First things first, I should apologise, because, well…we are about to discuss and overthink a superhero flick. Such are the times, man, 2017, we need to catch up.
Here we have the final goodbye of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in Logan (2017) by James Mangold. After watching the same character being interpreted by the same actor for seventeen years now (pretty unique, right?), it’s somewhat surprising this time to see fewer samurais and more…social commentary?
Oh, boy, indeed. And, yes, boy, big spoilers ahead.
The plot begins in the year 2029, where there are hardly any mutants about (after this group’s near eradication, violence is still taken out on other tribes, mind you). Logan, an Uber driver in the borderlands near the United States and Mexico, is caught in a half-state between life and death. Always a fast healer, Logan’s “gift” has been compromised by poison, by the Adamantium that The Man put in his bones to boost his killing capabilities in days past. His wounds ain’t healing the same, neither the physical nor the emotional ones.
He’s saving up money for his old friend Professor Xavier, another victim whose felt his so-called gift turning on him of late. He, who once had the most powerful mind in the world, perhaps used too much of its juice, and pays the price with Alzheimer’s.
They both dream of escaping with a big-enough boat, a lie they feed themselves to keep going through the sad state of circumstances they call life. The blue sea, living outside sovereign lands, a Paradise for two broken men persecuted their whole lives for being born different.
But there are different kinds of being born different.
An illegal Mexican immigrant, for example.
That’d be Laura, a tough kid, violent, savage and (apparently) mute. A runaway weapon from a first-world laboratory abusing the inequality of its smaller neighbour. She’s willing to pay loads of money to be Ubered to the Canadian border, the promised land from the Old Testament. Laura’s offering enough to buy Logan’s Eden (ever watched Logan’s Run — 1976, anyone?) so he accepts the burden. Her existence alone is enough to help Xavier find a piece of Heaven before death, so he agrees all the more.
The film then shifts, into something of a delightful road movie following three aliens, one more tragic than the next, dreaming of their personal salvations. And like any good road movie, they share a journey of self-discovery, mutual-learning and acceptance; a trope yet unforseen in the superhero sub-genre.
Long story short, on the highway they find strength in everyone’s oddities, get chased by the government and fight the system. Nothing new for minorities across many lands.
The most lovable aspect is that this film breathes and bleeds (a lot). I can’t recall the last time a blockbuster took the context of its release date and turned it into a pivotal teaching moment.
It’s 2017, we’re all aware of the dialogue across Europe and the USA, and this bold movie presents the masses with a persecuted character, an illegal immigrant, to sympathise with. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have these sorts of characters tucked into the folds of popular culture. These films possess a raw power to talk to dominant audiences, to show people as they are, to not just acknowledge but glorify diverse origins. This film could in fact be a blueprint for building tolerance and acceptance in the future — perhaps all X-Men films can be considered as such. Logan, however, really focuses on character, so gets extra points from me.
It’s hard to shake the funky Under the Same Moon feeling (Patricia Riggen, 2007) when Logan and Laura are left alone, obviously with fewer jokes and more guts. The film also has this Let the Right Ones In vibe, in terms of presentation and the way it portrays “the other.” We deserve more films like this. We need to have more films like this. Pop characters who challenge social problems and draw empathy could be powerful tools for change.
Laura, towards the second act, shows her brains and skills, and she speaks for the first time, justifying her silence by saying she’s not obligated to speak to those who disrespect her — hard to catch, Spanish at the speed of light without subtitles.
The main character of a mega-budget film; a little alien girl demanding respect. We’ve a long way to go, but we’ve come pretty far, too.
One can hope that Logan isn’t just the new face of the X-Men franchise, but a turning point signaling that more realistic, delicate blockbusters are on the way (eyes on you, Wonder Woman.)
But this “Hollywood is going to save us all” thing, I don’t buy it just yet. And, lucidly enough, neither does Logan. The film ends on a high note, but it might be the Soprano crying before the curtain hits the stage floor.
Watching Laura call his unwilling-DNA-donor Daddy for the first time, before Logan dies impaled on a tree — a victim of nature’s savagery and the poison inflicted on his body by society — is heartbreaking.
And then she does it, quotes Shane, the almost hundred year-old piece of art (in this film’s context) about even older times; she understands that nothing about violence and discrimination has changed much.
Maybe the poison has seeped too deeply into society’s system, and humankind’s brutal, inherent nature is demanding too much of the healing powers it too possesses, rendering it unable of curing itself.
Yet this film, just like Laura, is willing to try.
Text and cover animation by León Córdova