I liked a lot about it, but I also found a lot of things that bugged me. The more I think about it, the less well it holds together. Certainly, these are just my observations from one viewing, and I probably need to watch it a few more times to have a firm opinion, but here we go.
First the good stuff. The fight scenes were astounding and brutal. This movie earned its R rating, also with some oddly out of place seemingly gratuitous nudity (here are some boobs, but now this is not what our R rating is about). Even though he’s clearly not intended to be at his prime here, Wolverine is the best at what he does, and Hugh Jackman is amazing in the role. Patrick Stewart is a gem. Pretty much the entire cast is great. The movie is well paced, it never feels rushed or draggy, the music is great, and almost everything about it is exquisitely crafted. The X-24 reveal was pretty perfect, as was the beard trimming scene.
While I don’t feel like the story itself was very interesting, or any particular part was very well fleshed out, my primary complaint is that I didn’t feel like the movie really earned the right to write the resolution of these characters in this way. I continue to hope that Wolverine offers the world something better than the death of an alcoholic uber driver, and this take is a very cynical view. The essence of Wolverine as a character is his continual struggle to escape the combination of his destiny, his instincts, and his past, and his corresponding continual lapses in doing so in search of the greater good. As soon as his destiny wins, it’s just depressing. The world as depicted here is pretty fucking lawless and bleak, and it’s unclear what hope these mutant kids are adding to it, why they or the world are worth saving in the first place – this looks like it’s all just the same cycle beginning anew. The resulting message here is that if you want to “save the world”, the best way to do it is to remove yourself and others like you from it. That’s… not very encouraging. Is the movie supposed to be about how these powers are dangerous and can’t be controlled, and mutants can tragically never live a normal life? Maybe – but then what are the ones who survive going to go do? And if they’re making a better world where that’s not the case, why can’t Professor X and Logan and all of the others share in that? There’s no compelling reason offered here for why they needed to die to make this happen. Maybe it’s just some stuff that happens.
Part of the problem, I think, is that it is both trying to be a serious drama but also a superhero movie set in the X-Men universe, and it feels like it steps a little too far into the serious drama territory. A lot of people clearly like this, but to me it just fails to explain the way the world is with the rest of that fantastical setting. A lot of things are just glossed over with little explanation, and I was left with a great number of “but what about…” questions. I can sort of see why they did it, but this is clearly a much more involved and complicated world, and I’m not sure they really figured all that stuff out for a consistent story. What actually happened to the rest of the X-Men? There are references to them being hunted down, and probably Professor X killed some of them in Westchester, but it’s never made clear. In the X-Men universe as it’s existed until now, there would have been resources to draw upon when this first happened. How did we get to the right response to this being to hole up in a tank in the desert, and how did Logan get to be in charge of this? It’s never explained how we got here, and without that explanation, I don’t find it fully plausible. Ironically, like much of DC’s recent work, in trying to make it more “realistic”, it just ends up in the uncanny valley where it’s sort of like our world, but things are subtly out of place.
A few other random thoughts:
- In retrospect, Logan’s sacrifice at the end of the movie was wholly unnecessary – those kids all had the powers to save themselves, and they were able to use them at any time without being previously released (or presumably before they were captured). That they didn’t do so until the very end seems contrived.
- I don’t understand why the Reavers were capturing the kids when the stated intent was to kill them. They brought X-24 to that fight, so why just tie them all up first?
- I don’t understand why crossing the border is “safe”. The Reavers clearly don’t care very much about national borders. Are the kids going to Canada to meet Alpha Flight? Little things like this don’t add up.
- That serum doesn’t last very long even if you take it all at once.
- I don’t really understand who owned that compound at the end or why it was there. I like the idea that Eden was made up, but a bunch of people read the same comic and all took a leap of faith, and then they went there and built it. But the movie doesn’t really answer that.
- I was surprised at the level of anti-technology sentiment in the movie. HFCS and automated farmers are destroying everything we love in the world, the gig economy is viewed as the last resort of washed up superheroes (not entirely unfair), and autonomous trucks are explicitly portrayed as an inhuman destructive force. This level of commentary is not out of bounds for a superhero movie, but I wasn’t expecting it.
Finally, though I appreciated the lack of a post-credits scene, what I was really expecting was for there to be one last hurrah, where Logan would dig himself out, brush himself off, find half of that stogie he took from the convenience store, and walk off into the sunset while lighting it up. Bub.