What happens when Wolverine's claws slice through a limb? You really get to see in 'Logan.'(Photo: 20th Century Fox)
What just happened??!!
That’s a question many moviegoers are asking after seeing Logan, the gritty Wolverine finale that had 2017’s biggest opening so far ($85.3 million and counting). They can’t believe they just saw so many bodies get disemboweled by Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) claws, and they’re surprised a comic-book movie just made them cry.
It's the result of letting Wolverine — an enraged, claw-wielding comic-book antihero — loose in his first R-rated movie, 17 years after making his big-screen debut in X-Men.
So, what did just happen?
Much as Ryan Reynolds insisted upon a R rating for Deadpool to better embrace his X-Men character's foul-mouthed personality, Logan director James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman "made a pact very early on that we wanted a R rating to make a movie about a character who has lived in violence," says Mangold, who also directed The Wolverine. "When you have a character with claws on his knuckles, it’s a real challenge to stage those fights under a PG and PG-13 rating."
As a result, Logan is decisively "not for children," says Mangold.
"There's no rule that just because a movie is about a comic-book character, it must be geared toward children in action figures, Happy Meals and T-shirts," he says. "No one considers a comic book only for 12-year-olds anymore. It's an art form that has evolved."
Laura (Dafne Keen) has a pair of claws in each hand that come out the same way Wolverine's do. Just because a movie features a child, "doesn't mean it's for children," says Mangold. (Photo: Ben Rothstein.)
This time around, Mangold and Jackman decided to make a dark, Western-inspired drama, as opposed to a glossy popcorn movie.
Jackman was only interested in returning to the role if "we could do something way deeper, way more realistic, way more precise and (take) a deeper look at the character and what motivates him," the actor says.
The action "needed to be extreme. It needed to be a departure from every Wolverine and X-Men movie we’ve seen,” says makeup designer Joel Harlow, whose team created the many gashes, dummy heads and flesh chunks seen onscreen. “You don’t have blue, green and red mutants. Everything we did had a very grounded, real feel to it.”
For example, when Wolverine slices the arm of a gangbanger, his trio of indestructible metal blades don't leave a paper cut, but “a severed arm and a couple of doughnuts of flesh bone and muscles, because that’s what three blades do.”
Playing Wolverine in action-packed X-Men movies has "been very good therapy for me along the way," says Jackman. "I think I’m a much calmer person in life, because I get to do this every couple years." (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
As for a decapitated head, it shouldn’t bounce (as some fake heads do) but should be weighted in the mouth so that its jaw looks slack and much more lifelike. (Well, dead-like.)
“I wanted the (violence) to have a kind of intensity that was really shocking,” says Mangold. “In a way, it was to give audiences a chance to exalt in the things fans have been craving and hit them with the reality of the aftermath, after the rage subsides and he’s looking at the carnage at his feet. That’s a really powerful and important theme.”
Other important themes include alcoholism, disease, depression and death, including those of beloved characters. So what audiences ultimately react to most strongly are the emotional gut punches delivered in the third act.
In fact, many moviegoers who took to Twitter after seeing the movie admitted they welled up.
Want more? Listen to the Mothership podcast, all about Logan, in the player below:
Contributing: Brian Truitt