Already a fan of Wolverine, when I heard the movie Logan would be inspired in part by the outstanding graphic novel Old Man Logan I had to give it a go. The movie exceeded my expectations in every way!
Superhero movies tend to have ensemble casts, but this movie’s very premise canceled that. Despite not having other fan favorites from the X-Men line up, the movie was stronger with a leaner cast. It also made it more realistic, more anchored in the idea that this Marvel universe isn’t too far off ours. When a franchise is going strong, and movies are planned out for years, the real world concern of the cast aging is an issue. Hugh Jackman has aged in the seventeen years since he started his Wolverine portrayal, and aged very well I must say, but how do we account for a timeless hero maturing on screen? While the latest X-Men movies have moved to prequels with a new younger cast, this movie puts a perfect spin on how Logan has grown older and is world weary in the future year of 2029.
The old-west lawless feel of Old Man Logan is replicated in the movie, along with the knowledge there has been a catastrophic accident in the past that led to the demise of the X-Men, but the movie then veers off into new territory. Wolverine as a super hero is no more, and we meet Logan going by the alias of James Howlett, who exhaustedly cares for the ailing Professor X along with a remaining mutant, Caliban.
We see a sad remnant of what used to be. Charles Xavier’s frailties are heartbreaking, as they are rooted in the realities of elderly dementia, but compounded by his unstable powers of the mind. We witness Logan trapped in his body, for his regenerative abilities are fading and his adamantium skeleton is eating him alive – for he is not immortal, instead he has become a walking tomb. Logan and Caliban have an uneasy relationship, conflicted by the past, and bound by the unforgiving realities of this new existence.
When Logan is tracked down by the caregiver of a young, seemingly feral girl Laura, we learn that she is a new mutant created by the corporation Alkali Transigen in their laboratory from the tissues of past naturally born mutants. Laura was created from tissue that was obtained from Logan, making her his pseudo-daughter. Logan feels no immediate love for her, if anything he feels burdened by one more person who depends on him. But Laura (also known as X-23) is no weak child in need of his protection; she has the tenacity of a wolverine with a killer instinct.
As Logan, Charles and Laura escape from goons sent by Transigen, they embark on a road trip that was filled with some surprisingly tender moments, and for a short time form an unconventional family unit. That death and destruction followed them everywhere, was unfortunately apropos, and our hearts were wrenched when violence and trickery took Charles.
The final arc of the movie, with Logan and Laura trying to find other laboratory escapees set the stage for the future. Not only did the two of them bond more, with Laura having a short but sweet father/daughter relationship with Logan, but we witnessed the vulnerabilities that face these new mutants. A wizened and tough Logan shared some poignant words that hopefully will buffer Laura in the future.
The ending of the movie tore me up. Logan’s time had come, but he managed to give Laura some wise parting advice, letting her know she was more than a mutant, that she had the will to raise herself beyond her creator’s wishes. As the new generation of (possible) heroes moved towards an uncertain future, Laura stopped and adjusted the cross at his grave to a more fitting X. That one small touch was a perfect symbolic ending.
Before I wrap up, I want to add a note about the cast. Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman gave steller performances that are award worthy. Considering they both have had much cinematic success beyond the X-Men movies, I do not say that lightly. They shared emotions that elevated the series and made us care and then later grieve for these loved characters. Newcomer Dafne Keen, who portrayed Laura, should have the chance to continue as the character. Dafne gave Laura such brio, and handled the opposite extremes of viciousness and empathy with aplomb. She IS Wolverine now and I hope to see her in many roles, both in this franchise and beyond, in the future.
Logan transcended the classic superhero tropes and touched on what makes us mortal. The human experiences of love, violence, happiness, grief and tenderness were all tied together into a superb story. Wolverine had slashed himself into my heart, but it was Logan’s humanity that left me in tears.
[Michael’s Note: Not-so-secretly, I was super excited when Nancy offered to contribute to this series! I didn’t want to ask for the post because I know she does movie pieces on her site too. But she offered! Yay! And I’m so very thankful to Nancy for it. Her writing always illuminates the world of popular culture in general and graphic novels in particular with deep, critical insight and the real joy of a fan. In addition to being one of the nicest, most sincerely supportive people I’ve met since I began my blogging journey, Nancy’s part of the dynamic duo that makes up Graphic Novelty². I always get excited for new posts from their site and if you don’t already, you need to regularly read Graphic Novelty² and you should follow Nancy on Twitter as well.]
What more Logan? Who doesn’t?!? Check out the other reflections in this series paying tribute to Hugh Jackman’s swansong.