Logan and My Experience with the X-Men Franchise

SPOILERS FOR LOGAN CAN BE FOUND NEAR THE END OF THIS ARTICLE

I know some people have said that they only “liked” Logan, and didn’t love it like I did.  And that’s okay.  Too often nowadays, movie fans will argue with those who didn’t “love” or “hate” a film.  Socially, it has become more difficult to be vocally critical of a film while still understanding that overall that very film is still good.  People often only talk of their immediate reaction instead of letting a film sit and sink into one’s mind.  Because of this, I’ve heard podcasters and critics talk about how they don’t want to hear backlash because they only “liked” Logan.  Now then, I am in no way saying I’m one of those people who will yell at someone for having a different opinion than me.  I’m not.  What I will be saying is that I did love Logan.  I recognize its flaws and that sometimes it relies on “and then” storytelling structure and not enough “therefore/but”.  Unlike some comic fans who only enjoyed the film and appreciate its merits, I loved the film because I’m not an X-Men fan from the comics.

A lot of people my age grew up watching the amazing early 90’s cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series, Rugrats, Animaniacs, Recess, and the rest on the gigantic list of classics.  Several of my childhood friends loved the X-Men animated series, but not me.  The superhero shows I watched were Batman:The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and Spider-Man.  X-Men never hooked me on those Saturday mornings as it did others.  I also didn’t read the comics growing up.  I knew of the X-Men characters like Cyclops and Wolverine, but I didn’t their history, the themes, the relationships.  And so in 2000 when I went to see the first X-Men, I was going into the movie fairly fresh.  I didn’t have any preconceived notions about whether or not I’d like the film or if the filmmakers would do the characters justice.  I came out of the movie really digging it and excited for it to come out on DVD.

Because of Bryan Singer’s first film, I became connected to Wolverine, Magneto and Professor X.  I was excited for their next big screen adventure.  But I didn’t seek out the source material.  My interest in these heroes was solely focused on their big screen incarnations.  X2: X-Men United was released in 2003, which I adored.  I emotionally connected to these characters in a way that was surprising to me.  I had to ask my friend, who was a fan of the X-Men comics,  as we were walking out of the theater what that Dark Phoenix tease at the end meant, because I had no idea.  He explained it to me and I thought it sounded weird.  But it made me more excited for the eventual third in the series.  My friend, who at the time enjoyed the series, quickly became disenchanted by the films because Bret Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand.

The Last Stand is one of the worse films in the series.  It has good ideas and some interesting scenes, but it’s way to short, the climax is boring, and they completely waste the potential of seeing Jean Grey kick ass as the Dark Phoenix.  But I still own the DVD and it’s admittedly a guilty pleasure of mine.  I understand why fans hate it, I know why my friend stopped enjoying the films because of this and the following few films.  But for me, I wasn’t beholden to the comics or the cartoon.  I will still watch The Last Stand (even though it’s not good) because I’ve enjoyed these characters as presented on the silver screen.  For me, I only know Wolverine through Hugh Jackman’s portrayal.  Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender will be the dueling ideologies or Magneto and Professor X to me and no other iterations matter because I was never exposed to them.

Some of my friends don’t enjoy these films because they know other forms of these characters.  They say that the characters on screen weren’t true to their comic counterparts.  This wasn’t sacrilege to my friends, it was more disrespectful.  “Singer never got Cyclops right”.  “Dark Phoenix was wasted”.  “Kitty Pryde should be with Colossus”.  To them, the films didn’t live up to their own personal connection to the characters because they were the ones as children watching the Saturday morning cartoon and the ones who read the comics.  But to me, these characters only existed as they appeared in the movies.  I didn’t have any other history or knowledge about theses adapted stories and characters.  I spent my formative years watching the X-Men on screen, and they are the only iteration that truly matter to me.

The seventeen year history of this series was constantly on my mind as I viewed Jackman’s final portrayal in Logan.  I recalled my experience seeing X2 or First Class for the first times.  I remembered learning about the Dark Phoenix.  I remembered talking with my friends about why they considered these films to be poor compared to the comics.  I thought about all the happy memories I had with these characters in the theater as Patrick Stewart gives the performance of his lifetime as his lies in bed quietly talking about how this day on the farm was one of the happier moments in his life.  Every time I teared up watching Logan, including in that monologue juxtaposing Charles’ death, I reminisced my times with these characters.  It was more than just a speech well acted.  It was a speech that spoke about my own experience, my own happy times with the X-Men.  That history and bond was the key to why I loved Logan so much.

Without that history, I honestly don’t know how the film would play.  I think people would still enjoy the film and appreciate its merits, but I am not sure if it would land such a powerful punch when Logan could barely speak a sentence after burying Charles Xavier or when Laura turned the cross into an X over Logan’s grave.  But for me, it was that powerful, those gut punches landed, and my heart was heavy as I watched the film.

Logan was great for many reasons, from its action, to its quiet character reflections, to X-23/Laura, and Jackman’s performance.  But its emotional resonance is what stands out to me.  The bond I’ve felt over the near two decades of Jackaman as Wolverine was felt in every minute of Logan.  In the same timespan, we have had three different Spider-Mans, two Batmans, two Supermans, Ryan Reynolds in three different comic book franchises, and two James Bonds.  But we have only had one Wolverine.  Through Jackman, Stewart, Jansen, McKellan, and the many other actors who have portrayed these characters I adore, the X-Men franchise will always be special to me precisely because my experience with them has been through one artistic prism.  The silver screen is where I can find my X-Men.

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