The following article contains spoilers from the movie, Logan.
Logan, the powerhouse superhero film from Fox Studios, had a long period of buildup leading to its launch. From the original trailer, the movie positioned itself not like many of its fellow X-Men and Wolverine films, but as something darker and more somber than other movies in this genre. This could have been disastrous, considering such an approach in Batman vs. Superman led to a joyless affair that seemed gritty for the sake of being gritty.
Logan set itself apart for several reasons, not the least of which was its serious approach to its underlying themes. Logan attempts to address several heavy topics that recur throughout literature, television, and film, while also addressing modern themes relevant to our current day. The titular character Logan, better known as Wolverine, facilitates a better understanding of these issues as the movie progresses.
The Indignity of Old Age
Regularly through the film, the once dignified Professor Charles Xavier is shown to be a deteriorating older man with few of his faculties left to him. Xavier, once the proud leader of the X-Men, is now relegated to a wheel chair. Logan tends to him by forcing him to take various medications, mostly oral but occasionally through injection.
Xavier, once a powerful telepath, now cannot be allowed to use his powers without fear of killing countless innocents for miles around. A degenerative mental disorder eats away at him, and undue stress can send him into a panic. This is a man who cannot even urinate alone. Time and again, Xavier is shown as being nearly helpless without Logan to help him.
This isn’t without parallel in the real world. Nelson Mandela, famed freedom fighter and eventual president of South Africa, privately resented his own decaying faculties. Others noted his mental health was steadily declining, and his final years were marked by long medical struggles. Xavier reflects what can happen to all of us.
The Decline of Middle Age
However, Xavier isn’t the only one struggling with the loss of his abilities. Logan, once blessed with endless stamina and a regenerative healing factor that helped him recover from almost any injury, finds himself unable to quickly recover, constantly coughing as his poisoned skeleton eats away at him, and regularly demonstrates an inability to fight at the level he once did.
If Xavier is an example of the what can happen at the end of life, Logan is an example of what we all face in the midst of life. Michael Jordan lost his quickness on the perimeter of the basketball court. Deion Sanders tried to play football again after four seasons in retirement, demonstrating none of the speed and strength that once defined him. Muhammad Ali kept boxing until he was 37, and simply had none of the footwork and speed he once possessed. Our middle years are a time of slow decline.
The Vibrancy (and Foolishness) of Youth
The young X-23 (Laura), the girl whom Logan and Xavier accompany throughout the film, stands in stark contrast to the two men escorting her. Seemingly able to ruthlessly kills teams of men without tiring and easily recovering from injury after injury, she demonstrates the ability of the young to recover. However, she also demonstrates the foolishness of youth. Her brash nature, fiery responses, and ill informed decisions threaten to isolate her from any potential family or put her into the custody of people who have only terrible purposes for her. Youth may help us recover faster, but it can also bring new injury just as quickly.
The Lack of Safety for Immigrants
Of course, it cannot be overlooked that Laura hails from Mexico and is positioned as the daughter of a Mexican woman. Although this later turns out to be untrue, the movie still positions her as a Mexican girl unable to remain in the U.S. and forced to flee to Canada for safety. She’s pursued by powerful institutional forces and is forced to take clandestine routes through the country.
Choices are purposeful in narrative, and the choice of Mexico is not by accident. Mexican people now find themselves at risk in the United States and wondering if they will be safe remaining in the country. There has been a flow of immigration into Canada as a result. Laura embodies much of the uncertainty these immigrants face, and her struggle reflects on the real-world experience of immigrants fleeing authorities in search of safety and a home.
We Can’t Escape Our Past
Midway through the movie, a Logan clone called X-24 is introduced. A nearly unstoppable killing machine, X-24 is a perfect reflection of Logan’s youth. Rage filled, unrelenting, and willing to do despicable things, the clone is an embodiment of all of Logan’s younger days. It hunts him without ceasing. There are few ways to more perfectly represent the fact that our younger days will catch up to us at some point.
Even Xavier is not immune to this. He is stabbed through the chest by X-24 while believing it’s actually Logan. This follows a moment when Xavier has just remembered his own past and the horrible apocalypse he unwittingly unleashed in New York, at the time when his mental state caused his powers to go out of control. What we do will pay a price eventually. The scene in which he is stabbed purposefully juxtaposes his monologue against the killing. What he did was a tragedy, and a price in the form of (the assumed) Logan has finally come.
We Can Change
Xavier constantly reminds Logan of his ability to change, even at his age. It was something Xavier had tried to convince him of throughout Logan’s life as a member of the X-Men. Though having been changed to become a war machine, Logan could still make choices about his future. He was never completely able to shake what he was altered to be, but Laura, at her young age, still had that opportunity. Logan dies hoping she will learn from his own mistakes and make the changes necessary to avoid becoming the killer he was.
The Importance of Family
From Xavier to Logan and Logan to Laura, there’s an underlying theme of family and parenthood. Xavier, when lucid, genuinely wants Logan to experience what it means to be a part of a family. Despite years of trying, Xavier never fully was able to help Logan accept a place in the X-Men. There comes a moment in the film when the group is surrounded by a farming family, and Xavier could not be happier. He wants Logan to experience this as much as he wants Laura to.
To the end, Logan struggles to accept this state of living. At the farmhouse, he continues to have doubts. However, in the end, he sacrifices everything he has to protect her. He does the same thing for her that Xavier was willing to do for so many, and takes her under his wing. Even after Xavier’s death, Logan continues to drive her forward, taking her as close to the border as possible. In his final words, he reflects on the fact that he finally understands what it means to be a family. Logan dies having done all he could for Laura, as any good father would.
We Don’t Always Live to Enter the Promised Land
In the Biblical Book of Deuteronomy, Moses, leader of the Israelite people, is told he won’t be able to enter the Promised Land. Despite decades of having led his people and countless sacrifices, he will die on the doorstep, having never lived to experienced the Promised Land itself. However, his deeds helped pave the way for his people and gave them a future to be confident in.
The same is true for many of our efforts in life. We can’t always expect to see the fruits of our labor come to pass within our generation. Some of the things we do won’t have a full impact for decades. Parents won’t always live to see their children graduate. Leaders won’t always get to see their projects completed. FDR certainly didn’t get to see America win World War II, despite having led the country through almost all of it. Sometimes, what we do will have an impact long after our lives, and we have to accept that the results of some of our actions won’t be obvious until after we’re gone.
People are currently discussing Logan not only for its action scenes and moving story about Logan’s final days, but also because of the number of themes it touched upon. As a film, it sparked conversations about numerous topics, which will help keep it alive in fan discussions for years to come.
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