Logan has been built up for some time as a darker, more visceral interpretation of Hugh Jackman’s turn as the iconic mutant superhero. It is a departure from 2013’s The Wolverine, which though entertaining was toned down compared to what Logan appears to bring to the screen. The third movie in the Jackman-led Wolverine series appears on its way to an R rating.
The glimpses of a shotgun-gripping severed arm and a fierce-looking storyboard drove home the ramped-up violence, while teaser images hinted at a grizzled old Logan and the classic action trope of having one last fight in him. As if director James Mangold couldn’t have already shown strongly enough how Logan will look and feel more gritty and dark than previous installments, the teaser trailer featured Johnny Cash’s Nine Inch Nails cover “Hurt” as the backing track.
Mangold broke down the trailer with Empire on Thursday, walking them through the teaser’s most notable aspects and moments. The use of “Hurt” was particularly striking, as it really emphasized the darker tone the movie promises. Mangold said that the use of Cash’s moving rendition of “Hurt,” which he famously recorded a year before his death, was a deliberate choice to distance Logan from just about every superhero movie before it.
Mangold explained his affinity for Johnny Cash and the music legend’s place in the trailer:
“Obviously I have a connection and a fondness for Johnny Cash, and his tone and his message and his music. But the real driver in all these decisions is trying to separate ourselves, in an accurate way, from the other superhero movies. We think we’re going to deliver something a little different and we want to make sure we’re selling audiences on the difference. Sometimes even when a movie’s a little different, the studio’s trying to market the movie just like all the others. [Cash’s] music, in a way, separates us from the standard, bombastic, brooding orchestral, swish-bang, doors opening and slamming, explosions kind of methodology of some of these movies.”
Logan/Wolverine will always be something of an outlaw-type character, but tying the entire tone of Logan to a song as heartbreaking and morose as Cash’s version of “Hurt” brings him to a level of inner darkness rarely seen in a superhero. This is a flawed, weathered Logan with gruesome scars and a ruthlessness unlike anything ever seen from Wolverine on the big screen. It appears to have its share of standard action fare, but Logan is also shaping up to be one of the most unrestrained movies in the current superhero era.
Johnny Cash certainly does the job selling the darker tone of Logan and Jackman himself as the title character. The success of the movie still depends on Jackman’s commitment to the role and the depth of the character in the screenplay, as a movie with such mature content should also demand more mature themes. But if the trailer, and Johnny Cash’s presence in it, proves anything about Logan, it’s that the movie will be very different from what the series has delivered thus far.