Why 'Logan' Is The End Of A Superhero Era
The trailer for Logan came out a few days ago, and while most X-Men movies compete over the trophy for "Most Chunks Of Metal Tossed," this one seems to be about a sad, lonely mutant trying to find a purpose in a shitty lonely world while some metal is tossed. It stars Hugh Jackman, who has been playing the part of Wolverine since 2000. In that 17-year span of time, we've seen two Batmen, three Spider-Men, three Hulks, and three attempts to turn Superman into something that people like.
Go ahead. Watch it three more times. Get it out of your system.
We've also seen nine X-Men movies, which all maintain the same continuity (not including Logan), and over the course of those nine movies, multiple soft reboots have occurred. When people talk about "being true to the comics," they often mean it in terms of things like backstory and character motivation. However, comics also have a habit of constantly wiping away history and being impenetrable to anyone that hasn't kept up, and keeping that in mind, the X-Men series is the most accurate adaptation of superhero comics that Hollywood has ever given us.
And through it all, taking a role in every film (in parts which range from being the lead, to stealing what probably should've been another person's role, to showing up in a 20-second cameo, to being a paper mask), is Hugh Jackman. Other superhero series have risen and fallen, and the one lone constant of the genre is the star of Kate & Leopold. We've watched two whole Spider-Man series run their courses, and the one guy who has taken no superhero sick days is the man who, immediately prior to acting in X-Men, was absolutely delightful in Oklahoma!
"There's a bright golden haze on the meadow, bub."
And it's almost over.
Hugh Jackman has repeatedly said that Logan will be his last time unsheathing the claws, and while that deprives us of a glorious Deadpool 2 wherein Wolverine tells Ryan Reynolds to "Shut the fuck up" at least a dozen times, you can't really argue with his decision to leave. He's been doing this for 17 years, but it isn't just the 1.7 decades of paychecks that makes his exit special. You see, Logan is just as much about Hugh Jackman leaving the superhero business as it is about finally giving Wolverine the swan song that he deserves.
Proper, memorable deaths and finales are things that are rarely given to superhero fans. Yeah, demises are handed to us copiously. Every member of the Marvel Comics universe has died in someone else's arms at least once. But only about one out of ten ever feels like it really means anything, because due to the nature of comics, you can assume that the character will show back up in a big, dramatic splash panel the next year. The same goes for movie series. The Dark Knight trilogy is one of the best-reviewed things in the history of everything, and the ending of that was basically a trembling fart in the sunset. And it certainly didn't help that some new dude showed up as Batman less than four years later to star in a series that was created to replicate the success of another company's series.
This movie should've made a trillion dollars. Should've.
And if the X-Men franchise had been one big stupid success after another, this might've actually meant less. But just like the fact that Wolverine, in these movies, has had just as many kickass moments as he's had moments where he's gotten the shit kicked out of him, Hugh Jackman has stuck around through the good times and the bad. Remember X2: X-Men United? How good was that movie? Remember X-Men Origins: Wolverine? I do! I wake up sweating in the middle of the night, and I do.
And while it's easy to get bitter over the fact that Wolverine turned a lot of these movies into The Wolverine Show, Feat. Other Less Important Freaks, Hugh Jackman, like his character, has held them together at their lowest points. Jackman isn't the greatest performer that the world has ever seen, but he's never not solid, and when you collect a team of actors and have to deal with competing egos and salaries and contracts, solid is what you need the most. In the same way, Wolverine will never have the awe-inspiring power of someone like Magneto or the sheer radness of Nightcrawler, but he's like a wrench. Sure, it's just a wrench, but you'd be surprised by how much you can do with a wrench.
When you need someone to make a feud with Sabretooth feel emotionally effective, you call Hugh Jackman.
In Logan, both Wolverine and Professor Xavier seem to be losing the powers that helped them to fight off mutant terrorists so successfully for the past 60 years. Age is getting to them, and while keeping age in mind is only a suggestion in the comics, it's something that affects the crap out of actors. Ten years from now, Hugh Jackman is going to be almost 60, and he's already surrounded by actors who are younger than him, have better contracts than him, and can handle the effects of a constant IV of protein shake better than him.
Jackman has bulked up over the course of the series, from a lean, muscular figure to this terrifying vein monster, but like in Logan, that regenerative healing factor seems to be waning. Don't get me wrong -- if Jackman wants to eat chicken and rice and look like he's ready to win a Royal Rumble match, I'm totally okay with that. But looking like you're ready to shoulder-tackle a train isn't as big of a deal when you're A) preparing to leave a series, B) in a series that doesn't exactly follow any distinct chronology, and C) have a face that ages in normal, human years. No matter how many push-ups Jackman can do, Wolverine is always presented as someone who isn't as big of a victim of the passage of time as the rest of us. When you're an actual human, the passage of time is one of the only things that you can count on.
His torso is the only part of him not measured in dog years.
In pro wrestling, there is the concept of "putting someone over" before you leave a company or retire. Usually, it occurs when a legend loses to an up-and-coming wrestler, and unless you're an ego-tripping dickhead, you do it for the good of the company. Hugh Jackman has been doing it for the past two X-Men-centric movies, and seems to be doing it in again with Logan. His side part in Days Of Future Past and his bit part in Apocalypse are important for the series, because it kind of legitimizes all of the younger X-Men. It would be a weird shift to say, "I know you all loved the original team, but they're not here right now. HOWEVER, here are some new people whom we HOPE you like just as much." When they get to rub shoulders with Hugh Jackman on equal footing, it passes the torch.
Logan won't be the most important superhero film of all time, despite the fact that the use of Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" says otherwise. But it will be the first superhero film that really provides a sense of closure for a character. We've seen superheroes die and retire, and we've seen their actors promise to "never return." But with Logan, the combination of where the X-Men franchise is at, Jackman's age, and where the superhero film is headed as a whole, means that we're watching a movie that is as about Hugh Jackman's spot in this heavily-costumed genre as it is about Wolverine.
For 17 years, Hugh Jackman showed us why superhero roles don't have to be an endless revolving door of prideful dudes in their 30s. And he also showed us that you can have a tragic backstory but still appear to be having a great goddamn time while in your costume. Also, apparently, he's a really swell guy. Hugh Jackman shouldered a series that never seemed quite sure of where it wanted to go for longer than most actors pretend to be interested in the comics that their roles are based on. And because of that, he and Wolverine get to be the first to teach superhero movie fans a lesson that they've never learned before: a lesson about loss. Couldn't have happened to a nicer mutant.
Hopefully, this will finally give him time to film Oklahoma! 2: Kansas.
Daniel has a blog.
For more sad Wolverine check out The 9 Worst Things Comic Books Have Ever Done to Wolverine and see why no hero has it easy in 6 Scientific Reasons Famous Superheroes' Lives Would Suck.
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