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Katherine is the Managing Editor at The Hudsucker. She has been working in libraries for the past 10 years and holds a B.A. in American Studies & Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. In her free time, the Seattleite enjoys writing fiction, going to brunch, taking long walks with her roommate, and playing Dungeons & Dragons with her friends. Katherine is a huge fan of the Seattle Mariners and has probably seen every Marvel movie at least five times. She loves classic rock and can quote even the most obscure lines from The Simpsons. Follow Katherine on Twitter: @thethingiskat.

When the Man Comes Around: Looking Back on the Wolverine Trilogy

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Warning: this article contains spoilers.

In 2000, a relative unknown named Hugh Jackman stole the show playing Wolverine in X-Men. Though his casting didn’t garner much enthusiasm from fans at the time, over the course of 17 years, Jackman has become synonymous with the character, much like Robert Downey Jr. and his portrayal of Iron Man. It’s hard to argue that anyone else could have done a better job portraying James “Logan” Howlett and few actors would put as much thought and care into the role over the years as Jackman has. Though the character will always exist in the X-Men Universe and will undoubtedly be recast for future X-Men films, it’s hard to imagine anyone else portraying Wolverine on screen.

Jackman’s Wolverine was so popular that he was given his own trio of films. Though this is typical for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other comic book movie-verses, for the X-Men movie-verse, no other characters have been given solo films, let alone three. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, and Logan, which was released earlier this month, all showcase different aspects of Wolverine’s life and character, and also all have varying degrees of quality. While Origins was a disaster and The Wolverine was an improvement, though largely forgettable, Logan really hit it out of the park. With Jackman announcing that Logan will likely be his last time playing the character on screen (unless The Avengers come calling), the movie serves as the perfect bookend to his run as Wolverine.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which came out in 2009, was a major stumble for the X-Men franchise. Though X-Men: The Last Stand was incredibly divisive among fans, and 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past was made partially to undo the damage, Origins is one of the only X-Men films to be universally reviled. From the storyline to the special effects, nothing was particularly good or impressive about the movie. While Liev Schreiber was a welcome addition as Victor Creed/Sabretooth, the rest of the movie was completely underwhelming. Though superhero movies always take liberties with storylines from the comics, Origins had an unfocused plot and ruined the storylines of many characters, including fan favorite Deadpool. It messed up some of the continuity of the broader X-Men movie-verse as well, which then later had to also be undone by Days of Future Past. What could have been a great first movie in the Wolverine series instead turned into another misstep that had to be rectified in later X-Men films.

Though it was a vast improvement from Origins, 2013’s The Wolverine still wasn’t the movie Logan fans were hoping for. The movie was largely based on one of the comic storylines by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller where Wolverine goes to Japan, which Jackman had stated was one of his favorites. In the movie, Wolverine goes to Japan to meet with an old acquaintance from the World War II and later faces off with the Silver Samurai. His love interest from the comics, Mariko, is a main character in The Wolverine and becomes a love interest for him on screen as well. Few of the characters from previous X-Men films are mentioned, aside from Jean Grey who is a constant presence in Logan’s mind as he feels guilty for killing her at the end of The Last Stand.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Wolverine works because it is largely a standalone film and doesn’t try to connect itself to Origins in any way, though it does tie a bit into Days of Future Past and contains some nods to previous X-Men films. The character of Wolverine has some of the best solo comic book storylines, so seeing those brought to life with minimal ties to the broader X-Men movie-verse makes for a more compelling movie. Origins tried to connect to different plot points in the X-Men movie-verse, but was largely unsuccessful at it and led to the movie often feeling disjointed. The Wolverine, however, allowed Logan to shine on his own and explore different aspects of his character and backstory. Though it falls into some common superhero movie cliches, The Wolverine was a big step up for the Wolverine franchise that got off to a disastrous start with Origins.

Logan, however, was the superhero movie everyone deserved, not just Wolverine fans. James Mangold, who also directed The Wolverine, loosely adapted the 2017 film from the Old Man Logan comic storyline and made one of the best superhero movies to date. Logan was given an R rating, which allowed it to really explore the violence and heavy themes that surround a character like Wolverine. In the movie, which takes place in a future where no new mutants have been born for many years, a group called Transigen has been breeding mutant children using DNA from other mutants, including Logan himself, in a project called X-23. Some of the children were able to escape before Transigen tried to have them killed, including Laura who turns out to be Wolverine’s daughter. Logan, Laura, and Professor Xavier go on a road trip to try to find Eden, which is said to be a safe haven for the mutant children where they will then escape to Canada. Though Logan could have easily fallen into the traps of other superhero films and the past two films in the Wolverine trilogy, its themes, storylines, and acting lead it to rise above the rest.

The movie’s overall theme of mortality gives it a much heavier feel than the other Wolverine films. Logan has largely lost his healing ability, which leaves him vulnerable every time he uses his claws or gets in a fight. Professor Xavier is implied to have some sort of dementia, which led to him accidentally killing many of the X-Men. Laura and all the other mutant children are being hunted down by Transigen and the Reavers to be killed. Death follows everyone in Logan, and all the main characters are forced to come to terms with their own mortality.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

While Logan comest to terms with his fate at the very end of the film in a touching scene where he remarks that now he finally knows what it’s like to actually die, in the movie he also finally accepts his role as a father figure and mentor to other mutants. In all the previous X-Men and Wolverine films, Logan has always shied away from the role of teacher and mentor, and at the beginning of this film he only reluctantly helps Laura at Professor Xavier’s insistence. At the end of Logan, however, he finally bonds with her and seems to accept his place as her father and protector, while also doing his best to help and protect the other young mutants.

Wolverine’s relationship with Professor Xavier also comes full circle. In the first few X-Men movies, Professor Xavier was the one who saved Wolverine and helped lead him towards the truth about where he came from. Throughout the ensemble X-Men films, he has always been there to guide Logan and try to direct him down the right path. In Logan, however, the roles are completely reversed. Wolverine is the one trying to keep Charles safe by hiding him in Mexico and obtaining prescription drugs for him, as the United States government views his deteriorating mind as a weapon. His goal at the beginning of the film is to buy a boat so that they can safely spend their last days together on the ocean, but that quickly changes when Laura comes into the picture. Logan is full of touching and heartbreaking scenes between Charles Xavier and Wolverine, including the final emotional conversation Professor Xavier has with what turns out to be an X-24 Logan clone who murders him shortly thereafter. Though Logan’s relationship with Laura is the main plot point, his relationship with Charles is the thread that holds the movie together.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Logan sends the Wolverine trilogy out on a such a high note that it’s hard not to wish it wasn’t going to be Jackman’s last turn in the role. Because Logan was the best of the Wolverine trilogy by far, it’s difficult not to wonder what could have been with the other films. If Origins had the same quality storytelling as Logan, would Logan have ultimately seemed like a letdown? Or would it have elevated the trilogy to an even higher level? With Wolverine dying at the end there isn’t anywhere else to go with the character in the movies, and any potential for continuation would have ruined the impact of the ending, but it’s tough not to wish for more Wolverine stories of the same quality. Regardless, Logan probably couldn’t have existed the way it did if it wasn’t going to be the final Wolverine film.

In Logan, Wolverine comes full circle as a character and finally shows growth in a way that hasn’t been seen in any other solo or ensemble films. The movie is satisfying in almost every regard, which can’t be said of past Wolverine films. It can also be enjoyed by everyone, not just fans of the character or of superhero movies in general. Though comic book movies rarely get recognized come award season, it would be a shame if Logan was completely overlooked because the performances and storytelling were superb. While the Wolverine trilogy had it’s ups and downs, Logan sent it and Hugh Jackman out on a high note and set a new standard for superhero films going forward.

What are your thoughts on the Wolverine trilogy? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Top 5 for 5: Katherine Ranks Her Favorite Superhero Movies | The Hudsucker - June 12, 2017

    […] my Logan review, I called it, “the superhero movie everyone deserved, not just Wolverine fans,” and I stand by […]

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