I gave up on the Marvel franchise in 2014. It was a Thursday evening. I had been binge watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It had been a particularly rough day at the office and I couldn’t wait to get home and collapse on the coach and watch a few episodes with Hubby (then Husby, maybe then BF – that’s how long ago we’re talking!). My friend and colleague Chris told me not to watch past a certain episode until I had seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or the story line wouldn’t make any sense. But it’s ok, I was pretty sure I was still a few episodes away from that. He said I would know when I had hit that point because the episode would start with Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. So, I arrived home, there was a mutual collapsing on the couch, I pressed play on episode 16 and sure enough the first twangs of “Don’t Fear the Freaking Reaper” started playing. My heart sank. We probably had close to seventy other shows on our hard drive that I could have watched. We even had Captain America: Winter Soldier. But I didn’t care. I wanted to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
My whole life has been dictated by Man United’s schedule. More recently by the Seahawks’. I literally diarise what show I watch on each day of the week and which show will replace it when it finishes. I have a list of at least 60 shows that I want to watch – any less and I start to get anxious. Yet when my husband gave me the Marvel list of what we had to watch and what order we had to watch it in, I felt like we were in Nazi German; residents of Kim Jong-un’s North Korea. I would not be held prisoner like that. And so, I gave up on Marvel.
Then came X-Men, and boy does it make Marvel’s timeline look like a walk in the park… You can watch them in the order in which the movies were made. You can watch them in chronological order. However, Days of Future Past is set in 2023 and 1973 and the future is dramatically affected by the outcome of the plot of the 1973 bit, so it’s hard to know where to put it chronologically. You could create two timelines and watch it twice. However, two timelines puts Wolverine in two places at once – see why I hate time travel. You can watch them from the perspective of Wolverine. You can watch them from the perspective of Professor X. You’re still gonna have the Days of Future Past dilemma though. But whatever way you look at it, there have been ten movies over seventeen years with many different people involved. Inconsistencies are inevitable. You have to enjoy them for what they are. Which is generally AWESOME!!
I never thought anything could turn me against X-Men. I still remember going to see the first ever movie, simply titled X-Men with my best friends Michael and Chad in our last year of primary school in 2000. I remember dragging my mom to watch X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 because I was in first year varsity and I didn’t really have any friends yet to go with me. I remember dragging her with me twice and going a third time by myself. I cried all three times. X-Men Origins: Wolverine I could get behind. After all, they cast Liev Schreiber and who doesn’t love a little bit of Liev?
By 2011, I had worn out the DVDs (yes DVDs) of the first three X-Men movies. I had all the special features memorised. I was ready for an origins story that extended beyond Wolverine, that included the background stories of the truly iconic characters of Professor X and Magneto – back when they were just Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, back when they were (almost) friends and not enemies, before the awesome wheelchair was necessary. But then the unthinkable happened… They cast James McAvoy to play the young Charles Xavier. James fucking McAvoy. The most unnecessary actor in the world of acting, with a face you just want to smack. I know I am very alone in this opinion, but I believe I am perfectly justified. He is not good looking enough to be a romantic lead. He is too scrawny to be a believable action star. And when he talks, or breathes or moves, I want to slap him. It’s probably not his fault. I think it’s The Last King of Scotland’s fault. And it’s not even his performance in it that’s to blame. It’s the fact that Forest Whitaker won the best actor Oscar that year instead of Leonardo Di Caprio for Blood Diamond. Forest Whitaker was very good, but THAT was Leo’s year. Instead he had to wait another NINE years and two more nominations to win. So, I guess it’s an association thing.
* PLEASE don’t tell me to watch Split. It WILL NOT change my mind about James McAvoy. I don’t care how good he is in it. That movie is 1hour and 57minutes long and he plays 24 different characters, which means he will annoy me 24 times as much.
Anyway, suffice to say, the James McAvoy casting somewhat ruined my enjoyment of the subsequent X-Men Origins films. I vaguely remember Days of Future Past. I generally hate time travel so that part was bothersome, but at least the Sirs were back. I didn’t bother with Apocalypse. Hubby watched it on the plane coming back from my brother’s wedding. He can’t remember if it was any good or not, which means it probably wasn’t. Anyway, this was supposed to be a review of a Logan and not a critique of Marvel and the entire X-Men franchise, let’s get back on track…
I didn’t see Logan when it first came out, but I was pleasantly surprised when it came up on my “must watch for the Oscars” list, nominated for best adapted screenplay. Usually if a superhero movie get a nod at all it is limited to the visual effects or sound editing categories. The first thing in Logan’s favour is its rating. MPAA ratings for the X-Men movies were always Wolverine’s worst enemy. A character with razor-sharp indestructible claws, oozing untamed brutal rage, often jumping in at the last minute to save the day, was forced to do so in a PG-13 manor. Finally, Logan’s R-rating allows Wolverine to unleash his real ruthlessness, we feel the full force of his wrath, and he even gets to say “fuck” a few times along the way. Even though the violence was sheer bloody mayhem at times, it never felt gratuitous. In truth, this was an honest story. It was grim, and it was gritty. The hardest punches packed were the emotional ones.
Set in 2029, we are met with a very different Wolverine to the one we have become accustomed to. He is old, and he is ailing; being poisoned from the inside by his adamantium skeleton. His mutant abilities seem to be failing him – his body is scarred, he isn’t healing, and seems to be treating chronic pain with alcohol and more anger than usual. He’s working as a limo driver, using whatever money he can scrape together to care for his old teacher Charles, Professor X, Xavier, who is now a frail old man, reliant on medication to control his out of whack powers. There is vague mention that all the other X-Men are gone and that it is Charles’ fault somehow and that no new mutants have been born for twenty-five years, but this is never explained further. Also living with them in their abandoned, refinery hideout is Caliban, a pale, sun-sensitive mutant with the ability to track other mutants. His background is also left unspecified but it’s clear it’s filled with trauma and their current living situation is doing little to put his mind at ease. Logan’s plan to buy a boat and take them completely off the grid is abruptly cut short with the arrival of a young girl named Laura, wielding some strikingly familiar looking adamantium claws.
It seems that a reprehensible research company called Transigen has been creating mutants to be child soldiers. A bunch of them have escaped and are fleeing to Canada to seek refuge – Laura has become separated from the group and requires their assistance as she is being hunted down by her creators. As usual, Logan has absolutely no interest in getting involved and feels zero moral obligation to help Laura, until he sees her file, which has his original name “James Howlett” all over it. Thus, begins the “grandfather, father, daughter” road trip of the century (after Caliban is unfortunately captured). Charles’ enthusiasm at having found a young mutant is not matched by a crabby Logan who just wants to get the job done. They are perfectly balanced by a wordless, feral-like Laura who seems to seethe and smoulder just like a young Wolverine once did. Her ferocious energy and her unwavering belief that a brighter future lies ahead of her, despite the odds stacking up against her, are what we need, because at times there is a tremendous amount of pain and suffering on screen.
Wolverine has always been a reluctant hero but in Logan he is a reluctant caregiver. There is more power in the tenderness with which he cares for Charles than in any bloodied fight scene. Their relationship is tortured as they both need and resent each other in equal measure. They have a complicated history and now a complicated present; their relationship marred by profanity and insults, as they hate how much they have come to rely on one another. The feebleness of the once indestructible Professor X is a true tale in how the mighty have fallen and may have felt a little pathetic were it not played with such grace by the truly superb Sir Patrick Stewart. Not only does he get Logan to play hero one last time, he gets him to play family man, and it is cinema genius.
This movie could have been nominated for a lot more awards. I may have given Hugh Jackman the nod. He says it’s the last time he’ll don the claws and I hope he means it because this was the perfect send off. Same goes for Sir Patrick Stewart. This was the movie that Logan deserved. This was the movie that they deserved. This was the movie that we deserved.