In no way did I plan to come out of movie review retirement. Something about this movie drove me directly to my keyboard in a way no other movie ever has.
I'm not a huge X-men fan. I think most X-men movies aren't great: X-men 3, X-men Origins: Wolverine, and X-men Apocalypse are probably the worst in the series. Compared to The Avengers films, the X-men movies look like a disorganized mess. They accidentally created a superhero universe from the sheer fact that there are so many of them, and The Avengers movies meticulously created an almost air-tight world in which there are few plot holes and inconsistencies.
The X-men series feels like it has changed hands and rebooted itself one too many times, so it certainly has had its ups and downs. The one thing that has stayed consistent however: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark, Ryan Reynolds IS Deadpool.
Hugh Jackman was the first; he was the first actor to carve out a superhero role that only he can fill and no one will be able to come close. Even in this superhero saturated world, there are only a couple actors that can pull that off.
Despite the bad X-men movies, despite his poorly-formed origin story, Wolverine AKA Logan, has always been enjoyable to watch. Hugh Jackman made the role his, and the X-men series changed the superhero landscape as we know it.
We wouldn't have The Avengers if we didn't have X-men. It took risks like no other superhero film. The first scene of these films was set during the holocaust! It embedded superhero mythology into our world in a way that we had never seen before. As much as I'm not a huge X-men fan, I appreciate and love all that the series has done for superhero movies ever since.
Here we are, the final Hugh Jackman outing as Wolverine, and boy, I wasn't ready for it. I have been looking forward to it since I saw the Johnny Cash laden trailer a few months ago, but it still felt like it came out of nowhere.
This movie was set up as an emotional journey from the beginning, but we've been fooled by superhero movie trailers before. A movie that is advertised as serious and meaningful usually ends up being full of one-liners and a CGI army at the end. Logan was different. Logan was different in a way that the best superhero movies have been different: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and even the first Sam Raimi Spiderman film. Logan carved out a genre, and it was the first superhero movie ever to make me cry.
The best part of Logan was how it was a standalone film; you don't necessarily need to watch any other X-men film to enjoy it. You do, however, need to have spent time with Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character to get the full spectrum of emotions out of it. That's the beauty of the X-men movies: the timelines are so backwards and confused that even the biggest fans don't get what's going on, so anyone can pretty much pick up where-ever. This movie doesn't set up a sequel or promise a return. It just is. It doesn't promise anything, it doesn't raise the stakes to apocalyptic levels, it simply tells the story it wants to tell.
What's notable about this movie is that it's the first rated R X-men film. I would guess that Deadpool opened the floodgates to that concept, since it was a rated R superhero film that made absurd amounts of money. I'm sure that I will hear a lot of people I know say that the R rating is unnecessary and too much at times, but for the X-men movies, I feel it's just right. Don't get me wrong, I was alarmed by some violent aspects in this film. Do not take your children to see this movie; it is VERY adult.
The reason I'm okay with the extreme level of violence in Logan is because the X-men movies have always tried to sell us on the idea that Wolverine is a brutish animal, but it has never quite been up to the task. Even in the second solo Wolverine movie, The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman tore through enemy after enemy, but because of that PG-13 rating, it always seemed a bit...cartoonish. I was always a little annoyed by that. Here we have this miserable mutant who is supposed to be a crude, drunk, extremely violent, and rage-filled monster, but we've only been able to see him drop one "F-bomb" due to the restraints of the PG-13-ness of it all. Logan isn't a PG-13 character, but the X-men films have always tried to stuff him in that box. Ending the Wolverine saga with an R rating was the right thing to do, because it finally gave the audience a taste of who Logan really is.
We also have the matter of the incredible Patrick Stewart as Professor X. The class and elegance he has brought the role has always been astounding, but he has outdone himself in Logan. He went from a almost Musfasa-esque character to an Oscar-winning performance. This whole movie is about the struggles of aging, a topic that I think about endlessly, and Patrick Stewart does things I've never quite seen done on screen. He will always be Professor X, and seeing his collapse was like watching a family member suffer through the various ailments that aging brings.
I can't say enough about this movie because of how real it all felt. This is the most human superhero movie ever made. Logan and Charles Xavier are dealing with things that we all end up dealing with, instead of the run-of-the-mill CGI alien army that is always out to get superheroes everywhere. We've grown so accustomed to superpowers and mutants now that they've become a perfect allegory for many issues of life; the fact that Logan has blades that come out of his hands isn't striking anymore, and so it fits seamlessly into the world we all see today.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have been these two characters for 17 freaking years now. That's most of my life. I've grown up with them, and so it was difficult to not be emotional during this movie. Everyone knows that we never really cared about what happened to the rest of the X-men; since the beginning, we've only cared about the relationship of Logan and Professor X, and this movie is ok with that. This movie meanders a little bit too, in fact, I wanted more meandering, because it brought the characters of Logan and Charles Xavier to entire other levels.
That said, it isn't an easy movie to watch, for many reasons. It's a brutal, brutal film. There are aspects of this movie that are absolutely shocking and disturbing. The superhero genre has been re-defined with Logan; no longer are superheroes exclusively idealized super-humans, but they can be humans who struggle with the imperfect and twisted world that we are all living in today. They aren't necessarily saviors; they are you or me. There's nothing glorified about the violence either. The violent world Logan lives in is one that he wants to leave at any cost necessary. If anything, this movie condemns the sort of "save the day" ideals that the typical superhero movie teaches us.
And finally, unlike Superman v. Batman, part of the reason this or any Avengers movie is successful is because it took its time to get here, 17 years to be exact. Superman v. Batman didn't earn its superhero team up or even *spoiler* the death of Superman. Logan, however, earned every ounce of what this movie is. The reason it is so great, the reason it redefined the genre, is because of the pain-staking time and failures that this franchise and character sustained over the years. Even though I've mostly been annoyed with these movies, somewhere along the line, I developed an emotional attachment that carried me through the entirety of Logan.
Logan satisfied a craving that we've had throughout all of the X-men films: it finally gave us something real. The X-men movies are about acceptance and the harsh realities of life for those who are different, and Logan finally delivered on that message.
For that reason, I now believe that Logan is the greatest superhero movie of all time.