Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers.
By Horus Alas
I’ve probably met more of these men in movies than I have in real life. They’re moody, hardened, jaded and entirely self-interested. They probably wouldn’t lift a finger to help an old lady cross the street.
I’m talking about guys like Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) from Casablanca or Toshiro Mifune’s character in Seven Samurai. They aren’t the good guys, but they begrudgingly work alongside the good guys, and as the film progresses, you become keenly aware of why they consistently act like assholes.
From the onset, we know why Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine) acts like an asshole with such abandon.
The film’s opening scene shows him fending off a group of carjackers at a gas station near the Texas-Mexico border. The story here is set in the future (2029, we’re told), and Logan has aged considerably. His remarkable healing factor is no longer what it used to be, so bullets do hurt him now, even if they still don’t kill him. After being repeatedly shot and bludgeoned by his would-be assailants, those instantly-recognizable claws sprung forth from Logan’s knuckles, and a furious Kill Bill-style bloodbath ensues.
In short order, we learn Logan now makes a living as a limousine chauffeur, and on the side, he slings pills. Alongside mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant), he takes care of his longtime friend and colleague, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The former Professor X now prattles on about Taco Bell chalupa ads from the inside of the overturned grain silo where he lives—his overwhelming moments of telepathic lucidity interspersed by drugs and madness.
In this desolate vision of the future, no new mutants have appeared in 25 years. The former X-Men team of days gone by is presumed to be mostly dead, their ends left up to our imaginations.
Logan’s plans to live out the rest of his days placidly bickering with Charles are botched when a new mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen) appears, sporting claws on her knuckles as well as her feet.
We learn that Laura and a group of 15 or so mutant children are the result of a top-secret mutant development program. As a scientist leading the program (Richard E. Grant) and his hired muscle (Boyd Holbrook) doggedly pursue Laura, Logan and Charles embark on a mad dash to bring her to safety in North Dakota, where the other mutant children have built a secret compound.
Again, it’s easy to see why Logan is an asshole in this film. His longtime friends are dead and gone. He and Professor X are a shadow of their former selves. The world has moved on without Logan, and without mutantkind altogether.
Laura’s appearance spurs a redemptive arc for the hardboiled Logan. Throughout the film, he transitions from an aimless asshole to an asshole with a purpose. There’s something ennobling about it, especially coming from a character who volleys the word “fuck” around with his former mentor with the zeal of a kid in the ‘70s playing Pong for the first time.
Toward the end of the film, Logan finds in Laura and Charles that semblance of a family that always evaded him. The hero dies in this one, but it’s a valiant and courageous death that affirms the resilience of spirit in the face of desolation.
Superhero movies have become such a central pillar of Hollywood’s economy that it’s hard to imagine the current film industry without them. And yes, they can rehash the common tropes of the comic books and superheroes on which they’re based to varying effect.
Logan doesn’t do much of that, and frankly, it largely succeeds because of those omissions.
It instead focuses on the human, the visceral, the doleful, the tragic, and at its heart-rending apex, the redemptive. Don’t see this as just another superhero movie, because it really isn’t one. This movie, like most great cinema, charts a course through a tortured human psyche to arrive at long last at catharsis.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Logan’s Facebook page.
Horus Alas is a senior philosophy major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.