Expectations are (rightfully) high for the premiere of Logan this week—read our roundtable review of the film and see why the three of us who saw it think it’s amongst the best of the X-Men franchise. But before you see it, you might want to check out these five other things that will prime your appetite for the feast you are about to experience.
First, Old Man Logan is not on this list. Why? Well, despite Wolverine showing his age in this film, there is very little else in common with the film. This continues the X-Franchise’s history of being only marginally inspired by the comic book storylines of First Class, Wolverine: Origins, Age of Apocalypse, and Days of Future Past, but not much else. If you haven’t read Old Man Logan, you’re not going to miss any references or Easter Eggs.
Here are some other, less obvious, choices—and you’re going to start to detect a theme here.
This tale of a desperate rancher (Christian Bale) forced to help escort a dangerous criminal (Russell Crowe) to an afternoon train to a Yuma prison is a perfect tonal companion to Logan. It’s violent, brutal, and beautiful in all the ways Logan is. It’s also another stunning example of James Mangold’s work as a director. Watch this and imagine it as the warm-up act for what Mangold would bring to Logan.
A video game, not a movie! But one of the most cinematic games ever. While on the surface there may not be a lot of similarities (Logan is not post-apocalyptic, there is no plague, there are no zombies) this tale is similar enough in terms of having a world-weary protector trying to smuggle a girl with secrets—perhaps secrets that could lead to a better world for all of humankind—across the landscape of the United States. Also, you shouldn’t need a reason to revisit this game.
For those who are not Playstation-enabled, I would recommend instead Season One of Telltale’s Walking Dead game for many of the same reasons.
This is the big one. If you have never seen Shane, the time to watch it is now. Or at least have it ready to watch after you see Logan. You’ll see why after you’ve seen it, but there are thematic reasons to see this, as well as the fact that Mangold has Professor X, Logan and Laura all watching this movie in a hotel room at one point. And they lift an entire piece of dialogue from it.
Shane is a classic western. And so is Logan. You want to see this. If there’s only one thing you watch, listen to or play from this list, make it Shane.
When the trailer for Logan featured Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt¸ it immediately set an expectation of greatness—and bleakness. And the film delivers on that in spades. As I sat watching the film, often slack-jawed, I was reminded of the lyrics to Cash’s The Man Comes Around, which draws from apocalyptic imagery from the book of Revelation. Death is coming. And he will destroy us all and sift the righteous and the wicked alike.
I didn’t think the song would ever be better used than in the finale of the first season of The Sarah Conner Chronicles where “Chromartie” takes apart an entire SWAT team.
And then (spoiler alert?) they play it over the closing credits. Not a bad piece of music to listen to as you wait for an after-credits scene, no? But that’s just the first two songs on the album, which also include heartbreaking and beautiful renditions of “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode, “In My Life” by The Beatles, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel, and “Desperado” by The Eagles. This album helps capture a lot of the tone and feeling of the film, as well as dealing with the issues of aging and approaching death that pepper Logan.
It’s also worth noting that James Mangold also directed the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, so there’s some overlap here, too.
Yes, another Western. I’m hoping you’re getting the picture here. Not only was this one of the best movies of 2016 that somehow most people seemed to miss, it’s a perfect companion piece to Logan. The social commentary about the death and desperation of the rural West is all over this film—and Logan takes that commentary to the next level of extrapolating a plausible future, albeit one with mutants in it, or at least a few surviving ones.
And just as Logan deals with its aging heroes, so too does Hell or High Water—Jeff Bridges as the irascible (and racist) Texas Ranger looking for one last case before he retires would fit in well tracking Professor X and Logan across the west.
Director David Mackenzie and Mangold seem to have similar understandings of what makes a classic western: you shoot the hell out of the scenery and use it to its best effect to portay all of your themes in your film as well. They’re both visually stunning films, although Mangold gets the advantage of shooting in multiple locations from the Mexican to Canadian border and everywhere in between and Mackenzie sticks to the panhandle of Texas and Oklahoma.
Well, I know I’ll get a complaint from at least one person if I don’t at least mention that Mangold also directed Jackman in the previous The Wolverine movie as well as Kate and Leopold. Assuming you’ve already seen the former, and your mileage may vary with the latter, I’m not going to necessarily recommend either one. Despite having the same director and lead actor, the films are so different from one another to make them hard to recommend before seeing Logan.
But I hope these recommendations get you ready to experience one of the best movies of the year so far as well as one of the best films of the X-Men franchise.