Major spoilers ahead for Logan. The biggest. If you haven't seen it yet, you really don't want to read any further.
#Logan was an emotional viewing experience. Emotional because it was the Wolverine we really deserved, let loose, the first opportunity to take the character in a darker, more visceral direction, and because that R-rated gamble paid off. Emotional because Hugh Jackman had made it clear this would be his final outing, and as send-offs go it could hardly have been more perfect.
Above all else, though, it was emotional for one reason — the Wolverine is dead.
No other superhero movie ever had the balls to kill off a hero at the end of his solo movie, which is weird in itself, considering it happens all the time in comic books. Death is never really final in that realm, but on the big screen it's different. If the audience sees a character die, we expect them to stay dead (none of this Batman v Superman fuckery), and so for Wolverine, this really is the last stand.
Which begs the question — have Fox done the right thing? 17 years in, the X-Men are at a crossroads. We've been here before, when X-Men: The Last Stand and the awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine almost buried the entire saga, but things feel different this time. In 2009, the response was to bring in fresh directorial blood and flesh out the relationship between the two of the most important mutants, Charles and Erik, in a First Class. That turned out to be pretty inspired, but in ushering in a new prequel trilogy it also kept a formulaic focus on a very narrow band of mutants.
In 2016, the general indifference to X-Men: Apocalypse seems to have had almost the opposite effect. Instead of streamlining, Fox awakened to the potential to explore parts of the #XMen universe the main saga has been happy to ignore. Characters like X-23, Deadpool, Cable, the X-Force and Xavier's New Mutants team will take centre stage while the likes of Mystique and Magneto take a back seat (that's if either returns at all for X-Men: Supernova).
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In effect, Logan is not just the final Wolverine movie, but also the first movie in a phase of more forward-thinking X-Men films which you might loosely term "the third wave," if the movies between X-Men and Origins were the first wave while First Class to Apocalypse make up the second wave.
If Deadpool was the movie that convinced Fox of the potential to step away from the safe, PG-13 storytelling which defines their more successful competitor, #Marvel, Logan is the true beginning of this third wave because it's brave enough to take the biggest risk of all. By killing its hero, it announces a new dawn for the X-Men saga — one which paints its characters in bolder strokes and doesn't worry about whether it's inoffensive enough to make a billion dollars at the box office.
That doesn't necessarily mean every movie needs to be R-rated, but when Logan is raking in almost as much money as Days Of Future Past, you'd be mad to rule out the prospect of an R-rated X-Men team movie at some point down the line. Still, that's not what this third wave of the saga is about — the violence and the language are secondary to the willingness to take a risk.
James Mangold made Logan not just as a passion project or a fitting farewell for Hugh Jackman, but as a reaction to the endlessly formulaic nature of other superhero movies. He doesn't even believe that the "superhero movie" is its own genre, and what Fox has proven with this movie and with Deadpool is that it doesn't need to be. Action, comedy, western, sci-fi. Those are all spaces a hero in a suit can inhabit while telling fresh stories, and that's what this third wave will be about — finding those spaces. Telling those stories.
So, yeah, Fox has done the right thing. Wolverine got the farewell he deserved — but the X-Men have never been about one hero. They're a team, and in death Logan has truly taken one for the team in a manner that allows his fellow mutants to regenerate into something far more exciting on the big screen. That's the real legacy of Logan.
The aggressively brilliant header illustration was created by The Brave Union.
Do you believe that Logan, and the death of Wolverine, marks a fresh new beginning for the X-Men movies?