We haven't done a lot of movie reviews lately but felt compelled to chime in on this one.
I've always been a huge Marvel fan and a fan of Wolverine in general. Heck, our first family dog was named Logan. Great dog by the way. Black lab. Anyway, he was named after Wolverine. So any movie with X-people and especially Wolverine, well, I have high hopes. What I'm going to do is discuss some of the likely source material from the comic Marvel Universe, compare it to the movie and then discuss the movie itself.
Before talking about the movie, I'm going to share the pieces and parts that we find in the film. Where did this old Wolverine (titular character aka Loan, aka James Howlett) and little Laura (X-23) come from in the comic world? In terms of a one to one correlation between the comics and the movie, you won't find one. There are some loose connections and parallels but the movie stands on it's own. Still, I'll delve in to the sources or at least what I assume to be non-coincidental source materials.
As a long time comic fan, I love the traditional characters from my youth. Spiderman, Batman, Fantastic Four, Thor, the Hulk, X-Men, etc etc. They're great and I especially identified with what Marvel did over the years with their flawed and tragic characters. However, I don't mind seeing an alternate take on the hero formula and an alternate take on beloved heroes. The Miller Dark Knight series, MiracleMan (A. Moore), Injustice, Grendel, Watchmen, even Spawn, the list goes on.
There are a ton of offshoots and many options to read. The point is, when Old Man Logan came out what seems like an eternity ago, I was totally intrigued.
That first run was Wolverine #66 (2003) through Wolverine 72 plus Giant Size Wolverine: Old Man Logan 1 (2009). It was violent and depressing but was really a great story arc.
In the comics, we have this anti-hero now as an old man, the villains have won and he just wants to be left alone with his family. The violent prototypical loner is now a family-man and pacifist. We learn what happened to him (thanks mysterio) and why he no longer wants to let loose with the claws. The initial story concludes in Giant Size Wolverine: Old Man Logan as mentioned above but starts up again with an new series in 2015. Suffice it to say that the character picks up again and continues even as I write this. So, this story arc from 2003 and then continuing on in '09 and even now seem to be the basis for the Logan character in the move. Basically an aging Wolverine who wanted his hero days to be over.
The differences (and I will try to avoid huge spoilers here) between the comic arc and the movie are many but here are a couple that I'd like to point out. In the events leading up to the old, decaying Logan there are a couple different things going on in the world depending on which universe you're viewing. In the comic universe, the earth has been conquered by the super villains. The villains finally teamed up and defeated the good guys. The resulting world, overtly controlled by major bad guys is quite the different story than in the movie. In the movie, a mutant targeting decimated the mutant population but otherwise the earth looks essentially the same as what you might expect in the not too distant future. Through the course of the movie, we learn the cause of the virus but I won't spoil that here.
Another difference: In the comics, Logan is a pacifist farmer taking care of his human wife and children whereas in the film (again, little mini spoiler), he's taking care of Professor Charles Xavier who is also not wearing too well. No wife in the movie except maybe Caliban and no children living with him in his secluded hideaway.
The Reavers play apart in both the comic and the movie with some key differences.
In the 2016 version of Old Man Logan he runs in to the Reavers and in the film they're basically chasing him around the whole movie. Movie reavers are quite a bit more subtle in terms of cybernetic enhancements. The comic reavers feature Lady Deathstrike and soldiers with a huge portion of their bodies made up of machine parts. The movie guys are mechanically enhanced but to a much lesser extent.
So even though the reaver characters are different – there is one interesting similarity that I didn't recognize until writing this review. Logan does put innocents in danger and those innocent folks are affected by the reavers when the baddies arrive. Furthermore, in the comics (the first Old Man Logan series) Logan lives on a farm and his new landlords (which happen to be mentally damaged offspring of the hulk) are trying to collect rent. Similarly in the film, when Logan visits a farm he runs in to an evil land lord trying also to hassle an innocent hardworking man. Not a lot of spoilers on that one since I've seen this in the previews (thanks to Jimmy Fallon).
The lead movie Reaver, Donald Pierce (played by Boyd Holbrook) is also a character in the Marvel comic universe and is also associated with the Reavers. There are, however some cosmetic differences as illustrated here.
The whole back story is different . but yes, we do have a character named Donale Pierce who figures prominently with the Reavers.
So, the main parallels are that Logan is old, he wants to be left alone in peace, he's taking care of loved ones and someone or something interrupts that. All else is pretty much different and there's no x-23 in the old man logan comic series.
NOT IN OLD MAN LOGAN AT ALL – so, here is more blending of the comic universe stories. And, I tell you what, it works. I may have cried a little but let's talk about the X-23 origin vs. the movie.
The movie touches upon some of what you'll find in the X-23 origin story (2005) where you'll find Zander Rice is working to create little lethal weapons. X-23 – Laura – was first introduced in 2003 in NYX – but that storyline did not delve in to where she came from at all and I don't believe the story ever mentioned her by name.
In the movie Zander is experimenting with the creation of mutants for weaponization. He makes a bunch in the movie with at least one familiar name (Rictor)… So this potentially paves the way for a ‘new mutants' type movie in the future and MAYBE some team up with Alpha Flight?? The door is wide open.
In the comics, the x-23 origin story, he's making one weapon and he's trying to make a male from Wolverine's blood. His progress is stymied and his bosses bring on another researcher, Sarah Kinney. Sarah specializes in genetics and she immediately draws the ire of Zander. Comic Zander seems like a much worse dude that movie Zander but neither are getting any karma points. In both, Laura is trained from birth to be a killer and in both she is from Wolverine's blood. If this is a spoiler for you, you're not paying attention to the world. Both Zanders are messing with genes and children and training them to be killers.
In both, Laura escapes with the help of a female caregiver but WHO that person is – is different. I won't go further with that and would encourage you to read the comics. One interesting thing is that the comics portray little Laura as basically an ‘innocent' who is triggered by a scent to be a killer, whereas the movie x-23 comes off as feral and animalistic. She does not need the scent to go nuts she just needs to be antagonized. Working the trigger in to the movie line and the whole assassin story would have been more complicated so I get why you'd leave that out. Also, I should mention that in the movie it seems that “x-23” seems to refer to the generation of children/genetic experiments that they are working on rather than an individual. The group of them are referred to as X-23 vs just the Laura character.
So, finally – let's talk about the movie.
It's dark, brutal and, it's fantastic. As we begin, we see that Wolverine is beaten down. He's perpetually drunk and drives a limo to make ends meet. We see quickly that he's ‘old' which, to a comic fan who knows that Wolverine's healing power is supposed to keep him relatively young for an indefinite period, is surprising. We see right off that he's still got the ol' berserker rage but has lost a step. His healing ability has slowed, he's clumsy, drunk and aging. We learn right off that he's caring for Xavier with the help of Caliban and Chuck is losing it. We learn that Chuck's on drugs (forcefully at times) that keep him from having seizures that debilitate those around him. That's an understatement based on the camera shakiness, thunderous noise, bloody noses and inability for anyone to move (except Wolverine, of course).
Logan, James Howlett, has him stored in a giant steel container to supposedly keep him from either being detected or from reaching out to others with his mental capabilities. The thing is rusted and full of holes, so i'm not sure how effective it could really be and … well we learn that he's been both detected (by Transigen/the Reavers) and that he's reached out to another mutant (X-23, Laura). So, all that seclusion was possibly for nothing.
James seems to have a plan to get Charles out of the container and out to sea. I'm not clear on how he planned to keep the seizures at bay without easy access to meds but that's irrelevant. The adventure starts with the offscreen escape of Laura (x-23) from Transigen. She's been in mental communication with Charles and is linked to Wolverine/Logan/James (so many names!). Laura and her nurse (who helped her out) escape from Transigen and are trying to make their way to safety. They need help with this and thus seek out our hero. The rest of the movie plays out this story line. They meet up, there's some reluctance from Logan on getting involved. He prioritizes Charles over all else and so, at first, wants to avoid involvement with this random kid from wherever.
In an attempt to avoid further spoilage, I'll stop there with the main plot and will talk about some of the other aspects of the movie. I was able to take away a few notes after my first viewing and may offer up further observations if I can get out to see it again. The movie makes a reference to previous X – films and to the Wolverine movie.
incident at statue of liberty – from the first x-movie
adamantium bullet – likely ties back to Wolverine
samurai sword – likely ties back to Wolverine
Violence and language
This is not a movie for little kids – that is, if you don't want them to see decapitations and a lot of bloody violence punctuated by a few dozen F words. The R rating was well deserved.
In terms of the story, the movie hits on the following narrative conflict themes – man vs man, man vs himself, maybe some man vs society and even man vs. nature.
Man vs man – several layers in the movie with some being more obvious than others. To avoid spoilers, I can point out Logan vs. Pierce, Logan vs. Price and Laura vs both of these.
Man vs. Himself – Logan's struggle against caring for the child (x-23), Logan's struggle against his own rage
Man vs society – this one is a meta theme around the movie, why have the mutants died off? Why are they breeding new ones? what was human society's reaction to homo superior?
Man vs. nature – Logan vs. his own body, Charles struggle with his own declining facilities, Logan's battle against the effect of age on Xavier.
Most of these conflicts are successfully closed by the end of the movie while some are left open but not in such a way to leave me feeling unsatisfied with the film. I am however left wanting for more.
Besides these, there's a coming of age, and the development of a strong bond and a tale of hope in the face of darkness.
I love the way the various pieces of the Marvel universe were pulled together in this film. It was a fantastic way to merge together the story lines and close out Jackman's last portrayal of the character. I also appreciated seeing X-23 come out as a strong female character. Of my 5 children, I have 4 daughters and appreciate them having strong female protagonists to identify with in movies. Laura was definitely a strong character.
X-23 can take care of herself while also wanting love and human companionship.
I give it 5 stars and hope to see it again.