Here is a quick, light summation of Logan:
It is the best superhero film that has ever been made.
I will admit to some aesthetic biases – I think it’s about goddamn time we saw heads roll (literally) in a dramatic superhero film without making a huge moral to-do about it – but, more important than my love of carnage, I walked out of Logan feeling something. Feeling a lot of things, actually. This was not your standard-fare superhero-narrative affectation (hooray, Captain America punched the man), but something richer.
Here is a longer, headier summation of Logan:
Logan is about belonging. This refugee spirit is the driving force behind the best X-Men narratives, but Logan is far more complex than what has come before. This is not a story about confused people banding together (X-Men: First Class), or, God forbid, This-Movie-Is-About-Gay-Marriage-Can-You-Tell-That-Mutants-Are-A-Metaphor-For-Gay-People-Please-Like-My-Movie-My-Name-Is-Brett-Ratner-And-I-Want-You-To-Know-That-I-Think-I’m-Very-Smart (X3: The Last Stand) – though the film certainly allows for similar (albeit, far more charitable) reads; I do not use the term “refugee” lightly – getting a young Mexican girl to the Canadian border is Logan’s central goal.
There are plenty of worryingly relevant themes of persecution and belonging in this film, but – while I look forward to reading the many intelligent, insightful takes on Logan as a migrant work – I found myself romanced by Logan’s more abstract explorations of belonging. I’m talking deeper, even, than the term ‘family’ – one of Logan’s central themes. In my eyes, Logan is about a belonging to the self.
Take Professor Xavier – a prisoner, through and through. In his body, in his mind, and in his role. He begins the film trapped in a collapsed water tower, and – throughout the film – relies on Wolverine to move him to-and-froe. His telekinetic powers are no longer in his control – he must remain doped up on god-knows-how-much medication to prevent psychic seizures that threaten to kill everyone in a city-wide radius. He is also no longer a teacher or mentor, and struggles – desperately – to reclaim this position throughout the entire movie. He is responsible for almost as many of Logan’s deaths as Wolverine and X-23 combined, all in pursuit of reclaiming a role he has long outlived. His last words in the film are spoken not by him, but by Laura. “Don’t let him.” He speaks, by proxy, of Logan and his single, adamantium bullet. I’m sure you can guess what it’s for.
Wolverine’s self is bastardized at every turn. His daughter, Laura, is not the product of his procreation, but, rather, genetic manipulation. His merciless double, X-24, is a soulless clone. The superpowered qualities that make James Howlett “Wolverine” no longer belong to him. They are simply physical characteristics to be replicated and repurposed. Whatever remains of his original powers are withered and shrunken. Not only is his healing factor reduced, but he struggles with the formerly commonplace action of unsheathing his claws. The adamantium coating his skeleton poisons his blood, slowly killing him. His livelihood is no longer a manifestation of his heroic qualities; instead, he is a limo driver – beholden to drunken execs and wasted fratbros who still think chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A!” are in vogue. Perhaps worst of all is Logan’s alcoholism – he pushes away his very consciousness as he disassociates from the world.
This is the sense of belonging that Logan struggles with. How do we reclaim ourselves? Can we? What do we do when it’s too late, and is there a greater hope that exists outside our consciousness? Is there, perhaps, a spiritual answer to the ethereal, abstract displacement from one’s own corporeal form?
This is lofty questioning, I know, but these are the types of things you grapple with when you wonder if it’s time to end your life, and Logan handles them elegantly. It shook me to see death and depression and suicide played with such respect – such grace – without judgment or moralistic finger-wagging.
All this in a superhero movie, of all things.
If I have one gripe with the film, it is this: Logan ends on Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around.” All due respect to Mr. Cash, but he’s the wrong artist for this movie. Even in his most brooding tunes, Johnny Cash was a concrete thinker. He found his answers in a fist, a pistol, and the loop of a hangman’s noose. But Logan suggests, sadly, that these answers are simply insufficient for some. That their best hope is to struggle with living in an existence that does not, will not, cannot accept them, and that their sense of belonging will only be found in whatever comes after. Cash was a man who searched for truth and certainty in his living, and so his music fails to capture the spirit of the film.
I offer you this replacement: “I Can’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore” by The Carter Family (this version in particular, embedded in the trailer for Kentucky Route Zero). It is a song about wondering, and wandering, and dying. It is a song about finding belonging, someday down the line.
It is a song about Logan.