*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Logan.*
As Wolverine returns to the dilapidated, abandoned water plant in Logan, after clashing violently with newly deceased gang of youths, he meets a peculiar figure. Lanky, gangly, hairless and flushed of skin pigmentation, the lightweight framework of Stephen Merchant is still distinguishable behind Caliban's makeup. Then, Caliban talks, and instead of a trained American accent, the mutant talks in Merchant's recognizable dulcet Bristolian tone.
It's a moment that briefly pierces the facade of Logan's dark, rage-fuelled opening. Caliban's intonation is unexpected, and provides a stark contrast between Merchant and #HughJackman; the latter, born in Australia, has carefully-honed his American accent across his 17 year run as Wolverine.
For some, Merchant's West Country drawl may have been too much of a distraction, maybe even taking away some focus from the tone of #Logan. However, this is his natural way of speaking, and although arguably an accent more suited to comedy, it was refreshing and unusual to hear something so different in the backdrop of a big budget #XMen movie.
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Caliban's Role In 'Logan'
In Logan, #Caliban has the appearance of a villain. His deep, sunken eyes transmit a steely gaze, and his aura gives off the impression he could switch allegiances at any time, which is fitting with the comics, where Caliban often switched between being a friend and a foe to the X-Men.
His role in the film plays on this disparity. He is initially isolated in the abandoned hideout, selflessly helping Logan care for an ageing Professor X. However, later in the movie, his ability to telepathically detect the presence of other mutants (like a walking, talking Cerebro) is vindictively exploited by Transigen villain Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
After Pierce kidnaps Caliban and exposes him to sunlight, causing the albino mutant severe pain, Caliban agrees to use his power to track #Wolverine, #X23 and Xavier, while doing all he can to make the information as vague as possible. In the end, Caliban makes the ultimate sacrifice — he destroys the Transigen van where he is held captive by exploding two hand grenades, and kills himself in the process.
Where Does Caliban's Accent Originate From?
For non-UK audiences, the accent may be hard to pin down. Merchant was born and bred in Bristol, a city in the South West of England. Bristol has produced streams of creative talent over the years, and is known for its musical culture and artistic heritage, including the likes of Massive Attack, Roni Size, Portishead and street artist Banksy.
But on to the accent. Bristolian is a colorful dialect in its own right, and even has its own dictionary, with words and phrases frequently used and understood by those from the city. For example, "gurt lush" is a term that can be applied to many things, but generally means "awesome." Logan is gurt lush. But so is strawberry cheesecake, tax refunds and Eva Mendes. It's practically universal.
Generally, the accent is seen as friendly, unassuming and approachable, although perhaps not the most intellectually sounding — making it perfect for comedy actors such as Merchant. But, before you suggest that it's not fit for Hollywood, it was once voted the fourth sexiest accent in the UK in a YouGov Daily survey. So. There.
Why Caliban's Bristolian Accent Is Fitting For 'Logan'
So what is the relevance between the ear candy of the Bristolian accent and Logan? Although distracting for some, Merchant's accent is fitting for this particular version of Caliban. The character was recently portrayed in more sinister terms by Tomas Lemarquis in X-Men: Apocalypse, but Merchant's version of the character is less threatening, and extremely vulnerable.
The accent helps with that. It throws viewers off course, but in a manner that highlights Caliban's peculiarity. It might not sound serious, but this is a character who, even within the realm of mutants, is seen as a bit of an outcast. Most importantly, this interpretation is much more affable, and, even when working for the bad guys, his accent diffuses him as a threat.
Caliban was admittedly bizarre, but rather than taking anything away from the story, ultimately he was a loyal friend to his fellow X-Men until the end. Merchant's accent — from the city that was voted the kindest in the UK — helps to add to that. And I'm not just saying that because I'm from Bristol, me babber. It really is gurt lush.
Did you like Merchant's accent in Logan? Or was it too much of a distraction for you?