Why ‘Logan’ is the Best Live-Action Version of a Disney Classic in Theaters Right Now

By  · Published on March 17th, 2017

Wolverine is basically Old Man Peter Pan.

A new TV ad for Logan suggests that you don’t go see “The Beauty” this weekend, as in the just released Beauty and the Beast, but go see “The Beast” instead. I agree with the recommendation, yet if Wolverine is to be likened to any character from a Disney classic, it should only be Peter Pan. And with Logan the comparison is especially interesting.

Oddly enough, Hugh Jackman recently starred as the villain Blackbeard in a prequel to the Peter Pan story as we know it, and it was properly – pun intended – panned. Logan is the better reworking of the material, which originated with dramatic and literary works by J.M. Barrie. This time Jackman is the Peter figure in a kind of epilogue to the tale. Forget Hook, because Logan offers the only old man Peter Pan we need.

Before you start picking apart the idea of Logan — or the overall Wolverine arc of the X-Men movies – being a live-action remake of Peter Pan, let me note it’s not my intention to make such a claim (I’ll leave that to YouTube’s Couch Tomato, who regularly finds parallels between movies, as he does this week with Splash and The Little Mermaid). There’s not much there in the way of what Logan can do to make us rethink Peter Pan, only vice versa.

Wolverine is a kind of forced Peter Pan figure. He doesn’t have Peter Pan syndrome so much as he has a Peter Pan condition. He simply can not age – at least not in the world of fairy tales, represented in Logan in the form of “X-Men” comic books, which is also to mean the other X-Men movies. He’s been stuck in a personal Neverland for about 200 years, until something finally made him grow older. That something is not adamantium poisoning so much as it is his stepping out into the more realistic world of Logan.

Because Wolverine is already an adult, the only place for him to advance to is death, and unlike the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, he’s not so reluctant to face this change. Yet at the end of Logan, his death leaves him as still the stuff of legends, while his Wendy, X-23, who is also his daughter (you could speculate that Wendy is Peter’s daughter with Mrs. Darling if you wanted), and a bunch of Lost Boys and Girls go off to try to have normal lives.

The death of Wolverine as the death of Peter Pan is, in a way, also a death of the superhero figure, of which Peter is a prototype example. Logan is a meta superhero movie, a deconstruction that acknowledges itself as make believe, with the in-story comic book counterparts, and that battles itself, with Wolverine fighting his younger, movie franchise version self as represented by the clone X-24 – also akin to Peter wrestling with his shadow.

The Doubles of ‘Logan’

Logan also is itself the literal growing up of the superhero genre, or at least a big section of it. Deadpool may have been the first R-rated entry of the previously kid-friendly X-Men franchise, but Logan is the point where it’s also matured. Superhero movies have been dark and edgy before, but that was just like kids being goth. Logan feels more like a movie for grownups, and it’s going to inspire more superhero movies for grownups now.

Where any comparison to Peter Pan falls apart for Logan is in the lack of a parallel for the Professor X role. If anything, he’s a paternalistic Jiminy Cricket, helping Wolverine, who was once made into a partially mechanical puppet, become a real man, who then must become a man of the real world. Otherwise, a lot lines up fine. The Reavers are pirates, complete with a leader sporting a metal hand substitute. Caliban is Tinker Bell for helping the Reavers locate Wolverine and friends.

Of course, you can make the case for a lot of superheroes being like Peter Pan, and Marvel even retold Barrie’s story with Captain America in the role. Such is the nature of a genre consisting of so many men with parent issues and a love of dressing up and playing with toys in the name of acting the hero. Wolverine is just the most fascinating because he never asked to be the Boy Who Couldn’t Continue Growing Up.

He was orphaned into a world he didn’t want to be in by genetics. And after so many missed opportunities to properly tackle the most interesting themes to be found in the Wolverine character and story – many of which he shares with Peter Pan, including the issue of immortality and seeing everyone else age and die – Logan satisfies the most, especially by daring to end the way it does, the only way it should. It may not exactly be a version of Peter Pan, but it certainly, brilliantly shares some of its DNA.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.