After hearing universally good things about it, I finally managed to see Logan last night. I liked it a lot. It’s certainly one of the best-made superhero films since Unbreakable. Before the movie we watched a trailer for a Pierce Brosnan western and I made a comment to my friend about how all older British actors dream of doing a western, and then here we have Patrick Stewart in a superhero western. Cool!

It is my high opinion of this movie, then, that makes me feel like I have to pick it apart some. It’s a good movie that was on the cusp of being a great movie. (Or, perhaps, it’s a great superhero movie that’s just shy of a great movie.)

It’s probably not coincidence that a 2015 Kottke post showed up in my Twitter feed a week or two ago. It includes the following video about 2006’s Children of Men, which you should watch.

[Spoilers for Logan follow.]

Children of Men is a great film. It follows Clive Owen as he helps escort the first woman to become pregnant in decades across the country to safety. Logan, of course, follows Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as he helps escort the first mutant born in decades across the country to safety. Both movies are set in a dystopian future where the world has started to fail. Both feature fairly simple plots. Both try to push their world-building to the background while focusing on character. Children of Men just does all of it better than Logan and includes a bunch of famous long takes, too. Fewer adamantium claw eviscerations, though.

The comparison is, maybe, unfair, but I think it’s unavoidable, so here we are. I’d like to offer a few ways I’d have changed Logan had I been given the screenplay beforehand. I’m of course completely unqualified to make screenwriting suggestions but, hey, why not?

  1. First, and most importantly, at no point does Logan wear a cowboy hat. This is inexcusable. We even see mannequins with cowboys hats! It’s a western and Hugh Jackman would look badass in a cowboy hat! He wears one in the comics sometimes!
  2. There are a few background details that flesh out the future setting. I’d like a little more. Why do they seem to drive futuristic electric cars (which still sound like they have motors of course) but use smartphones from 2017? Don’t tell me but hint a little more in the background (unless I missed something). I liked, for example, the way we see ads for genetically-modified corn, see the trucks, then learn the trucks are evil trucks and see that corn being grown. I’d have preferred for the bad guy not to say, “as you know, we used generically-modified corn to affect mutant birth rates.” Find another way to get that information out since it’s world-building detail and not plot detail. Again, Children of Men does this all masterfully so I’m holding Logan to a high bar here.
  3. We need one scene with some levity between Logan and Laura. Just a little more the lighten the mood so the whole film isn’t so depressing. We almost get there at the gas station where she rides the little coin-operated horse. There needs to be something to put forward a fantasy that she could be a normal kid some day and that Logan could be her dad. Something happens that’s funny, they laugh, then get serious again because they’re too tough to get caught laughing.
  4. I think Xavier should die as a result of his over-exertion from the casino hotel room scene. He was using his powers one last time to save Laura. He was redeeming himself for whatever happened in Westchester. (Which, credit where due, they didn’t flesh out even one tiny bit more than was needed. We know all we need to about it. A worse movie would have included a quick blurry flashback to Xavier having a siezure and killing all his students with brain powers.) He’d already served his plot function. Let him get hurt there.
  5. I’d keep the scene where Logan helps Eriq Le Salle’s Munson with the water but have Logan get shot while fighting off the goons. He’s helped but also created trouble for the farmers. Instead of Logan being super injured from a big fight, he’s now struggling to shrug off a single gunshot, but we don’t see how much it’s affecting him for a while because…
  6. Charles is dying in the farmers’ guest bed. We have the same, good dinner scene earlier but that was about all the strength he has left. We get some good acting from Stewart as he has one final talk with Logan.
  7. I’d cut entirely the commando fight sequence here. We’ve already seen them fight commandos at the compound in Mexico, and we’ll see it again in the finale. The family doesn’t die on screen. Logan has created trouble for them by confronting the corporate guys. Maybe we see them make a phone call to the home office who call the bad guys. Maybe we see their trucks pulling up to the farm after Logan leaves.
  8. Eliminate the evil Logan clone and just make Pierce the main villain. Aside from just being a weird turn, I think his existence undercuts the importance of the X-23 kids as these super soldiers that the bad guys have invested so much in. If you really need a thug for Logan to wail on, make him an augmented human to play up the idea that these guys hate mutants. Maybe he has fancy adamantium tactical gear and a healing serum.
  9. When Logan and Laura get to Eden, it seemed obvious to me that there’d be a big showdown there. It was a mountaintop cabin with clear sight lines to terrain all around it. I fully expected the final scene to be a siege where the commandos are trying to scale that cliff and Logan has to go all Seven Soldiers + Rio Bravo. It’d be the perfect way to mix in the western themes with some Wolverine as samurai stuff! Show them setting up some traps and give the kids a few small victories using their powers to slow the assault. Eventually they’d lose ground and the kids would retreat into the woods for the ending. I’m baffled as to why this scene doesn’t exist.

That’s what I have off the top of my head. Again, I liked the movie a lot. Enough that I think it’s worthy of this sort of criticism vs, say, X-Men: Apocalypse where my script advice would be: go back and write a better movie. Logan has so much going for it that I can’t help but want it to soar even higher.

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