Logan, directed by James Mangold, is the third film in the Wolverine trilogy (if you can call it that), the tenth film in Fox’s X-Men series, and a departure from the other films in the X-franchise. Not just because it’s rated R, either. This one is very much a classic genre film, with Wolverine playing the part of the cowboy or the samurai.
In fact, the film draws strong parallels between Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Shane, the title character played by Alan Ladd in the 1953 film. In both movies, the main characters struggle to maintain the lives of anonymous peace they desired after so many years of being one of the preeminent killers in the world. Both Shane and Logan have young children looking up them, to whom they must explain how the world really works. Logan references Shane directly more than once, even having Charles Xavier show the film to the young, mysterious girl he and Logan are trying to help. Even the ends of the movies echo each other, in tone and dialogue. Adding Shane to your list of movies to watch will greatly increase your understanding and enjoyment of Logan.
Another film that explores many similar ideas to Logan is the 1972 John Wayne Western The Cowboys. The Duke plays a cattle rancher with no good options. His hands have all left him before an important cattle drive, and he’s forced to press a group of schoolboys into service. Along the way, he teaches them how to fend for themselves in a rough and tumble world so that they can help him against the cattle rustlers. Eventually, he’s not around to help them anymore. In Logan, Wolverine is left to care for a young girl who’s very much like him, and she’ll need to face the world without him sooner or later. Both films explore the struggle with paternal relationships in people who don’t want to be paternal.
Those two films certainly embody the cowboy spirit of Logan, but there are two Samurai films that I would recommend people check out if they’re looking for the same vibe. The first is Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972), part one in the six-movie Japanese series, which tells the tale of a highly capable samurai who has been framed by the Shogunate and roams the countryside with his infant son, killing all manner of bad guys and proving why he is a badass among badasses. Sound a bit like Wolverine? I thought so.
The other samurai film I’d suggest is Akira Kurosawa’s Sanjuro (1962), starring Toshiro Mifune. It’s the sequel to the much more well-known Yojimbo, and tells the story of Mifune’s cynical samurai getting roped into a situation where he’s helping a group of young people who have been framed by a corrupt system. If the Wolverine had been Japanese, there’s no doubt in my mind that the actor who could have most closely embodied his spirit was Toshiro Mifune. He’s sly and cunning, cynical and gruff, and he’s just fascinating to watch. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jackman studied Mifune for his portrayal of Logan, particularly the moments in Yojimbo where Mifune’s samurai character is left to heal slowly after getting completely decimated by the bad guys before returning to have his vengeance.
Any of these pictures would be perfect followups to your evening with Wolverine. Not only will they help expand your appreciation for the work James Mangold has done in Logan, but they’ll help broaden your film horizons as well.
Bryan Young avenges past wrongs in Salt Lake City.