I don’t really care much about Wolverine and he’s never been a favorite character, although I do like the better X-Men movies. Still, I appreciated that they took the approach of making a more adult story and that we were going to take a look at superheroes in decline and see Wolverine and Professor X as older people in a more serious story (likewise, I always had a daydream that Sean Connery would come back and make a movie about James Bond at 70). I just didn’t quite expect how well they would be able to pull it off.
Before the movie starts we have a short film with Deadpool. He hears a guy getting mugged, and goes into a phone booth to change into his suit, while the Superman theme plays. Only, he takes so long that the guy gets killed. Then Deadpool goes and makes jokes about being too late, and lays down with his head on the bleeding corpse and eats the victim’s ice cream, since he won’t be needing it. It was funny while he was changing, but the tone changed to one of nastiness once the guy was dead, and became a bit egregiously cruel once Deadpool laid on the body. What was noticeable is that the audience—who was noisy and pumped for Wolverine—was dead silent once the victim was killed. No laughter, no tittering… it seemed that the short crossed the line into cruelty and people were NOT liking it. Hopefully this won’t be the direction that the new Deadpool, with original director Tim Miller shunted aside, will take in its sequel.
Anyway, we join Logan at some time in the near future, when mutants have stopped being born and are nearly all eliminated, for reasons of, you know: story. He and Professor X are living in a toppled water tank [which results in a quietly spectacular interior] and he has to keep X drugged up in order to prevent his brain from setting off what we’ll call psychic earthquakes. We see one early in the movie, which serves to set up a huge one later. Apparently one of these killed a bunch of mutants a few years prior, and X is all haunted. Eventually paths cross with a young Latina girl, Laura, who has claws like Wolverine, and he is tasked with protecting her against the forces after her while getting her to North Dakota where she can cross into Canada. Issues similar to those of undocumented immigrants are not touched on lightly, and the whole parallel is applied with a rather heavy hand, but it’s not a turn-off, it makes the movie about something.
But the moving of the story into the near future and sticking with Logan and Professor X has big payoffs, especially since we’ve been with these characters so long, and those two have had an especially close relationship going all the way back to the first X-Men film. They pick and swear at each other, X still tries to coax Logan into becoming attached to someone, and at a certain point, while his mind was running wild, I believe X says some rather nasty things about Logan. So the history attached to these two characters really works for the film, as does the grittiness, consideration for aging and general seriousness with which the film is presented. You still get a good amount of mutant action, but it’s all much more grounded in the real world, you get more character consideration, and it’s just all round more serious and adult.
I also didn’t know James Mangold was such a good director, but the whole first half of the film has a very assured movement and is populated with successful scenes. There is an excellent action scene when the bad guys come after Laura, which starts quietly and slowly builds and builds to a huge all-out chase, which is very exciting and ends very suddenly [but intelligently]. There is also the aforementioned psychic earthquake caused by Professor X, paralyzing everyone in a large Las Vegas casino with pain, which Wolverine has to struggle through to get up to the room and solve. I really liked that scene, just because it was so unusual. Sometimes in superhero movies you end up watching variations of the same scene over and over, so this was a nice and intriguing change of pace.
The movie, alas, goes on too long. I would say way too long. I think when your major thought while watching a film is how very long it is, it’s gone on too long. The clear misstep is the inclusion of a family our heroes meet and become fast, FAST friends with—although I think they should have more carefully considered the danger their presence puts the innocent family in. Regardless, there are good scenes, but from here on out one’s mind starts drifting to how the whole film could have been that much better had it only been more streamlined, especially as the final battles just seem endlessly protracted and by now are starting to feel all the same.
And I’m supposed to believe that kids are safe from illegal mutant hit squads once they reach Canada, is that it? They just step over the border and –poof!—complete safety!
Anyway, good movie. A very welcome and refreshing change. Just to have a superhero movie acknowledge aging and include a good deal of character work is welcome, added to intelligent direction and a strong sense of its own look and feel, this is an actual movie, not just a theme park ride. I should also mention that the bad guy’s posse of hot thugs include numerous ones with thick beards [as in the photo above], adding to the film’s lasting appeal, although sadly not a single one of them takes his shirt off.