Of all the comic based movies I’ve got to say the people who make X-Men are the most grounded and downright courageous of them all. To come out with this movie you have had to outright declare war on commercialism and *gasp* go for pure story, pure realism. Grit and truth.
The movie discusses the utter uselessness of the hero persona, and that war per se or the constant use of battle to resolve dispute is essentially futile, and that eventually the hero ends up anything but heroic. But rather as aged, desperate, weak, regretful, bitter people longing to correct wrongs of the past.
Not that any of that of course, is a surprise. Governments use propaganda to bombard people with the idea of heroes on top of white horses galloping off into the sunset after they complete great missions. But time and time again historians and often those heroes themselves belie the truth – that war and the warrior mystique is shrouded in glamour and fantasy to course fools into fighting wars.
And here we have Wolverine the ultimate X-Men, the greatest and most iconic hero of them all taking the series of movies to its logical, agonizing and tragic end. A task that is not only truthful but worthwhile and reasonable considering the aging of the actors and of course, the fact that another X-Men with characters swooshing around in tights just won’t make sense any more.
However as much as the premise itself is beyond worthy, the story telling is not.
There are too many long periods of inaction where I end up squirming in my seat wondering when anything of consequence would happen soon. There is an unclear connection between Logan and the girl. There is an undeveloped character in Caliban who is built up as potentially interesting but is hardly used later on. There are other characters like the unfortunate family in the farm and the nurse who are given back story only to be quickly disposed of, wasting time and potentially confusing the audience. And to a much lesser degree there was the time I wondered why the new X-Men don’t try to fight considering any one of them is equal to at least 10 bad guys, especially in a forest.
As much as I enjoyed Hugh Jackman‘s terrific performance and his ability to simultaneously show vulnerability and power, I wished the movie was tighter and focused on this and Xavier’s struggles. The times when Logan was weakest and least able to control their fate at the start of the movie were the most compelling parts of the film. These were the times you felt the most empathy and wanted them to find their peace. If the movie had stayed with that then their eventual deaths would have meant more. I felt the movie missed an opportunity for Logan’s death to represent a bigger picture, as not only the physical death of the hero but also a tremendous release from great suffering and a final liberation from pain.
I give Logan an 8.5/10, and consider Days of Future Past as a better movie. But despite that Logan is far more important. Days of Future Past was a master stroke, delving into the complicated character of Mystique, and Xavier’s faith that she would eventually do the right thing. And they did this in a stylish and fun to watch retro way. I still enjoy watching that movie and I thought Jennifer Lawrence’s final scene was just terrific.
But while Logan dispenses with fun and focuses on the real, it is important because it represents what happens after all that fun stuff goes away. It is just as important if not more so as the times when it was fun, and everyone was sexy and muscle bound in colorful tights. Without the appropriate closure, the X-Men movies are relegated to mere ‘nice, fun to watch, occasionally brilliant’ films. Now with the eventual passing of the lead characters, which we all know would happen sooner or later, both the movie makers and the audience are given license to try bigger hopefully better things.