I finally saw Logan this past weekend and I loved it, which means certain contrarian film critics were contractually obligated to give it a negative review.
I don’t begrudge Tim Grierson (also of MEL) for his well-reasoned (yet totally wrong) take on the film. A story about a quasi-governmental medical testing entity trying to round up the X-Men so they can turn them into supersoldiers is a cliché by now, as is the whole “gritty take on a childhood superhero” convention. And at no point do we ever believe that Logan (real name James Howlett, aka Wolverine, aka Weapon X) will fail to heed the hero’s call and shepherd the little orphan girl to safety. And the Shane reference midway through is squarely on the nose.
But Grierson evaluates Logan as a professional film critic, whereas I approach it through the eyes of an 8-year-old boy watching his favorite childhood superhero. And from that lens, Logan isn’t about Wolverine (finally!) learning to love himself and others, and redeeming his life of grumpy loneliness — it’s about fulfilling a boyhood dream to watch Wolverine rip some bad dudes to shreds, in the goriest, most violent way possible.
Growing up with the X-Men comics and animated series, I was always told that Wolverine, the character most central to the X-Men universe, was a killing machine of unprecedented proportions. His constant cellular regeneration meant his body instantly healed from wounds. And he had bones and razor sharp claws made from the strongest ore known to man — claws that, I always imagined, could tear through flesh and bone like a hot knife through butter.
But I was always denied that satisfaction. Wolverine never used his claws to harm people, probably because severed human heads don’t qualify as kid-friendly programming. The best I ever got was Wolverine flashing his claws to intimidate an enemy, or using them on the lifeless machine Sentinels.
The X-Men films were no better, presumably because the studio wanted to keep a PG-13 rating and widen its appeal. So that opening scene in Logan, when Wolverine uppercuts his claws into some guy’s jugular, rendering him very instantly dead, was one of the most soothing movie moments of my lifetime. Finally, I got to see Wolverine realize his true nature, slicing people’s heads open and tearing off limbs with ease, like the unstoppable destructive force I always knew him to be, but were never allowed to see. (Much thanks the producers of Deadpool for this, as they were the first to prove that there’s a market for hyperviolent R-rated superhero films.)
Right after the movie, I text a couple of my fellow X-Men fans about Logan, saying, “Seeing Wolverine cut those dudes up was so damn satisfying. It’s like my two decades of Wolverine blue balls have finally been released.” And together, we had a collective dorkgasm.
Alas, it may be the last time I get to experience such joy. Hugh Jackman says he’s done playing the character, meaning Logan is the end of Wolverine’s cinematic run (at least, until they reboot the series in a couple years).
But I’ll die happy knowing that Wolverine finally became a whole person. Not because he learned to love himself and others, and finally put to rest his many personal demons, but because, for once, his fans got to see him realize his potential and literally tear through swarms of bad guys.