When thinking about film, it is always wise to remember how many people need to collaborate to bring any one movie to viewers. In the case of the new movie starring Marvel superhero Wolverine, “Logan,” we need to be especially certain we remember that movie-advertising “trailers” are made by specialists, not usually by the director and crew of the film in question.
The usual explanation of the term “trailer” is that studios used to stick previews of coming attractions on to the end of film versions of current movies. I’ve often wondered if it isn’t more likely the word came into use because the advertising was made after—it “trailed”—the filming of the motion picture. Not its editing, mind you, or the inclusion of its music. But after the filming.
The trailer for “Logan” is a special one. On top of the usual montage of shots taken from the film, it includes Johnny Cash’s famous, emotional version of the 12 Inch Nails song “I Hurt Myself Today.” And Cash was nearly as close to his end as Hugh Jackman is made to seem in the visuals. He’s beat up and grizzled and looks as if he might have to check to make sure all the parts of him still work.
Heck, in the movie he has a limp like the one Boris Karloff used in “The Mummy.” This is what years of running around fighting other people’s battles have gotten him. He is old and sick and yet still dynamic, and this is what appeals to us as we watch the trailer. The movie, though, is longer than a coming attraction. It is less focused on its title character’s physical decline, although that is one of its subjects. The Wolverine of 2029 is tired and aging. But he’s a long way from alone.
In point of fact, he’s an Uber sort of limo driver. He drives a huge black vehicle, apparently in El Paso, and is directed to customers by texts on his smart phone.
And then, he does have a home to go to, such as it is. South of the border in an abandoned train siding associated with a mine, “mutants” Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are waiting for him each morning. Logan is trying to raise enough money to buy a boat to sail the three of them away.
X-Men and Wolverine fans understand that mutants are humans, each with a special power. Their powers make normal folks suspicious of them—sometimes rightly. In 2029 mutants are being hunted down. So Logan is unhappy when a couple of people recognize him as Wolverine, the mutant hero with hide tough as Kevlar and long claws which spring out of his hands when he is angered.
One of those who recognize him is a nurse who has smuggled an 11 year-old girl out of a hospital in which mutants were being generated from d.n.a and then were being raised in to be special mercenaries. When the head doctor (played by Richard E. Grant) discovered an easier way to get the same product, staff began offing their stock of child mutants.
About a dozen have escaped, though, and are making their way to a rendezvous in North Dakota where they will together sneak off to an undescribed safe haven. The nurse has with her one of the children, a girl named Laura. We will learn that little Laura has the same sort of powers as Wolverine.
Logan would not help to transport her to Josh the flying Duhamel’s home state, but he is forced to when thugs from the hospital, usually supported by local police, go after him. We get actions scenes whenever the thugs catch up with Wolverine, Lil’ Wolverine, and the sickly Xavier. The limo gets our heroes to Oklahoma City, which in the film looks a lot like Las Vegas.
Then Logan buys a big pick-up and takes it on to Wyoming where he befriends a family of African- American horse owners and corn growers. Which means they’re in the crosshairs when the thugs arrive. Worse yet, the bad guys have with them a lively version of Wolverine who sometimes is disguised as Logan.
“Logan” ends pretty much as we would expect, with self-sacrifice and hope in the new generation. Which is well set-up by the business in the effective trailer. But the intensity of Cash’s performance is beyond even Jackman’s considerable skill.