This is vastly out of order with my other entries – I haven’t even started on X-Men movies yet. But, much like the comics themselves, I will have to rely on some retconning to make things work (‘retcon’, or retroactive continuity, is comics-speak for a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events, typically used to facilitate a dramatic plot shift or account for an inconsistency). And I want to do this while the movie is still fresh in my head; this entry will rely less on introduction of characters from their history in the comics, and more on my impressions of the movie itself. So, fair warning, there will be spoilers.
So, Logan. I should state at the outset that I normally loathe the character of Wolverine; if I could launch one character each from Marvel and DC into the sun and destroy them entirely, Wolverine would be my Marvel pick, with Batman being my DC choice.So I went into this idea skeptical; it wasn’t until they showed the first trailer that I began to feel kind of excited for the film they would be bringing us:
The Johnny Cash cover of ‘Hurt’ really helped sell it to me, as it was a sad, retrospective song done by an artist who was, at the time, dying himself. I felt it set the tone really well. So I began to feel hop for this movie. And so, when I saw it on this past Sunday (two days ago, which would be 3/12/17), I was not disappointed.
Let’s be honest, this was always going to be a dark movie. The trailer above sold it, so if you go in expecting shiny, happy people, you are going to be disappointed. But for all its darkness, there is a lot going on in the movie. First, there’s the father/son relationship Logan has with Professor X; despite not being related, it seems like that relationship has really grown over the (implied) years they’ve been together, though each is currently somewhat disappointed in the other. Xavier wishes Logan had gone on to be something more, something better, while Logan wishes he had never been in a position to have to take care of this man; seems a little on the nose for a father/son relationship, really. No son wants to have to care for his father as he slowly degenerates (likely Alzheimer’s or dementia, which is heartbreaking to watch on-screen), and no father wants to see his son essentially give up and retreat from the world. This is one of the first areas that will probably hit viewers emotionally, because despite both people having super-powers, their relationship is very human, and very relatable. The on-screen dynamic between Hugh Jackman (who plays Logan) and Patrick Stewart (who plays Professor X/Charles Xavier) really sells their interactions. It is heavily implied that Professor X, in the early stages of his dementia, killed many of the other X-Men; the ‘Westchester incident’ (where the X-School was) is mentioned in relation to a scene in the movie, and Xavier later confesses that he remembers the terrible thing he did. So Xavier likely killed many of his former students, who were like family to both he and Logan, and Logan took him away to hide him, both for his sake and the world’s. The horror of the incident in the movie, where Xavier’s fit paralyzes hundreds of nearby people, retroactively tells us how bad such scenes must have been in previous X-Men movies, when Xavier had greater control of his abilities. When Xavier is stabbed and slowly dying from a clone of Logan (don’t ask), Logan himself is begging him not to die, trying to explain that it wasn’t him; it’s unclear if Xavier hears this, or understands what happened, before he dies.
Then we move on to the situation of, as I’ve seen it described, the ‘bitchy roommate’. Logan is currently living in an abandoned industrial site with his father-figure, Professor X, and another mutant – one by the name of Caliban. Their interactions are very strange, but they drop some hints about their relationship that will make sense of comics readers, and the understanding of which make the lives of the characters even more bleak. Caliban was fist introduced in X-Men comics in August of 1981, as an albino mutant with really big eyes whose powers was the ability to sense and track other mutants.
As a social reject, he falls into a group of homeless, disenfranchised mutants called the Morlocks, whom the X-Men eventually confront because of their shady activities. For much of Caliban’s run in the comics, he is, if not an outright opponent, then an antagonist of the X-Men; others use him and his ability to hunt the X-Men down. And the movie version of Caliban – creepy albino all the way – implies that he used to be a foe of the X-Men, too, until Logan found him years later and asked him for help with caring for Professor X. So Logan sought out an old enemy to help him care for his father-figure, and the enemy agreed, likely because there were so few mutants left in the world that there was no sense in fighting anymore. The two are ill at ease with each other, and Caliban clearly senses Logan’s own physical degeneration, and is even concerned for him, though Logan ignores it. Caliban may be a questionable roommate, but he is also a former enemy who joined up with Logan because the world got so bad for mutants that he felt safer with another of his own than fighting him.
Speaking of blasts from the X-Men past, we come the the footsoldiers of the primary antagonists in the movie, the Reavers. The Reavers were first introduced as a group of Australian cyborgs who originally acted as a gang of thieves, only becoming foes of the X-Men after an encounter between them left only a few of the original gang alive. They reformed under Donald Pierce (their leader in the movie, as well) as a group dedicated to hunting down the X-Men and eliminating mutants in general – though in Logan, this is basically all accomplished anyway.
In the comics, they seem to have a particular hatred for Wolverine, and this bears out in the movie; while Pierce’s initial interaction with Logan is civil (well, by Logan’s terms), it degenerates quickly. We see these augmented humans hunting down mutants, and it’s somewhat chilling to watch.
Enter Laura, or X-23. She’s a relative newcomer in the comics world, having been created as a character in 2004, and in the comics, she is much like she is in the movie – the cloned daughter of Logan. However, in the comics, she shows up as a teen, one who has been on her own for a while, whereas in the movie she is shown as an 11-year-old, raised in a lab, with little contact with the outside world; for much of the movie she presents as mute. And Logan is very much a reluctant father; even when he realizes that Laura is his daughter – if unwillingly on his part – he seems intent on abandoning her at first, because he wants no more of the X-Men life, and he seems to fear connection to others (as he later notes, because people who he cares about die, badly). His contact with Professor X is his last tie to the world, and he does not want another, especially not a child to raise. Dafne Keen, the actress who plays Laura, does so superbly – the looks she gives Logan show so much emotion, and the animalistic screams she gives off when forced into combat, and the fact that she can fight as well as she can, give viewers an idea of how hard her life has been so far. She plays a mute child so well that when she finally speaks near the end of the movie – in some of the most touching scenes the film has – it’s a shock. Here, again, is an emotional beat that many viewers will feel deeply – parents in the audience will likely cringe watching their relationship start, and how awkward it is. And the way things end will almost certainly bring out the tears – Logan sacrifices himself for Laura and her fellow cloned mutants, and as he dies, she cries beside him, holding his hand, as he gasps out his last words – “This is what it feels like.” It’s unclear as to whether this means finally accepting that he has a family in Laura, or just his acceptance of the death he has cheated for so many years; it could be both, or neither. But it’s heartbreaking to watch.
Logan is very much along the lines of the classic Western, in many ways – a more modern example would be Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, but the one the movie basically smacks us in the face with is Shane. Logan is a former gunfighter, retired from the world of violence, trying to eke out a life for himself where nobody knows who he really is; only reluctantly is he drawn back into a world of violence he had tried to leave behind. He allows himself to be drawn back into society, as painful as it is, and as much as he tries to fight it, because he still believes that there is no place in the civilized world for someone like him. But he’s deadly, and his enemies, as much as they outnumber him, don’t understand how deadly he really is, even older and broken-down, and so he tears through them like tissue paper before finally, at the end, dying/riding off into the sunset. There is no happy ending for Logan; he dies near the border of his homeland, Canada, never getting to finally return home, never getting to be a father to his daughter. He dies like he lived, hard. Laura even recites Shane’s last words over the wilderness grave of Logan, before pulling the cross that marks the site out of the ground and resting it on its side so that it forms an X, instead.
Like I said, I normally hate Wolverine. But watching this movie made me really appreciate the character. Hugh Jackman showed Logan as an old, tired man; given his origins (both form the comics and the Wolverine: Origins movie), he is nearing 150 years old, though he looks a hard-lived 50 or so. He has lost most of his friends and family, and is apparently dying a slow, painful death, poisoned by the metal that makes his bones unbreakable. While still capable of the brutal hyperviolence of other X-Men movies, he’s visibly slower; even in the first scene, he has difficulty taking on a gang of regular car thieves, let alone the Reavers. Only near the end do we see him at his former heights, and even that takes a toll on him. He cares, as best he can, for his dying father-figure; he lives with a former enemy; and he reluctantly takes on the quest of his new daughter, which sends him to his end. The performances put in by Jackman, Stewart, and newcomer Dafne Keen are some of the best I’ve seen in any superhero movie, and while they will almost certainly be ignored by awards ceremonies, it’ll be a shame when it happens. Logan is a dark, depressing, and violent movie, but it is also filled with emotion, with very human moments, and with subtle references to the comics it derives from. I may still hate comics-Wolverine, but I certainly appreciate Hugh Jackman’s version of him, and I’m ad that this movie marks the end of the X-Men journey for both he and Patrick Stewart.