What does it take for a film to be unforgettable? Is there a concrete and definitive answer to that question? Maybe, maybe not. The recently released Logan has given me much to think about on that topic. It’s a movie that I was fairly, though not EXTREMELY excited for, but after leaving the theater having seen it, I found myself in awe of what I had seen. Despite seeing it just a couple days after its initial release, I still find myself thinking about it even now.
To be honest, I have never been a massive fan of the X-Men franchise. For me they’ve always just kind of existed in the background of superior genre films. Most of them have been pretty good at best, however never truly great. On of the few constants in the franchise that only seemed to age better over time was Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. With each movie the character became more and more endearing, and intriguing. Much of that is performance driven as Jackman has had nearly 20 years to flesh out his character, which is much more time than most of his cast-mates.
As news began to surface that Logan would be Jackman’s last time playing the Wolverine character, the buzz went nuts. Then we learned that both Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold fought tooth and nail for an R-rating, in addition to being loosely (VERY loosely) based on Old Man Logan, and we knew that this could very well be the Wolverine movie we have been waiting for. Well, it was.
If you couldn’t tell from the trailers as well as the promo photos, Logan is a thoughtful and reflective film. It deals with legacies, mortality, fatherhood, mentorship, selflessness, and hope. It deals with these themes so effectively to me that I left the theater wiping away tears, and even reflecting back on the film it gets me a little emotional. Contrary to popular belief, men are in fact allowed to be emotional at times.
Having grown up without a father, naturally, movies that deal with a theme like fatherhood especially are a bit difficult for me to directly relate to, yet still affects me in a way that is different from most. I get a sense of longing for what never was and sadly never will be in my life, though I have been blessed with many mentors, they don’t quite fill the void that a father does. This is one theme that will forever be timeless in my eyes because fathers are and will always be a vital part of society, and they must be recognized as such.
When we see Logan we already know this character. We know what he’s lost, and we know what he’s never had. This is a man that for nearly the entire time we have followed him has only wanted to be left alone, yet somehow some way he finds himself in predicaments where he must become a protector, and maybe even a reluctant mentor to those who cannot protect themselves. In Logan, this is once again the case. When we find Logan, he is working nights as a chauffeur, driving a limousine to save money. He and fellow mutant Calaban, are taking care of an ailing Xavier (Professor X), while Logan saves his limo money so he can buy a boat to take care of Xavier until he dies, and then proceed to end his own life with an adamantium bullet he has been saving. Bleak right?
Xavier tells Logan he has been telepathically speaking to a young mutant, and Logan dismisses it as him just being a crazy old man. Not long after, we are introduced to that mutant, whose name is Laura (X-23) who just might have more in common with Logan than he thinks. Through the film, we see an interesting father/son dynamic form Logan and Xavier that does justice to both characters. Xavier, though much more senile than we’ve ever seen him before, is still full of hope for a better future, while Logan is as salty and grim as ever. Logan is a soldier who has had to watch most if not all of his friends die around him, and really has little regard for his own life apart from a primal instinct to survive.
Along comes Laura who drives the conflict of the film as a young mutant on the run in search for asylum in Canada, as she is currently being hunted by a corporation that plans to use her as a weapon (much like Wolverine initially was bred to be). As we follow the three on their journey to Canada, there are moments where the trio look like a real family (albeit a dysfunctional one, then again, who’s isn’t?).
Throughout the film we see Xavier’s longing to see Logan happy, and he truly believes that Laura is the key to that happening. Unfortunately the road to Canada is not without tragedy as Xavier is given a very unceremonious death, that is shocking, a bit incoherent, and undeserved to a character of his status. Sadly, this is the world that Logan’s is. Not everybody gets a hero’s death. Sometimes your time is just up.
During Xavier’s impromptu burial, we as an audience are left in silence, to soak in the fact that this is Xavier’s end. We also see the pain that has consumed Logan as he cannot even form words to say as they bury him. He tries, but with no success, for he has lost the last person who ever cared for him. To the end, Xavier never gave up on him and always tried to steer him in the right direction. Now he is left with Laura to complete the task.
Laura had her childhood stripped away from her. She, much like Logan, has trouble controlling her rage, but is still young enough to be naive and see the world through the lense of a child. As the story progresses we begin to see a bond form between the two, especially when they are fighting together. They are the same but different. Logan is a man who has seen his life go by and has lost all hope in the world. Laura is the embodiment of the hope he longs for and by film’s end is eventually willing to die for.
When Logan does eventually meet his end, making a final epic stand to protect Laura and a group of young mutants to get them to the border, it is a heartbreaking scene. It is a moment of release and relief. The battle is over in the film, as it is for Logan. He has lived a life full of turmoil waiting to die, and when death finally comes for him it is oddly bittersweet for the audience. Laura holds him as he takes his final breathes knowing that he has finally found peace. Laura is given a shot at a life apart from misery, and he can die knowing he did all he could to help her.
For most of the movie, apart from her action scenes, Laura stays mostly quiet anyway and reserved, but it’s at this moment where we see the held in love and admiration that she had for Logan, as she weeps and calls him “daddy”. It is an absolutely heartbreaking moment, nevertheless a very powerful one. Here we mourn for a budding relationship that is unfortunately cut short, but still have hope for better things to come. The death of Wolverine, while not glamorous or epic, is poignant in the way it depicts coming to terms with your mortality. It’s tragically ironic how not soon after Logan had found a reason to live, he had his life taken away.
If you were paying attention you may have noticed a trend of both deaths being ones without regret. Both Logan and Xavier took on father figure roles in their own right, and did what they could given the circumstances. One of the best themes of this film is the persistence of a good father, or at the very least the persistence of a father who is trying to be good. As I said before themes like this force me to acknowledge a void that has existed in my life, but at the same time appreciate those who went out of their way to give me direction and help me become a man.
I really think that Logan has the thematic strength and timeless quality to stand the test a time. It is one of those films that you can watch in 20 years and it will still be every bit as effective as it was. It’s a movie that has forced me to reflect on what kind of man I want to become and what legacy I want to leave behind. With this being Hugh Jackman’s final Wolverine film, it’s only fitting to definitively end his story here. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I encourage you to, and hopefully I’ve given you new reason to. If you have seen Logan, did it affect you in a similar way? Let me know.