A Manipulative Waste: Why Logan Disappointed Me

I don’t like calling things overrated. I’m not going to write think pieces on why that thing that people love is actually terrible. I’m never going to call someone stupid for liking something. Doing any of that would be mean-spirited beyond belief and I’ve experienced enough of that as a fan of the DC Extended Universe. I don’t ever want to be like the countless bloggers that spent a a solid year making fun of me and people like me that watched Batman v Superman and saw something beautiful. So, even though I didn’t really love Logan, I’m not going to say it was a terrible movie that was bad for comics fans. My experience isn’t universal, and even if it was, there were things I enjoyed about it, but more importantly, I think it’s great that other people liked it.  That being said, now that the movie has been out for five months and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it – I didn’t enjoy Logan, and I think it was a disappointing finish to a franchise that’s had both extreme highs and lows.

Reliance On Existing Goodwill

Most of the reasons I didn’t really enjoy it stem from it being part of a series, not it as a standalone movie. The movie looked beautiful. Everyone in it put in a great performance — Dafne Keen had one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from a child actor. But I think a lot of what the movie had going for it was the nostalgia factor. This was the end of an era. This was Hugh Jackman’s swan song. The X-Men movie franchise has been going on since 2000, and it’s still going on. A lot of people have grown up with this, with Jackman’s Wolverine, and seeing him for the last time, watching the character die, was an emotional experience. It was for me, too, but for me, the film relied on that, on the years of affection for the character and goodwill from the rest of the franchise, rather than creating an emotional reaction of its own. It felt manipulative, rather than something earned. I don’t like feeling used like that.

If the movie had been closer in tone to the trailer, the gorgeous one set to Johnny Cash’s rendition of Hurt, I’d have enjoyed it a lot more. It’s hard to overstate how excited I was about that trailer. That would have been the story of a Logan that has given up. That has lost everyone that matters to him. It would have been him finding hope again because of the new generation of mutants and deciding Laura is worth fighting for. It would have been a quieter, thoughtful, introspective movie. It would have been a kind of trippy story about self discovery and family. I saw that a lot of people did see that in the movie, but I didn’t. I saw an attempt, and I saw something sort of different from what had been done before, but hardly anything groundbreakingly unique.

As part of a series, it didn’t work for me. There was no real grieving for the X-Men. They were unceremoniously killed off again, and this time, none of them even got to have a part in saving their species, because their deaths were completely off screen. It made Days of Future Past redundant – what was the point of changing the timeline and bringing the original cast back to cameo if they’re all going to die within a few years anyway? And what’s the point of any future X-Men movie if we all know that it’s going to end like this no matter what they do? It would have been a good plot for a standalone, but not as part of a series.

The movie felt selfish to me. Logan seemed as if he was looking after Xavier out of obligation for giving him a place. Part of the reason he eventually had a change of heart about Laura was that they shared DNA and Xavier had wanted her kept safe. To me, it never seemed like he missed the X-Men – he was old, tired, cynical, but that stemmed from being sick and in pain and having to care for Xavier, not from having lost a family. The scene with Laura and the comic book was close, but it still came across as more bitter than anything else. I remember being surprised when I saw that in the movie, because of how different in tone it was from the way it had been presented in the trailer – Logan was clearly bitter, there, too, but he also seemed a little amused, and almost nostalgic. I liked that a lot better than him being an angry, bitter old man that made himself feel better by screaming at a child and didn’t give a damn about what the X-Men represented.

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Jean and Scott’s cameo in ‘Days of Future Past’. [Credit: Fox]

I didn’t find the plot all that emotional. I know a lot of other people did, and I’m glad. But for me, this was just rehashing what we’d already been through in Days of Future Past, except not as well. I loved Days of Future Past – I was irritated that somehow, Logan got the story that by all rights, belonged to Kitty and that Kitty got a new power out of nowhere because they gave her role to Logan and cut out Rachel, but I liked the movie. There were beautifully nuanced performances. It was a story of tired, broken, bitter people finding their way back to the best versions of themselves, a story of people making their last stand fighting for a better world. It was about mutants getting a second chance, about earning a happy ending. It handled the concepts of grief and mourning brilliantly. DoFP achieved with a scalpel what Logan did with a sledgehammer. Not a good adaptation, but a very good movie, and despite the mutants being killed by Sentinels and not corn syrup, still more subtle than Logan.

Goodbye To Original Cast

Even if this is just a movie that doesn’t tie into the continuity in any way, it still leaves a kind of bitter taste in my mouth, because it’s still our goodbye to the original cast. It’s not the ending that they deserved. They haven’t all been on screen together in eleven years. After DoFP reset the timeline so that The Last Stand could be removed from the continuity and Jean and Scott could come back to life, we didn’t get another story with them, just a weak cameo.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart were far from the only members of the original cast that deserved a good ending. Famke Janssen put in a spectacular performance, even with the terrible script she was handed. There’s only so much an actor can do when they don’t have support from the script. James Marsden, as well – somehow, he’s been left out of the movies where the mutants are on the brink of extinction twice, despite the fact those stories should definitely be about Scott. He’s an excellent actor that was criminally underused. Apocalypse even teased Mr. Sinister, and nothing gets the message that the makers of these movies don’t care about Scott across better than that – not one instalment in this franchise has mentioned Scott’s comic background, and in the case of the new timeline, he doesn’t have that at all. What’s even the point in bringing in Sinister if it’s going to be this much of a watered down version?

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Briefcase labelled ‘Essex Corp’ from ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’. [Credit: Fox]

This wasn’t just closing the door on Logan and the Stewart version of Xavier. If they’re not coming back, it’s almost certainly a goodbye to everyone else in the original cast as well, aside from maybe – maybe – a cameo from time to time. We got a flash of hope that we’d be getting them back in DoFP, then had that ripped away again, and it’s not even the loss of this version of the characters that bothers me so much as the loss of potential.

There was a cast of excellent actors. I mentioned Janssen and Marsden, but we certainly shouldn’t forget Ian McKellan, arguably the best actor in the entire franchise. Halle Berry, too – she’s a good actress, even if I didn’t like the little material she got and her characterization. Aside from very few of them – Stewart, McKellan, Jackman – the original cast didn’t get a chance to do their characters justice. How could they, when the movies weren’t X-Men movies as much as they were Wolverine and Friends, and most of them were just there to support Logan as the hero without storylines of their own? That cast could have made amazing movies, ones with fully realized characters that were as good adaptations as they were stories of their own. What did we get instead? Some disconnected great scenes, lines, and performances in a sea of mediocrity.

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Original cast. [Credit: Fox]

Janssen said very recently that she’d return as Jean Grey if she was asked – she’s been saying that for years. And I’d love her back. I prefer her Jean to Sophie Turner’s, perhaps just because she’s a more experienced actress that was a better fit for the character. But I very much doubt we’ll ever see her Jean again, and that’s a shame. It doesn’t feel like it’s been long enough to replace the entire cast. Ten years should be enough time, but in those ten years, some of them were around for longer, while the others made their last appearance just a few years ago. What’s more, they’re being replaced within the same series. It’s not a reboot, or a different universe.

I get that Logan was a loose adaptation of Old Man Logan. I do. I understand that. And I understand that this universe has been built around him, and that the people involved wanted the send off of the character to be just for him, and not an ensemble movie. But as a fan of the X-Men, it just felt like another slap in the face after seventeen years of slaps in the face.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Wolverine as a character. He has his moments, and I do think he’s a better person/more engaging character in the film verse than in the comics, but he’s never been particularly interesting to me. And the seventeen years of movies have made me incredibly bitter towards him, something which finally reached a boiling point with Logan. A not insignificant part of why I didn’t love the movie was that I was so incredibly tired of the character. The X-Men are supposed to be ensemble stories. They work as a team. But the X-Men movies cast that aside for the same old Wolverine is the awesome hero, who cares about everyone else.

Viewer Fatigue

When I first saw Logan, I really enjoyed it. That’s the same experience I’ve had with most of the X-Men movies – I walk out of the theatre still excited, but when I take some time to process what I saw, to maybe see it again, I start to find more things that bother me. Logan left me cold. For me, the franchise has started to drag. I didn’t really notice it until Logan, but now they’re just making movies for the sake of it, because we’ll go to see them regardless of how little care is put into them and they’ll make a lot of money. Logan was the third Wolverine solo, when no other character even got one and he was the main character of the original trilogy as well. It rehashed the general plot of Days of Future Past without that level of beautiful focus on building a better world.

I don’t like the trend of bashing movies and claiming they’re awful solely because they weren’t to your tastes, or of saying they should be catered to you instead of to whoever they’re directed at. Not everything can be for everyone. I’m a big believer in letting people enjoy things, rather than being constantly negative and pointing out why what they love is terrible. And we shouldn’t judge movies based on whether or not they were what we wanted or expected to see, but rather on the story they tell. At the same time, I believe polite, respectful criticism is fair, so long as it’s criticism for what it is and not what you want it to be. Criticism only means something if it’s thoughtful and meant to spur conversation, not insult for the sake of it, but if it is, then it’s worth hearing.

Logan wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. I know other people loved it. I may not understand why, but I’m happy for them. But I personally liked the idea of Logan more than I liked the actual movie. To me, it felt like it should have been a story about grief and loss, just as I felt TLS should have been, just like DoFP was. Instead, also like TLS, it didn’t really seem to me like a story about much of anything. Batman v Superman gets constantly berated for being “grimdark”, but if any recent comic book movie falls into that category, it’s this one. It was emotionally draining and relentlessly, pointlessly dark. It wasn’t a more mature story in any way than the previous instalments in the franchise, it just had more visceral violence and cursing.

It may not technically be the last movie in the franchise, but it might as well be, now that all the ties to the original trilogy are gone – different timeline, different cast, different characterizations. Fox is going to continue to make X-Men movies. Logan will eventually be recast, just like the other X-Men. Even so, Logan represented the end of an era, the last movie with any ties to the trilogy that arguably revived comic book movies, and to me, it wasn’t a satisfying finish.

2 thoughts on “A Manipulative Waste: Why Logan Disappointed Me

  1. I liked the premise of “Days of Future Past”, because I simply like the time travel genre. But I thought the 2014 movie was a failure. I never had a need to erase “The Last Stand” from the franchise. And if I must be honest, I liked it more than I liked “Days of Future Past”, which seemed to be filled with plot holes, in its attempt to erase the 2006 film.

    As for “Logan” . . . well, I liked it. But I didn’t really love it. Like you, I found Logan’s lack of emotions regarding his former X-Men comrades rather disturbing. And the movie seemed like a remake of the 2009 film, “X-Men Origin: Wolverine”.

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    • I thought The Last Stand had some good points – some good action sequences, some funny moments, a few really heartfelt scenes – but I thought that in trying to do both the cure storyline and the Dark Phoenix one, they crammed in too much, and did neither of those stories justice. I wouldn’t have minded that so much, if they hadn’t killed off Scott and Jean to do it. It left me feeling bitter about the movie as a whole.

      May I ask what plot holes to which you’re referring? Days of Future Past was certainly not perfect, but I found it to be one of my two favourite X-Men movies. There were some aspects of it that didn’t make much sense to me, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them plotholes, and they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film.

      I really wanted to like Logan, and I loved the premise of it, but I just didn’t enjoy the execution. I can definitely say I preferred it to the 2009 movie, though!

      Thanks for the comment!

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