In December at their 2017 Genre Showcase event, 20th Century Fox previewed the first 42 minutes of Logan, the eagerly awaited final chapter of the Wolverine saga. Daily Dead was in attendance at the event, and to give readers a big idea of what to expect, we have highlights from director James Mangold's comments at the event, as well as our impressions of the intense footage that was shown.

After appearing as the character in now nine films (including his X-Men: First Class cameo) Hugh Jackman teams up once again with director James Mangold to bring his run as the “Mutant Formerly Known As Weapon X” to an end.

The two last brought the character to the screen in 2013 with The Wolverine, when original director Darren Aronofsky bowed out after a lengthy pre-production phase. The results were mostly positive, but moments felt hamstrung by superhero movie clichés, such as the out-of-place re-imagining of the Silver Samurai as some sort of robot. The guts and emotions were there, though, and it at least made an effort to remain loyal to the source material by exploring Logan’s time in Japan with scenes such as the ninja attack.

But now with Logan, it seems as though the gloves are off and both Mangold and Jackman are fighting hard and dirty to the end, with little compromise and full respect for the character from both the screen and the comics.

This is by far the most definitive mic drop to the “gritty superhero movie” genre that audiences have seen or will see. Maybe Mangold is railing against past studio executives who once famously wanted to bury the entire X-Men franchise, or maybe Jackman is just too damn old and too damn tired of doing all those pushups and not eating carbs in order to get into fighting shape, but from the first act alone, it’s clear Logan isn’t just ending Jackman’s tenure as Wolverine, it’s trying to end the hackneyed genre tropes in a way we’ve never seen before, and it might just succeed if the box office agrees.

At the Genre Showcase event, director James Mangold spoke about how he approached the possibility of doing another Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman:

“Well, in the end you just do what you’re most interested in, and for me, if I was going to do another one of these, and Hugh and I were both kind of on the bubble, ‘Are we gonna do another one of these?’ It was just taking it to somewhere, where, it first of all, interested us, which isn’t necessarily a Western, but is to me, kind of primal. Meaning, I was avidly into comic books as a kid, and I love movies like this. But, I knew what I didn’t want it to be, and I knew what I didn’t want to play with anymore, and Hugh was kind of in the same thing.”

It’s clear from the first act that Mangold and Jackman were not interested in merely “saving the world” again, and instead opted for a return to character and whatever demons Logan needed to face on a more personal level. Mangold explains further:

“It’s like there was a level of gloss, and a kind of CG arms race that I didn’t want to be a part of. I thought there was a way, the characters are so interesting, I just thought there was something we could explore. The first idea that occurred to me was doing Little Miss Sunshine with these characters. And that’s kind of, believe it or not, what evolved into this.”

Assuming the rest of the film plays like a road movie, with Logan and Xavier trying to get Laura to safety, then that comparison is wonderfully apt. He went on to explain the thought process of bringing a new person into an established character’s world without following the common trope of current tent-pole superhero movies:

I find Charles Xavier and Logan and even Laura’s character, who we brought in new here, to be so interesting. And the questions that they ask so interesting. And I find that although I have enjoyed all of these films, I find that essentially the kind of, X-Men or, you know, Justice League or Avengers movies are always a kind of “round robin” where each character gets about eight minutes to have a kind of quick personal arc. Set it up with a kind of mini-scene in the beginning, check in at the middle, and then thatI was just like, what would happen if you made one of these movies where the imperative was somehow on a huge arc for this superhero character?”

Mangold also talked about acknowledging those bigger “comic book movies” that came before in the series without following a similar formula, as well as grounding the film in an almost meta-realism:

“...If you were... kind of just trying to make a movie pretending you weren’t making a movie about a Marvel character and see what happens, you know. It occurred actually about a year ago. Scott Frank and I were here in New York, writing, and this idea occurred to us. And you see touches of if that get much more explored later in the film, particularly when Logan, if you caught [the scene where] he sees that Gabriela in that motel room and she has an X-Men comic with him on the cover in his canary outfit. And the interesting thing for me was the ideain show business many of us experience this in more regular ways, but just when legends are made human. And what happens when a legend is living under the weight of all of the bullshit and hyperbole and what happenswho is the real Paul Bunyan, you know, and did he really have Babe the Blue Ox? Or was it really just a large ox, and it got exaggerated?” 

“And so the idea for us was this idea that they live in a world in which the legend of them exists, but it’s not really what happened, completely. Or is it? And I think that the movie goes deeper and deeper into these characters wrestling with their own legacy. And how much of it is true. And how much of it even they believe anymore, and is that a function of what is true or not? Or is that a function of whether they have lost belief in themselves? But the idea of these characters existing as celebrities in the world is something I hadn’t seen explored enough, and it didn’t seem realistic to me, that you had people flying around in all of these specialized vehicles, and with specialized outfits, and they wouldn’t be dealing with the kind of very real problems of celebrity.”

One thing about the film that immediately leaped out at me was how strangely prophetic and eerily accurate certain elements reflect our current situation in the United States. Mangold himself was somewhat surprised as well:

“...I think we’ve all felt, ‘What’s going on in the country right now,’ for several years, so I mean, I’m not Kreskin, to make an old reference. But I didyou felt this going on. You feel what’s going on. And I’ve felt it for a long time, and part of it is this sense of, you tried to imagine a future, like, one of the things that we had to do just to clear space for the other movies that exist is we couldn’t take place in a contemporary moment. So I had to go, “Well I’m gonna go a little further forward.”  

“So then I started imagining America a little further forward, and honestly, the thing that always strikes me is, when I was a kid, I’d imagined what it would be like in 25 years. And I didn’t imagine that my hometown would pretty much look exactly the same way as it does now, and that this Jetsons idea of the future is not so [m]uch a reality, as a lot of the world looks pretty much the same, with some styling changes, but the undercurrents of stress that you’re feeling, I just imagined everything we were feeling now, I didn’t quite imagine what was gonna happen over the next 18 months, but that I imagined it, percolating.”

Finally, Mangold spoke about the references used as touchstones for Logan, and how the team decided to end the saga with an emotional bang, rather than a literal one:

“Well, we wanted to go out with a bang, but the thing is, like I said, once cities and planets have been destroyed, you have to find and earn your bang, as opposed to just get louder. So the references for us were movies like The Wrestler and The Gauntlet, a great Clint Eastwood movie from the past. And Paper Moon. And, I mean, the kind of things I was looking at as I made this and worked on itand Hugh did, toowere movies where we were trying to find a different way. You can be the judge if it was successful or not. But trying to find a different way to that bang than just getting louder, or [a] body count.”

All in all, Logan is quite a departure from previous X-Men entries and current superhero movies in general. Interestingly, Logan comes just two years after Fox’s disastrous take on Fantastic 4, which also tried to tap into that “gritty superhero movie” that audiences (who, exactly?) seem to love so much. Maybe Logan succeeds and surpasses where those others have failed because, unlike the Fantastic Four, Wolverine is an ACTUAL gritty, complex, badass character, and by simply understanding the character and hedging close to the source material (I know, it’s crazy, right?), as well as putting that material in the hands of artists who feel the same way, you get a great adaptation (and so far what looks to be a damn good movie) that hopefully will connect with audiences and destroy box office expectations.

And, if Logan does succeed on all those levels, will studios like Sony and Warner Bros. re-evaluate how to handle their comic book properties and finally learn from the fundamental lesson of “if it ain’t broke in the comics, don’t fix it for the screen”? Marvel figured this out with Iron Man and never looked back. For further evidence, just look at last year’s smash hit Deadpool versus the so fundamentally wrong version of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine… and both films were released by the same studio! By simply respecting the source material, you get fans that are happy, studios that are happy, and audiences who never read a funny book in their lives exposed to a whole new market. Maybe with Logan having Jackman pass the torch of one of comic’s most iconic characters, it will also pass along the sensibilities that made old man Logan’s swan song worth bringing to the screen, and now writing about, in the first place.

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Our Impressions of the first 42 minutes of Logan [Spoiler Warning]The film opens in the distant enough future, with a much older Logan sleeping one off in the back of a limo. A group of thugs try to jack the limo, unaware that someone is inside. Logan tries to reason with them to be on their way before something bad happens, and gets a shotgun blast in the gut for his troubles. Obviously, something bad does happen, and limbs and heads are lopped off as the thugs are dispatched in extremely painful ways, in the closest depiction we’ve seen of Wolverine’s infamous “berserker rage” outside the comics. But this Logan isn’t a young mutant anymore, his healing ability seems to be fading and the confrontation takes a lot out of him. Tired and weakened, he returns to his home / hideout somewhere outside of Mexico, in an abandoned place where Mad Max would feel at home.

As a matter of fact, the entire world feels ugly and dirty, as if some semi-catastrophic event has happened, an eerily accurate prediction of a dystopian future with militant police forces and a wall around Mexico, where the rich are still rich and the poor are desperate. It also seems that mutant-kind has died off, as there have been no new mutants born in twenty-five years. No longer the Wolverine, Logan is one of the last of his nearly extinct species, barely surviving, keeping a low profile as he ekes out a living driving a limo for the privileged few.

Back at the hideout, we learn that Logan is caring for and hiding none other than Charles Xavier. Seemingly dangerous and out of his mind, Professor X is a wanted man, and is so helpless he is literally in diapers. Logan, along with an albino mutant named Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant), are keeping Xavier sedated and safe, but Caliban, who has the ability to sense other mutants, thinks that time is running out for all of them.

It was shocking to see Xavier in such bad shape, as he has always been the rock-solid patriarch of the X-Men, even in the face of unbelievable odds. Showing him as just a shell of his former self, practically senile, and cursing like a truck driver while squirreled away in some godforsaken corner of nowhere is an incredibly bold move by Mangold, and frankly I’m surprised Fox went for it. Patrick Stewart also seems to be relishing this turn for his iconic character, yet plays it as honest and impactful as he would Hamlet or Macbeth.

While out on one of his chauffeuring gigs, Logan is approached by a woman (played by Elizabeth Rodriguez) who desperately needs his help. She knows who he really is, and not by the alias he’s been using. She pleads with him to listen to her story, as she has nowhere else to turn, but he is unwilling to help.

Later, he meets Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a bad guy with a robotic hand. He asks Logan if he knows where to find Gabriela, the woman who approached him earlier. Logan plays it cool, says he doesn’t know who he is talking about, and that Pierce should get out of his limo and leave him alone. Pierce does so with a serpentine grin, and an unnerved Logan worries that he’s been found out. I really like the way Boyd Holbrook plays Pierce, a slight and sleazy man, not the usual hulking monstrosity of a villain we are used to seeing in these films. He also knows who Logan really is—or rather, was—and shows absolutely no fear when confronting a mutant with adamantium claws and a penchant for using them.

The following day, Logan is back to work and arrives at a nondescript motel for a scheduled pickup. It’s the woman, Gabriela. Logan wants no part of this wanted woman and is about to leave, when Gabriela lays it all out: she is on the run from a bad bunch with her young daughter, Laura (played remarkably by relative newcomer Dafne Keen). Their lives are in danger, and Logan, the Wolverine, is the only one who can help them. She needs passage to someplace up north, and makes Logan an offer he can’t refuse: enough money to keep him, the Professor, and Caliban safe for good. Logan reluctantly agrees and tells her to be ready to go in the morning.

Needless to say, things do not go as planned. The next morning, Logan finds Gabriela dead in the hotel room and Laura missing. He hightails it back to the hideout, nervous that he has exposed himself and the Professor.

It turns out that Laura is stowed away in the limo, and she makes friends with Xavier. She doesn’t speak much, so he communicates with her telepathically. He says she is special, a mutant, and more like Logan than he knows.

At this point, Pierce and his goon squad show up at the compound looking for both Laura and Xavier. Of course, Logan takes exactly none of their shit, and happily obliges them for a fight. It’s raw and rough and dirty street fighting, not overly choreographed martial arts demonstrations punctuated with “superhero poses.” This is the Wolverine unleashed, and like an animal, he is most dangerous when he’s cornered and wounded.

One of the goons makes the mistake of going into the compound to extract Laura, and this is when things really get good. Marvel fans will know Laura as X-23, a deadly mutant cloned from Logan’s DNA (although more like a daughter than a direct clone), also known as the “All-New Wolverine” in the recent comic book series of the same name.

After the sounds of battle coming from inside the compound, Laura calmly exits holding something under her arm, and tosses it to Pierce… the severed head of the goon who went in after her. Pierce and his men are shocked, and now clearly afraid, as he gives the order to attack. Laura literally leaps into action, with twin adamantium claws unsheathing from both her hands and feet. The ensuing carnage is utterly spectacular, as this little eleven-year-old girl decimates the goons mercilessly, screaming and slashing like a demon child with a sugar high. Even Logan can’t believe what he’s seeing. In one jaw-dropping moment, she is shot through the chest with a harpoon and dragged away, still maniacal, refusing to be caught!

Logan takes a few bumps and manages to get to his limo, rescues Laura, and along with Xavier, outmaneuvers Pierce’s men after an inelegant yet nail-biting car chase, finally escaping by narrowly missing a miles-long passing train.

Whew! A pretty spectacular first act, to say the least.

———

20th Century Fox will release Logan in theaters on March 3rd, 2017.

Logan synopsis: “In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.”

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