My second viewing of Logan left me no less impressed (and emotional) than the first time, and so I thought it was time to begin dissecting the depths of the best X-Men film a little further. Hell, the fact that there is something to examine puts this on a different level to the rest of the franchise.
So Many Names, Only One Past
The entire crux to Logan‘s themes is history. Set at the end of current X-Men history, frequently referencing past history, and endlessly trying to redeem regardless of history, Logan is so effective thanks to the history (both plot-wise and movie-wise) behind it.
The eternal conflict at the centre of Logan the character is the constant cycle of violence that seems to follow him endlessly. He grows happy, find someone he loves and then its all torn away due to his past. That, coupled with the constant struggle between the man and the weapon has led Wolverine down a life full of heartbreak, betrayal and plenty of violence. This is a person who has lost everything over and over again, and try as he might has never been able to escape the downward spiral of endless pain. The biggest criticism in my review of Logan was that it retreads the same ideas as most other X-Men films, and while I still believe that, I also think Logan does it the best so far.
The best example of this is the very opening scene. Lying asleep in his car, Logan gets dragged back into violence when a gang of thugs attempts to steal the hubcaps. Initially trying to be diplomatic, Logan is instead forced to ‘go feral’ after he’s shot and beaten and ends up killing the entire group in a gloriously bloody showcase of his claws. This effectively personifies Logan’s entire life – isolated and peaceful, until being dragged back again and again into violence. No matter what Logan does, there’s no escaping the killing.
The adamantium works as a wonderful metaphor for the toll this has taken on him. The metal on his bones, the one inescapable and constant reminder of how the Weapon X program used him is what is literally killing him. A life of violence and control has finally caught up on him and his healing factor – i.e. what has kept him alive for so long – can no longer keep it at bay.
“We Need You to Hope Again”
Now the major factor that Logan has over X2, Origins and The Wolverine is that the film offers an end to this continual struggle. Meet Laura.
Laura, being the biological daughter/clone of Wolverine, has plenty in common with her old man. Not only does she possess his abilities, ferocity and general disdain for politeness, but she has experienced exactly what Wolverine has in relation to Weapon X. She was manipulated into being a weapon even to the point of receiving an adamantium skeleton exactly like Logan.
The difference is that Laura has the chance to escape that life, the opportunity to live secluded with her friends and be happy. An opportunity that has never stayed with Logan for long. In deciding to protect and guide Laura to that chance for a better life, Logan is in a way redeeming himself and giving her the life he always wanted.
The interesting aspect is how both Logan and Charles Xavier approaches this glimpse of hope. Charles embraces it and tries to do for Laura what he tried to do for Logan decades earlier – in a way Laura makes him far more lucid because not only does it give him renewed purpose in his life, but Charles is doing again what he’s dedicated literally his entire life to – protecting mutants.
Logan, on the other hand, basically says “f*ck off”. In line with his character, sure, but also reflects his own state of mind – he’s afraid of connection. As Mangold said in an interview with USAToday, “[Logan] is scared of love”. A constant pattern of death and destruction has followed him to the point that Logan is in such a dark and despairing place that the hope he can change that constant cycle simply isn’t worth it. And this is a conflict that Logan grapples with the entire film until he finally commits to this hope, even though it means his death.
Days of Mutants Past
Charles Xavier himself is critical to not only Logan’s history, but also Logan itself. In many ways, Xavier’s arch is a direct parallel to Logan’s own throughout the film.
First off, the Westchester incident (when Charles apparently killed several of the X-Men during one of his seizures) is his contrast to Logan’s own bloody and guilt-ridden past. Charles for most of the film doesn’t even remember the Westchester incident, the exact same for most of Wolverine’s history he doesn’t even remember his past experience with the Weapon X program. This leads to both of them starting the film in the exact same place – sick, depressed and waiting to die. He even outlines Logan’s personal struggles during the monologue before his death. After he finally remembers incident, Charles intones “he doesn’t deserve to be happy” in the vocal embodiment of Logan’s problem with Laura throughout the film. The critical difference between the two characters is the circumstances of their deaths.
Both die at the hands of X24, but while Logan does it in order to protect Laura and the new mutants, Charles stabbed in bed, alone. The worst thing about Charles’ death is that its left unclear that he knew Logan wasn’t his murderer. His pupil and close friend for so many years, the man he saved from his bestial, destructive path could have – in Charles dying mind – finally snapped and ended him instead of “waiting for him to die” like he accuses Logan of earlier in the film. Its suggested that Charles dies thinking he failed all those years ago to redeem Wolverine. And that is just ridiculously sad and depressing.
Until his final line. As Logan clutches him in the back of the pickup, Charles murmurs with his dying breathe, “our boat… the sunseeker”. Not only does his use of ‘our’ suggests that he knows Wolverine was not the killer, but he also references Logan’s original plan for the two of them to escape. While this could be perceived as the unintelligible mumbling of an old sick man, if Charles is being genuine then it says that he never gave up hope. He always believed they would save Laura, and retreat out onto the ocean where they would finally be safe and happy. He never doubted. Not Logan, not himself, and certainly not mutant kind.
“There aren’t any more Guns in the Valley”
All of this leads to the final scene. Everyone knew where this was going to end.
Throughout the entire movie its signposted that Wolverine is going to meet his end – the only question was in what circumstances.
These circumstances turned out to be fighting his evil doppelganger in a (honestly, really overt) metaphor for facing his past Weapon X self. Fighting and overcoming the weapon he was for so long is not only symbolic of him finally overcoming the shame of his past, but also signifies that the constant cycle of violence, destruction and heartbreak is at an end. Because he’s dead, sure, but also because as far as the film is concerned, Laura – Logan’s legacy – is now going to live in peace, free from the constant violence and killing that has plagued Wolverine for his entire life. All this is summarised beautifully in Laura’s epiphany, an exert from the classic Western Shane:
“There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from it. Right or wrong, it’s a brand, a brand that sticks. There’s no going back. Now, you run on home to your mother and tell her, tell her everything’s alright, and there aren’t any more guns in the valley.”
Wolverine has been a killer quite literally since he was a boy. And he’s never been able to escape that – its “a brand that sticks”. But now, thanks to his final effort, “there aren’t any more guns in the valley” and Laura is free to live the life Logan never could.
As far as I’m concerned, Hugh Jackman said farewell in the best way possible. Not only has he left the role behind, but Logan has finally redeemed his past in the most perfect way possible. Nothing could be a more poignant goodbye.
And that’s my poorly thought-out ramblings on Logan. Let me know any more observations in the comments below! And please Fox, don’t make a sequel. Not only is it not necessary, but it would completely undermine how fantastic Logan says goodbye. Just give us this one. Please.