise. There is no better way to put that. I would have said exactly the same, and I have said similar things. I've always found Wolvie to be the most relatable of the X-Men, as he's the most emotionally vulnerable. Like anyone, he needs family, but he just wants to be left alone, because his long and dangerous life ensures he outlives everyone he loves. He's a loner not because he doesn't care, but because he's cared for too many and lost them all. He's reluctant to let anyone in, knowing how it will end. Underneath that gruff exterior lies a lot of broken parts.
I love these two images. They are so significant. Laura held Logan's hand first and he walked away. In the end, he gripped hers tight.
Logan carries so much pain with him and he's desperately afraid of being hurt again, like so many times before, but family is what makes life worth living. If it doesn't hurt when it's over, then what was the point? If it doesn't hurt when it's over then it didn't mean anything. Good thing nonagenarian Charles Xavier is still around to help remind him of that, to tell him he still has time. And so, his reluctance to help turned to a frantic escape with the enemy just moments behind; to feeling a responsibility to get this dangerous but vulnerable little girl to safety and out of his life; to finding himself being protective of her, feeling his heart waking up again; to joining a ferocious fight in the end to save her. To top it all off, he's slowly being poisoned by the adamantium grafted to his bones, his healing ability deteriorating, so this is a fight that takes everything he has left.
This brief, combative father/daughter relationship was so satisfying and one of the best I've seen. When, near the end, Logan told Laura that everyone he cares for dies and she said, "Then I'll be fine," that was both funny and like a punch in the chest. You could see it hurt him to hear her say that. She was hurt by his abandonment after everything they had been through, so she put on a brave face. Laura knew just what to say even if she didn't know she had clawed her way into his heart. Logan may not really have known until that moment either.
"In his best portrayal of Wolverine, Hugh shows a man with fierce heart and humanity."
—Reinbeast.com, The Wolverine (2013)
I was ready to start getting caught up with things around here. So much to do and so little time and all that. But then Logan came to town and I found myself unable to stop thinking about it. I remember this happened the last time he got a stand-alone movie back in 2013 and I wrote This Wolverine's Claws Are Sharp. I loved The Wolverine fiercely, because it had more realism than X-Men movies of the past: fewer characters to focus on, so there was more intimacy, more time to forge a deeper connection with Logan (mostly) alone; less reliance on CG , which I love but which can take you out of the story; and, as always, Hugh Jackman was fantastic and the perfect embodiment of a lonely, regretful, broken heart. And it was better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I loved The Wolverine for all these things, and now Logan has far surpassed it even though it's much more of a downer in the end, even though this is the one where we say goodbye to beloved characters.
I often forget that Wolverine was the first superhero I loved. I keep thinking it was Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. Then I forget about that for a while and think it was Robert Downey Jr.'s funny, brash, vulnerable Tony Stark in Iron Man who was my first true love. I always liked Superman well enough when I was younger, but it took Smallville for me to really care about him. And since I never got the chance to see Andrew Garfield's interpretation, I think Captain America: Civil War was the first time I have been happy with Peter Parker. Now I'm excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming.
But every time an X-Men movie is released, I am reminded that I've loved Wolverine longer than any of them, and that started with the X-Men cartoon in the 90s; not that I remember anything about it now but the yellow spandex and funny hair or Beast's blue fur. When X-Men came to film the characters were played as real people, not live action comic books, which made up for the mixed results in quality. That attention to character is what I always needed from superhero movies, even if I didn't always realize it. Oh, how I lament ever liking the pre-Nolan Batman movies. Well, at least I got some good soundtracks out of it. Speaking of which...
When I heard the first chords of Johnny Cash's ever incredible, and incredibly heartrending, version of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" at the start of the Logan trailer, I knew this was going to be the definitive end to Wolverine that Hugh Jackman had promised. And I had sure hoped he was lying/changed his mind about that. Stop playing a character, fine. Do what you want with him. But a beloved one? Let him happily ride off into the sunset, please. But that would not be true to where this movie was headed all along.
The rest of the trailer assured me that no matter how it ended, it would be quite a ride getting there. I finally got to see the movie two weeks after it opened, after twice having plans cancelled, and found out that the trailer was no lie. It was perfect, showing the scarred, weary, wounded Logan, hitting every emotional cue and adamantium claw slash with those percussive notes that punched up the music to epic battle proportions. The movie lived up to the high expectations the trailer set and more. This one is going to hurt for a really long time. I already had a hard enough time over the years whenever I would listen to this song, always thinking of Johnny and tearing up. It also goes perfectly with The Walking Dead fan videos. Now to think of Logan every time, too? That's a lot of sadness heaped onto one song.
I don't know if "Hurt" was only in the trailer. We left when the credits started. But just as the trailer for The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers was made perfect by "Lux Aeterna," which was not actually used in the movie itself, "Hurt" is now inextricable from Logan. I wanted to stay until the credits ended, to sit there in stunned silence taking in the final song or two as the names of everyone that brought us this superhero masterpiece scrolled by. My brothers, my cousin, and her husband don't do that without mid- or post-credit scenes, though. Those scenes in a Marvel movie indicate hope for the future and we knew in advance that there was none of that for Logan.
Though they loved it as much as I did, they just wanted to get out of there. Instead we walked to the car, discussing how good the movie was, and they are people who usually despise endings like that. Quickly I realized why they didn't turn on Logan at the end. It's because what happened wasn't pointless. When there's no reason for it that's when a story can turn from great to regrettable in a single moment. Throughout Logan, we all knew this was the last, and the ferociousness of it combined with emotional moments both small and enormous made it all worth it.
Definite SPOILER from here to the "Bonuses" section.
Just skip over this for now if you haven't seen Logan. The quotes are safe to read, though, as long as your eyes don't wander outside those boxes.
Logan's experiences, the people he loved and who loved him, that's what made him. That's what shaped his heart and forged his soul.
Afterwards I started thinking of the character being brought back in the improbable case Jackman ever got bored and wanted to do just one more. I imagined claws suddenly breaking through the dirt, but that's far fetched after knowing what he went through and what was happening inside. I imagined Wolverine coming back as a clone, and not a murderous, conscience-free one. Of course, that wouldn't work either, because it wouldn't be the same person. Logan's experiences, the people he loved and who loved him, that's what made him. That's what shaped his heart and forged his soul.
So, this is a definitive end...unless. There could always be an "unless" if the right circumstances and script came along. I also imagined an alternate timeline, which the X-Men are no stranger to, where Logan takes on the role of running a school for the gifted. But I wouldn't want the sacrifice in Logan to be tainted by a phoenix-like rebirth; only if it could be done at some point without transforming the pain, without taking away from that sacrifice, the way Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to bring back Phil Coulson. Well, now I want a live-action Wolverine TV show.
Every moment of this man fighting to the bitter end for family was earned and beautifully done.
I could imagine all day that Logan would have had a sweeter end, "my sweetest friend," but that can't always happen, because "everyone I know goes away in the end." As Logan told Laura, and the audience, this is real life and people die. The thoroughly sad yet emotionally fulfilling, full feeling Logan left me with will stay with me forever and I wouldn't change it for anything. Someone said the emotional moments were manipulative. Not in the least. Every moment of this man fighting to the bitter end for family was earned and beautifully done. This was a furious, fitting sendoff to a beloved character and the assurance of the circle of life and all that.
Funny and fantastic at the same time. That's dedication.
If you liked something I said, and you adored Logan and want to pre-order it, there's a convenient link just below. I'll get a get a small commission from Amazon and you'll get an amazing movie to treasure forever. I will absolultely be buying Logan, because it's a movie that's now essential to my life. I want the soundtrack, too, even though it doesn't have "Hurt," but I've had that song for years anyway.