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Friday, December 2, 2016

Logan Trailer Analysis

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I’ve made no secret of the fact I don’t like the X-Men films.  What’s more, I’ve also made it pretty clear that even though I enjoy the original Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Louise Simonson, and Jackson Guice comics I’ve had a lot of problems with the core metaphor and overall quality of the X-Men comic mythos.  In the midst of all that bile I haven’t really address the big angry elephant in the room that is Wolverine.  I’m hard pressed to think of a character that looms larger in the realms of Marvel history than Wolverine. 

He’s been on nearly every superhero team, had countless solo comics, and spawned a media merchandising empire that, for a time, was a rival of the Batman’s.  Personally, I’ve never actually seen the allure.  Don't get me wrong, I like Wolverine as part of the X-Team dynamic, but his solo series have never seemed as interesting or mature as they’re often meant to be, and his movies always come off as squandered potential…until Logan, because this film looks amazing. 

In all seriousness, I literally cannot remember the last time I was this excited for an X-Men movie, the series that’s been jogging in place since the mid-2000s.  A big part of that is that this is the first time the somber, stripped down attitudes of the franchise seem to be in service of something other than trying to distance the films from the source material.  It also helps that we’re finally swapping out the drab rubber costumes and de-saturated green/blue palette of most X-films for a burnt out, dust-colored fallen Earth that plays as something closer to Road Warrior crossed with The Road. 

Additionally, the somber tone and apocalyptic setting actually seem in aid of a theme of personal redemption and finding meaning and hope in the face of oblivion.  I’ll get more into why I find this approach so much more genuine and refreshing than the X-Norm of “protecting those who fear and hate us” but for now, let’s take a closer look at the trailer.

To our story: it’s sometime in the future, and the world has fallen into chaos and decay.  Given the geography of the X-world, I’m fairly sure these large dustbowl deserts from the trailer are actually somewhere in New York State, hence why they’re in driving distance of the Cerebro chamber.  For some inexplicable reason, mutants are now an endangered species, with Xavier and Wolverine the only two X-Men left standing. 

Both men have been losing their powers, with Xavier’s completely gone and Wolverine’s healing factor substantially depleted.  In the midst of this, they discover a mutant girl with Logan’s healing and claws in the wilderness, pursued by the cybernetic mercenaries of the Essex Corporation.  With no other choice, the two adopt her and Logan endeavors to keep her safe as dark forces seek her out. 

That’s a really great concept for a Wolverine story and has the fortunate angle of being cobbled together from several other X-Men/Wolverine comics.  The fallen future setting is mainly drawn from Old Man Logan, a decent if over-hyped comic about Wolverine living into the distant future. 

While that book’s always been popular it’s way too ingrained in Marvel lore to appropriately adapt (Red Skull is President, and there’s a whole tribe of Hulks as bad guys,) so they’re basically keeping the best parts for the movie.  The main plot is a blend of 2 primary Mr. Sinister storylines, hence why he’s being trailed as the big bad guy for this particular flick. 

The Cyborg mercenaries and Caliban (the man in the sunglasses) are both key members of the ‘Mutant Massacre’ crossover event that paved the way for Mr. Sinister’s debut.  The mercenaries, who are called the Nasty Boys or sometimes the Marauders in-universe, are sent out by Mr. Sinister to slaughter a group known as the Morlocks, a community of sewer-dwelling mutants that Caliban was a part of.  Since then the Nasty Boys have been a pretty standard component of most Sinister stories. 

The little girl and lack of mutants is an even stranger amalgam.  The main inspiration here is a story from the mid-2000s called ‘Messiah Complex.’  This took place in the wake of the Decimation, in which Scarlet Witch turned 90% of the mutant population human and also stopped new mutants from being born.  When the first new mutant child was born in Alaska, a whole ton of forces descended upon the last frontier to try and claim her for their own, with Mr. Sinister as the big bad. 

The big difference here is that instead of Hope Summers, the child from Messiah Complex, our newest mutant appears to be X-23, a female clone of Wolverine who’s recently adopted the mantle in the comics.  Fox and Bryan Singer have been trailing an X-23 adaptation forever, so it’s good to see them finally pull the trigger on that, even if a big part of it is just Hugh Jackman getting too old for the role of Wolverine. 

Speaking of which, making Jackman’s age the thematic through-line of the story may be the smartest act of meta-fiction since Avengers being about its own genesis.  This actually cuts to the heart of the problem I’ve always had with Wolverine, that we’re meant to feel bad for him without ever getting a sense of how his life sucks.  

He’s always banging on about the pain of immortality, but it’s never shown in the comics cause it would detract from his time being a bad ass.  Here, that pain looks to be front and center, and it looks amazing.  We actually get the sense of how isolated and tragic it would be to see everyone you care about die and, worse, falter and fail. 

What’s more, getting Patrick Stewart back as Professor Xavier is such a great addition and fits the tone of this trailer so perfectly it’s amazing.  Honestly, as good as James MacAvoy is in the role of Xavier Stewart is just crushing it in this trailer.  His blend of shaky hope in the face not only his own death but the death of his dream is deeply moving, and he really embodies the tragedy that’s always been missing from adaptations of Wolverine.  I also won’t pretend that the Johnny Cash score doesn’t make things even better.

So the movie definitely looks like it will be sad, but there’s more to it than just being a good Wolverine tragedy.  What this trailer also gets is that a big part of what makes Wolverine an appealing fantasy is that he’s a lot like the Punisher- incredibly angry and deadly enough to do something about it.  

That’s the power fantasy at the heart of this trailer, and I feel it in my bones.  Scenes of Wolverine losing it as he goes after the paramilitary goon squad looking to kidnap children for corporate experiments are easily the most I’ve ever wanted him to just kill everyone on screen. 

Even with all that righteous fury, though, that’s not the coda we’re being presented with; in fact, it’s the exact opposite.  The big, twisty idea at the center of the trailer seems to be about Logan trying to define himself as something other than a murder machine, here in the wreckage of humanity. 

Even if killing is the only thing he can do, he wants to use that to do one last good thing to try and save this girl.  It’s admittedly a rehash of the hyper-competent dude finds emotion through surrogate fatherhood that we’ve seen in stuff like The Last of Us, but at this point, I’ll take an idea that fits over the half-hearted mutant allegory any day of the week.  Like at least Wolverine is a character defined by his aloof violence unlike the X-Men who are basically a group of white people who suffer discrimination for being too cool, and Storm sometimes. 

Like I said, this trailer is awesome and it’s doing pretty much everything it would need to get me hyped for this movie.  It’s a rejection of the blood and guts Wolverine from the 2nd film and the franchise management of Wolverine Origins, taking a stab (pun intended) at being driven by character rather than just an excuse to see all the stuff Wolverine can hack and slash.  

What’s more, it’s also trying to give Wolverine more of an identity beyond the trappings of a stoic badass that he’s been stuck with since movie 1.  It’s looking to be a rich, textured, and powerful experience that I hope ends up more than just a really good trailer.  

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