Assuming that Logan really is Hugh Jackman’s last go-round as Wolverine — and director James Mangold insisted on Thursday that it will be — X-Men fans need not worry about the future of the franchise … if Fox is bold enough to put a blockbuster on the narrow shoulders of a 13-year-old girl.
The studio showed the first 40 minutes of its latest X-Men spin-off film to press in New York on Thursday, and at times, it played as much like No Country for Old Men as a superhero movie (Mangold did make 3:10 to Yuma, so this makes sense). It’s set in the Mexican desert and Logan, whose regenerative powers have kept him spry for almost two centuries, is suddenly an old and very broken down man. When he fights, it largely does not go well. Luckily, he’s got Laura — a mysterious girl with Wolverine-esque retractable claws coming out of her hands and feet — there to back him up.
Technically, I can’t go into more details, because Fox has placed an embargo on the footage. In a sign of the times, however, reporters were encouraged to tweet about what they saw, so I’m going to quote my own extensive tweets, as a way of discussing the footage without violating the rules.
I have never been a fan of the “dark and gritty” comic book movie, because this stuff is supposed to be fun. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, both directed by Watchmen’s Zach Snyder, are heavy and morose drags, filled with long and ponderous monologues, unnecessary murder, and a lot of rain. Logan is more honest in its depiction of misery; Wolverine is filthy, gets his ass kicked a lot, drives an increasingly busted up SUV limo, and lives in a rusted out building in the Mexican desert. This guy has seen some shit, and it’s taken a toll on him. I can dig that, because it’s justified by 15 years of movies at this point.
Mangold said that they searched high and low for the right girl to play Laura, aka X-23, and finally settled on Dafne Keen, the daughter of actor Will Keen. She has an incredible intensity to her, even with very little dialogue in the opening act. I was terrified of girls when I was in middle school, and I’m pretty sure Dafne’s Laura would have had me quaking, even before she busted out her Adamantium claws and tossed a man’s severed head in the general direction of a squad of remorseless soldiers.
The act ended with Professor X’s revelation that Laura was not the daughter of Gabriela, the Mexican woman who was trying to get her safely out of the country. Fans know her real backstory, and the scene in which she rips out the guts of a whole bunch of professional soldiers makes her DNA pretty clear to everyone else. Also, she’s the first new mutant in 25 years, so she damn well better survive. What’s in the backpack she so carefully protects remains to be seen — Mangold would not divulge that information.
I think I was one of ten people who watched every episode of Stephen Merchant’s HBO series Hello Ladies, which lasted just one season in 2015. He had a mean streak in that one, but was still ultimately kind of pathetic. Here, as the cowardly mutant Caliban, he returns to his wheelhouse: kind, wimpy, and stepped-on characters who act as a conscience for the protagonist.
He’s hosting Logan and Professor X in his strange Mexican hideaway, and despite his hospitality, Wolverine is less than friendly to him, not that you’d expect otherwise.
Professor X is less mobile than ever, and sits around a rusted out version of Cerebro all day, muttering insane things until Logan can return with his pills. Patrick Stewart, who also stars in the Starz comedy Blunt Talk, plays this to great comedic effect … though the seizures are unnerving.
The trailer likely gave away his ultimate fate, but this series does not obey the laws of time, so that’s probably irrelevant.
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