There are only so many ways I introduce each article about “Logan” by saying its not your ordinary superhero movie, but that’s really the fact of the matter. James Mangold and the filmmakers endeavored to step beyond the usual Marvel/DC Films template we’ve come to expect, and they succeeded. “Logan” stands apart, not just in its story, in an approach that draws back from the growing tradition in Hollywood that sees budgets increase, but creativity dip for tentpoles. And it’s a trend that has not gone unnoticed to Mangold.
Speaking with Vulture, the director was candid about the current state of superhero movies, and even how the internet has a role in perpetuating the notion that the films can’t stray too far from the canonical source material. Here’s what he had to say:
Blockbuster summer extravaganza movies, their template is costing more. There’s a kind of arms race. They’re costing nearly — if not more than — a quarter of a billion dollars per picture. And that’s before marketing. So the money they’re making is getting closer and closer to how much they’re costing. This devil’s bargain of it doesn’t matter that we’re spending so much because we’re making so much is getting closer and closer to the point where it’s getting frightening. You sit and watch these movies and start to zone out, despite the fact that you’re watching shots that cost $100,000 per second go by. It’s not holding you. So the experiment granted to us under the umbrella of saying good-bye to Hugh [Jackman]’s character was, Try something different.
And for some people, it’s not a movie anymore. It becomes just an episode in the world’s most expensive episodic television show. The point I’d make to fans, before they get up in arms, would be: The comic books themselves reinvent the worlds over and over and over again. There are multiple Earths circling on opposite sides of the moon. There is time travel. The original Superman is not the Superman we saw in the ’60s and not the one in the ’90s and he’s not the one in comic books now. Artists from Frank Miller to Neil Gaiman to Chris Claremont to Joe Kubert and on and on and on are reinventing the design, the philosophy, the tone, the style, the uniform, in every way with these characters, and no one had an issue. In fact, everyone loves it. But the idea that the movies themselves have to be perfectly sealed is … I don’t think it works for everyone.
I think also there’s a unique bargain that the internet press and the press in general have played, in the need to be able to generate copy. There’s a never-ending fount of stories you can write about when someone is breaking away from canon or not, and create many controversies all the way through preproduction and production and even until a movie opens, about whether or not they’re breaking canon. Is it a blasphemous movie or not? At some point, you gotta stop and say, Is there this expectation that it’s like we’re doing ‘Godfather Part I and II,’ only it’s going to nine movies? And we’re just gonna cut them into this kind of ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz‘ that never ends? We’re gonna suddenly take a moment to really savor the fact that these movies exist in an identical tone? The reality to me is that you can’t have interesting movies if you tell a filmmaker, “Get in this bed and dream, but don’t touch the pillows or move the blankets.” You will not get cinema. You will just get a platform for selling the next movie on that bed, unchanged and unmade.
It’s a fair point. Fanboys are the first to get hung up on how certain characters should be dressed or portrayed, rather than being open to reinvention. “Logan” shows what can be done if the envelope is pushed even just a little bit.
Then there’s that ending, with Wolverine sacrificing himself and dying for his daughter, X-23 aka Laura. And the director tells Collider how that moment came together on the page, and the powerful final line of the film — “So this is what it feels like”:
Well it seemed to me that it had to in some way be a battle with something other than just one of the array of supervillains. What I liked about the idea on a thematic level of battling X-24 and even dying at his hands was that effectively there’s a kind of radian analysis you can make of it all, which is really interesting, which is that he’s effectively a guy who’s gone through 200 years with this burden of shame and guilt and regret, remorse, anger about the violence he’s been forced to and willingly committed in his life, about feeling that he’s been cursed that he can never feel love or sell it because those he connects to die. To put his last fight against his own self in a sense, a mirror, a kind of dark mirror — in a way, X-24 in my mind was designed to be a vision of Weapon X, that he’s essentially battling his worst self, and younger, more capable, more savage, and without any sense of conscience or morality. There were several different interesting aspects to me, one is when that part of him, if you look at it for a moment from a psychological point of view, when that mirror image of him dies, it’s very interesting how that becomes in the last minute of the film that he’s alive, the moment where it’s almost like something’s been lifted from him. And of the many things I’m proud about the movie, I’m really proud about the way—I don’t expect you to intellectually engage that, but I expect you to feel it. I do think you feel that in the wake of that battle when he turns and Laura kneels beside him, that he is suddenly capable and something has gone away inside him and he’s capable of connecting with her and saying things that the guy who has run through the previous 121 minutes of this movie could not have said, until this point.
Scott Frank [came up with the final line]. We were trading the script back and forth between NY and LA and he wrote that line and sent it to me. Oh my God, I loved it, I knew those were the final words the second I read it, and to me it has two wonderful meanings and Hugh brilliantly plays both of them, one being for a man who has died 450 times in movies, let alone in his career, and yet never dies because of his healing factor, he has no idea, it’s like a tunnel he goes into and never comes out the other side, so there was that very literal meaning in relation to death. But there was also this moment of him holding his daughter’s hand and seeing utter emotion in her eyes and feeling the purest kind of love which is family love, and letting it in for the first time in his life.
Fascinating feedback from a director who clearly put a lot of thought into “Logan.” Share your feedback in the comments section.