Posted on Monday, March 6th, 2017 by Angie Han
For weeks, the critical buzz on Logan has been that it’s a fitting end to Hugh Jackman‘s 17-year tenure as Wolverine. And now that the film’s actually been out for a few days, and most of you have had a chance to see it, it’s time to talk about how it sends off the iconic superhero character. During a recent press day, I had a chance to sit down with director/co-writer James Mangold and dig deep into the spoilers for this latest and last Wolverine movie.
I won’t say anymore up here, lest I ruin the film for those who haven’t watched it yet. But those of you who have, click through to wade into spoiler territory with Mangold and me.
This is your final warning. MASSIVE SPOILERS for Wolverine begin on the very next line and run all the way through the rest of this story.
So, you kill off Wolverine in this movie. How early in the process did you decide to do that? Was there any hesitation?
No. Well, there’s two questions you have there. One is, how early? It was the first thing I just wrote down as a premise of how we were going structure the movie, was that we were gonna find Logan and Charles living on the lam, first in Kentucky in a bourbon factory with Charles inside a bourbon tank. The idea was that Charles had a degenerative brain disease and Logan was caring for him and they were, in a sense, wanted, and on the run, and into their life came X-23.
Also in that initial blueprint was the idea that when they go on the run, Charles would end up being a casualty mid-picture. Not just because, oh, we can do that, but because if you’re thinking in a story sense, if you have a lead character in Logan who is resisting being a father to this girl, and Charles is largely the reason she’s along for the ride with them, then the most dramatic and interesting development you can have happen is remove the character who is the reason she was there. So that he is suddenly faced with whether he can own up to his responsibility to her.
Well, I was also going to ask you how quickly you decided to kill off Professor X, but I guess you just answered that. So it sounds like it was one of the things you figured out really early in the process…
It was the first thing we did. The whole idea that Hugh was finishing this journey in the X-Men universe, to me, meant that it kind of went without saying that he just had to die. Part of that is because if he just rode off, I thought it would just feel like, coy. But also because I thought we had a chance, I hope we’ve succeeded, at giving the audience a sense that there’s also something — it’s bittersweet. Not bitter. In the sense that Logan has lived three times longer than you or I will. Longer than that, even. And he has suffered and been butchered and his soul and his body have been manipulated by science and he’s been used to hurt people. And he’s carrying the burden and the scars and all of that through this life.
He’s died in movies and in comics, hundreds of times, only never completed the journey to the other side because of his healing factor. So it just seemed to me kind of poetically beautiful, that if we could construct it right, he would be allowed to pass. That death, almost like a rest, for this most tortured of characters would finally come.
So that part you figured out early on, but what changed about the story as you were developing it?
Well, once we started writing, we moved it to the Texas-Mexican border.
It seemed like a more interesting place. It seemed loaded with — first of all, more topical, in relation to what was going on in the world at the time. The metaphor of mutants as refugees on the run seemed relevant to the world. Also, on a very surface level, it struck me that I didn’t want the film to suddenly turn into a kind of cute father-daughter patter movie. One interesting way to avoid that would be to have Laura speak a different language. To make it a bilingual film. So the idea, then, that the border played into a strategy that Scott, Frank, and I came up with of making her, essentially, a Mexican girl. Half-Mexican. And Spanish-speaking. We thought that might help us later in the picture when she started to talk, that there’s still a difficulty in them even understanding each other, and that that would produce a really lovely dance between them.
When I saw Logan, when X-24 appears, there was this big gasp in the audience. How did you come to that idea? Did you have a hand in making sure the marketing didn’t spoil that? Because that’s not even hinted at, at all.
There was kind of gradations of what we could give away, before the film started, and we felt that that was one thing we really didn’t want to get into. There was one point early on where someone noticed that the claws descending on him in the first trailer — it’s a shot of him lying on the ground, and there’s these claws interlacing with his — that there were three claws and not two in the ones coming down. So it did create some interesting questions. But people seemed to leave it alone.
But yes, we were very conscious. We actually had a plan, marketing-wise, in terms of staging out what we would give away. At first, we didn’t even want to give away that Laura was X-23, although obviously, we knew people were gonna guess that. And the second they did guess it, we figured we’d start giving them confirmation and visuals to go along with that. But after that, we still felt that we should hold off on X-24.
Part of the reason we went with the idea of X-24 was that, I mean, what’s going to kill Wolverine? Who is going to kill Wolverine? Suddenly it becomes kind of an Oscar competition between supervillains, like, well, which one is most worthy of killing him? They solved it, obviously, in the comics, by making it like Murder on the Orient Express, and everyone did it. But that didn’t seem like a satisfactory — it seemed too clever for our movie.
So I ultimately landed on this idea that the best person to kill him would be Weapon X. Effectively, his darkest self. That a vision of his own self from the moment he spent his life regretting, the period of his life that he spent the rest of his life regretting, and remorseful for. What would be more dramatic than seeing that brought to life again and confronting him? And interestingly, you know, it is an unintentional, but in a way, Logan’s last epiphany in the film occurs when X-24 is dead. Almost as if, in some psychological sense, the darkness in him has been killed. Like almost by killing this alter ego, he has been freed from something that he’s been haunted by all his life.
Yeah. Oh, I want to cry just thinking about it.
Well, it seemed to me the most terrifying thing he could come face to face with, would be himself at his darkest moment.
Right. So, I know you’ve said that there’s nothing officially in the works with Laura, X-23, yet. But have you personally given any thought to what happens to her after the events of Logan?
Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Can you drop a hint?
Okay, fair enough [laughs].
You know, any hint I drop would sound hardly imaginative because there’s wonderful text out there about the character. I think that clearly it would be interesting, the most dominating reason being that we’ve come across such a wonderful actress playing her, that the idea of following her as she grows older seems really exciting.
I remember when I talked to you last time you said there were times when you just kind of looked at each other and were like, “I can’t believe we got away with that.” Can you tell me what’s one thing you got to do in Logan, that you’re surprised you got away with?
The sequence that is most shocking to me, yet at the same time I’m most proud of, one of them, is, they get taken in by a farm family and taken into this house mid-picture. It’s very warm scenes, with Logan and Charles and Laura, for the first time in a long time, having a taste, remembering, probably, the communal feeling of the X-Mansion, of the other X-Men, remembering what it feels like to not be on the run, almost getting lost in the feeling of that safety. But then the turn it takes into something so heinous. I mean, the film largely becomes kind of a horror film at that point. To me, that turn and the shocking nature of it, including Charles’s death, was something that still, when I watch it, I go, “I can’t believe they let me do this.”
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