Warning: This post contains spoilers for the movie Logan, and discusses the ending of the movie in detail.
Finality is a novel concept for comic book MOvies. Spandex-clad franchises train us to look towards the future -- each new chapter setting up potential sequels, spinoffs, and prequels -- but Logan, the 10th entry in the X-men series, is a different breed of superhero story. Even more than the R-rated violence, nudity, and swear words, the box office and critical hit sets itself apart from most modern blockbusters by ending Wolverine's tale of redemption in a definitive (and bloody) manner.
What makes it feel like a "real" finale?
(Seriously, stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers.)
Logan doesn't hold back in the end
Well, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine dies. And not in the "oh, he'll be resurrected soon" way that other action movies kill off characters. He dies dies. After taking a powerful serum that restores his healing capabilities, Wolverine fights off X-24, an evil clone version of himself sent to eliminate a group of cute young mutants. Our weary hero ultimately defeats his younger counter-part and saves the tykes, but he gets impaled on a tree in the process. When the pint-sized killing-machine X-23, who Logan protects for most of the movie, quotes those lines from Shane and turns over the cross on his grave into a little "X" it carries a genuine emotional oomph. Sniffles and tears galore.
In the world of superhero cinema, it's a unique moment. Even The Dark Knight Rises, which finished off Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, provided a fleeting glimpse of Bruce Wayne enjoying a glass of wine with Catwoman, free to live it up post-retirement. Logan has no walk into the sunset or post-credits tag scene; a tease for Deadpool 2 was relegated to a pre-movie slot. "Really, what are those scenes but ads for another movie?" director James Mangold told the Toronto Sun. "We were trying to make a movie that begun and ended on its own terms. There was nothing else to say, because we had said it."
Mangold may have said his piece, but is this really the end of Wolverine? This is still a comic book movie. After all, Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier disintegrated in 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, but he's back in Logan as weary, bedridden version of himself. How long Wolverine will stay buried? And what does his death mean for future X-films?
This is probably the end for Hugh Jackman
If you paid attention to any of the pre-release hype surrounding Logan, you likely heard one thing: this was Hugh Jackman's last ride. Even back in 2015, the 48-year-old actor was telling Live with Kelly and Michael that he was walking away from the role that turned him into an international superstar, explaining that Jerry Seinfeld was the person who convinced him to go out on top. And what better way to end your run than with a stylish, R-rated passion project? At the very least, Logan is better than the Seinfeld finale.
Though Jackman has modified his "never again" stance a bit during his recent press tour -- he's now saying he might be willing to join The Avengers for a team up if the opportunity presented itself -- those quotes feel like wishful internet chatter. The movies that exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are produced by Disney; the X-Men films are distributed by 20th Century Fox. The idea of these two enormous, competing companies joining forces for some mega-crossover is unlikely. (Sony's proposed Amazing Spider-Man "cinematic universe" had to collapse before Marvel swung in to reboot the character) Plus, Jackman seems ready to move on. “God knows how I’ll feel in three years,” he told the New York Times when asked about being done with the role. “But right now, absolutely.”
Wouldn't another Jackman-fronted sequel cheapen Logan a bit? Mangold's film works so well because you're watching the final chapter in a 17-year-long, muscle-bound version of Richard Linklater's Boyhood. As Jackman's grizzled anti-hero navigates the desert, wrinkles his brow, and helps Xavier use the toilet at a rest stop, it's hard not to think about the young smart-ass who gave James Marsden's Cyclops the middle-finger with his claws back in 2000's X-Men. The prior films -- even the bad ones -- lend Jackman's Logan performance a poignancy that most sequels would squander.
The future promises many more X-Men stories on screen
Unsurprisingly, the demise of Wolverine will not be the death knell for the X-Men franchise. Though last year's X-Men: Apocalypse, which featured Oscar Isaac attempting to act under pounds of purple goo, divided critics and flew under the box office heights of 2014's all-encompassing X-Men: Days of Future Past, there will be no shortage of X-adjacent films in the future. Despite Jackman's departure, the 17-year-old series shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, it's rapidly mutating.
In addition to Deadpool 2, which will likely arrive in 2018, there are a range of films currently in the development stage: a sequel to Apocalypse that's rumored to tackle the famous Dark Phoenix plotline, a standalone Gambit movie starring Channing Tatum as the Cajun card-slinger, a film that would introduce a young batch of heroes dubbed "New Mutants," a possible X-23 spin-off movie, and an eventual X-Force movie, which would feature Deadpool, Cable, and a bunch of other characters. Here's the short version: you're going to see a lot of Ryan Reynolds over the next ten years.
There's also another frontier for mutants to explore: television. While FX's Legion, a prestige brain-teaser starring Dan Stevens and created by Fargo's Noah Hawley, has already been confounding superhero-lovers fans on basic cable, a currently untitled but more straight-forward mutant series from Bryan Singer and Burn Notice creator Matt Nix is being developed for FOX. It's not quite the full-on streaming assault Marvel Studios has launched on Netflix, but it's a start.
Still, there's no way Wolverine is gone forever
Here's a safe prediction: this is not the last time you'll see Wolverine in a movie. Loopy continuity, wonky resurrections, and alternate timelines are the norm in comics, and as the first-wave of modern comic book stars age out of their signature roles, movie studios will find ways to recast these parts just like they've done in the past. Look at Superman. Or Batman. Or Spider-Man. Or the Hulk. If anything, Jackman, along with Robert Downey Jr., is the outlier for having lasted so long in one role.
As long as Wolverine remains a badass with claws in his hands, there will always be a demand for him. Though Fox has attempted to carve out a bub-less lane for the X-Men films to expand beyond the spiky haired tough guy, he's still an icon. Jackman's often swaggering, occasionally grief-stricken portrayal made him the cigar-chomping face of the franchise, but there's no reason another actor won't be able to put their spin on it at a later date and even Jackman agrees. "The character will go on,” he told the Times. “Someone else will play it, for sure.”
While it's easy to be cynical about the repetitive (and stylistically monochromatic) nature of comic book movies, at the very least a movie like Logan provides a helpful model to future filmmakers who might take on the character: don't be afraid to think outside the box. Take emotional risks. Play with genre. Be funny. In his interview with the Times, Jackman said that he'll only be mad about future Wolverine movies if Daniel Day-Lewis played the character and won an Oscar for it. He's joking, but, after Logan, creators should be dreaming big. Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis isn't super busy -- I bet he looks good with claws.
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