Director James Mangold talks Logan – Timelines, family and aggression

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The Nintendo Switch may be dominating the headlines right now, but the biggest reveal for me yesterday was the first proper look at Hugh Jackman older and world-weary Wolverine in Logan. Streamed to the tune of Johnny Cash’s iconic version of Hurt, Logan finds himself in a world where mutants are endangered and old allies are broken.

It’s utterly haunting stuff, especially with the addition of the mutant-hunting cyborgs known as the Reavers and the appearance of a young girl who happens to have a very strong link to the Wolverine. And according to director James Mangold, that decision to use Johnny Cash in the first trailer for Logan was done so that audiences would know that they weren’t going to be sitting down for tried and trusted superhero shenanigans on the big screen.

“Obviously I have a connection and a fondness for Johnny Cash, and his tone and his message and his music,” Mangold said to Empire.

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But the real driver in all these decisions is trying to separate ourselves, in an accurate way, from the other superhero movies. We think we’re going to deliver something a little different and we want to make sure we’re selling audiences on the difference. Sometimes even when a movie’s a little different, the studio’s trying to market the movie just like all the others.

[Cash’s] music, in a way, separates us from the standard, bombastic, brooding orchestral, swish-bang, doors opening and slamming, explosions kind of methodology of some of these movies.

Basically, that resulted in Jackman and Mangold working on a movie that was tailored towards the character, not the franchise, even if it did require ignoring the events of the timelines set up in previous X-Men movies:

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Hugh and I have been talking about what we would do since we were working on the last one, and for both of us it was this requirement that, to be even interested in doing it, we had to free ourselves from some assumptions that had existed in the past, and be able to change the tone a bit. Not merely to change for change’s sake, but also to make something that’s speaking to the culture now, that’s not just the same style — how many times can they save the world in one way or another?

How can we construct a story that’s built more on character and character issues, in a way as if it almost wasn’t a superhero movie, yet it features their powers and struggles and themes?

As for the when of Logan? Mangold said that this film took place in a point of time that was already far beyond the time period seen in X-Men: Days of Future Past:

We are in the future, we have passed the point of the epilogue of Days Of Future Past. We’re finding all these characters in circumstances that are a little more real. The questions of ageing, of loneliness, of where I belong. Am I still useful to the world? I saw it as an opportunity. We’ve seen these characters in action, saving the universe. But what happens when you’re in retirement and that career is over?

In Logan, Wolverine’s infamous healing factor isn’t exactly operating in a manner that he’s used to. Focused more on survival than actual good health, the healing factor that saw him survive battles with Magneto, Sentinels and Brett Ratner’s third X-Men movie is starting to take a toll on the berserker:

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One of the things we all thought about as we worked on this film is, well, we don’t want to rebuild everything. We want to have some questions. In order to make a different Logan, and a different tone of a Wolverine movie, we felt like we couldn’t hold on to every tradition established in all the movies religiously, or we’d be trapped by the decisions made before us. So we questioned whether Logan’s healing factor causes him to heal without even a scar.

We imagined that it may have when he was younger, but with age, he’s getting older and ailing. Perhaps his healing factor no longer produces baby-soft skin. So we imagined he heals quickly, still, but it leaves a scar. The simple idea was that his body would start to get a little more ravaged with a kind of tattooing of past battles, lacerations that remain of previous conflicts.

Don’t understimate Logan however. This Wolverine may be old, but he’s also plenty mean when pushed too far as Mangold broke down how the film was taking advantage of its R-rating:

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[This represents] to me the kind of aggressive, classical Wolverine action that we want in the movie – more of something that fans have been asking for, for a really long time. We’ve been limited in one way or another from giving it to them, but I think we’ve got the go-ahead to really go for it on this picture. So we’re really trying to deliver what folks have always imagined those kind of battles would look like.

There is a lot of high-octane action in the movie. We’re just trying to do it very differently and very viscerally.

But beyond all that? Logan isn’t a movie about a last ride, but rather about family:

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I think this movie is about family, and sticking together, and about making connections in a world in which our characters might feel very alone.

And that gives the film an edge I reckon. It can afford to be gritty and vicious when the action calls for it, while still embracing the weirdness of the X-Men franchise and a need to find somewhere to belong. That puts Logan un a unique spot. And it puts me in an impatient spot as I wait for March to roll around for the cinematic release.

Bub.

Last Updated: October 21, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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