Before you can appreciate just how good Logan — director James Mangold’s second swing at the Wolverine franchise, due out in March — is shaping up to be, and why that’s a huge, whopping, ginormous thing, you first need to understand just how much both of the other standalone Wolverine movies sucked. Well, the most recent one, 2013’s The Wolverine, Mangold’s first attempt, was passable. It minorly sucked. But the first one, Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine — that one majorly sucked.
Origins deals chiefly with Logan’s/“Jimmy’s”/Wolverine’s backstory. It dug into his relationship with his brother, Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), the defining element of tragedy in his background (pretty dead girl, classic fridging), and attempted to explain the fictionalized Canadian black-ops-slash-genetic-research program that is Weapon X. The problem was that Wolverine’s backstory was hopelessly complicated, even by shared-universe-superhero standards, and Hood’s exploration of it was so clumsy that it was almost as if he’d pushed a shopping cart down the annals of countless X-Men and Wolverine comics, and cherry-picked whatever was directly at eye level and within arm’s reach.
The result was a discontinuous fustercluck that featured Colonel Tim Riggins as Gambit, a Deadpool from the darkest timeline that couldn’t talk but could teleport, and Will.i.am as John Wraith, who could also teleport but talked too much. At one point, Wolverine truck-sticked an Apache helicopter.
The Wolverine was at least worth a trip to the movies, but it felt like it was mostly made to help us forget about how truly awful Origins was, and to set up some sort of sequel down the line. Mangold also tried to humanize the main character and reconnect him with his past in a Twitter-deep character study, shipping Logan to Japan and taking away his regenerative powers, at one point having him literally chop wood so he could delight in what it felt like to be a normal person that feels fatigue.
It was a cool change of pace after 14 years of watching him eat full cartons of bullets and take out entire death squads by his lonesome, but the movie was kind of forgettable and not all that enjoyable, aside from that one crazy-ass fight sequence when he murks a handful of Yakuza dudes while hanging on for dear life atop a bullet train.
Why is it hard to make a good movie about a superpowered wrecking ball with retractable claws (made from either adamantium or his actual bones, depending upon which story arc you’re in) who suffers from retrograde amnesia? What’s the problem, right?
This brings us to the new trailer for Logan, Jackman’s alleged last ride as Wolverine. And y’all. It looks really, really, really good.
Logan borrows from the Old Man Logan story arc. Everyone is old and wrinkled and bearded and weary, and the whole thing is punched up and brought down by Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” (Which is sort of cheating, in the same way that using Rufus Wainwright’s “Hallelujah” during a major character’s death on a network drama is cheating, but I’m not complaining.)
The setting looks to be an Interstellar-esque dystopia where the apocalypse has been transfixed into the not-so-distant future and all the plants are dead and everything is rusted over and covered in dust. Most of the mutants are gone now, and that DEA agent from Narcos that lived in Colombia forever and didn’t think to learn a single word of Spanish plays a mutant-hunting cyborg dude named Donald Pierce. Wolveri–er, Logan has to protect a young girl that Professor Xavier — who looks terrible, by the way — tells him is “just like you.” And if we’re meant to take that literally, this means that the young girl is Laura Kinney, and that’s dope because Laura Kinney — or “X-23” as she first appears in the comics — is an expert assassin with claws in her hands and feet who eventually takes up the mantle of Wolverine after Logan retires.
Mangold said that Logan wouldn’t be a “CG fuckathon,” and it seems that he’s going to be true to his word. Actually, if you take out the last 30-ish seconds of claws and explosions and backflips and metal limbs, the trailer gestures at a morbidly serious prestige drama. And that’s huge, because we could use a break from superhumans that don’t feel pain, get tired, or have bad hair days, heaving each other around strangely vacant, downtown metropolitan areas.
There are only so many ways you can blow the world up.
Oh, and Logan is going to be rated R. Take. My. Money.