**Spoilers follow for Logan**
It was always going to end the way it did. For Hugh Jackman, and his portrayal of Marvel’s most popular mutant, there was only one story that would get across his affection for the character as well as the inevitable conclusion to the tale of The Wolverine.
Jackman has embodied the role in the way only a few others have. He’s played it for seventeen years, moulding Logan into a character that appeals to so many, because of his ability to display a range of emotions that we can all identify with. The essence of Wolverine is a character driven by his heart rather than his head. He constantly battles those emotions and has given in to them on more than one occasion. His ability show compassion, love, fear, anger, and sorrow makes him one of the most human of all the super powered heroes currently on screen. It is then, such a shame, that we won’t see him again.
Logan is a movie that encapsulates all of those sides of the man himself, showing the titular character not as an unstoppable killing machine, or brooding anti-hero as the franchise has in the past. It depicts what happens when time catches up with us.
Time is one of the key themes of the whole piece. Logan is running out of it, the story itself is a race against it, as Jackman’s alter ego is constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the movie’s villains to preserve the life of Laura, the young girl who comes into his care. This isn’t though, a frenetic, fast paced story. Logan’s story takes time – and indeed, it always has done. One of the best parts of the much criticised first solo movie for the character – 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine – was the opening sequence showing him growing from 18th Century weakling into embattled, hardened war veteran in the American Civil War, both World Wars and the Vietnam War. He’s been alive for a long, long time, and this final story shows how that affects him. His mental scars are just as visible as his physical ones. He carries them throughout the duration of the picture, and while it’s the physical wounds that ultimately kill him, the emotional ones finally heal.
Logan is a story that starts off with plenty of reasons to examine the title character. Whereas the original X-Men movie debuted a Wolverine embroiled in a cage fight and threatening people with his claws. This one starts with a hungover Logan struggling to even stand and then not even able to unsheathe his Adamantium stickers. That sets the tone, of a man who just can’t do what he used to, on his last legs, but still, somehow, struggling to find the strength to carry on.
Throughout the story, there’s a common theme – that the once powerful, charismatic, ferocious mutant has changed, to the extent he’s even considering taking his own life. Wolverine is in pain, limping with every step, not healing from gunshot wounds, losing his eyesight, being unable to sleep, and sealing himself off from those who would even remind him of a glimpse of his past life. It almost goes into depth about examining depression, and the effect it can have on people when hit with the stark realisation that their life, in their eyes at least, has little meaning anymore.
The only thing keeping Wolverine going is the need to care for the ailing Charles Xavier, who’s arguably in worse shape than him. In doing so, the film reinforces the father-son relationship that’s been present since Jackman and Patrick Stewart first appeared together in the first film. Here, Xavier isn’t the omniscient leader of the X-Men, he’s has dementia, and is prone to mental seizures that amplify his powers to the extent they freeze everyone in a huge radius, injuring them and, as evidenced by the hints towards the other X-Men’s deaths, killing some too.
Logan wants to keep himself, Xavier, and Stephen Merchant’s Caliban as far away from everyone else as possible, in a world where no new mutants are born anymore, and the existing ones have been hunted down, executed, or just died. Wolverine wants to isolate them all on a yacht in the middle of the ocean so Xavier can no longer hurt anyone with his seizures, Caliban can’t be used by anyone to track any other mutants to exterminate them, and Logan himself can finally find peace, by putting an Adamantium bullet through his skull.
These early parts of the story are sad, as each actor (even though Merchant is new to the role), emphasises their character’s weaknesses rather than their strengths – a bold move in a genre bloated by multiple Batmen, Hulks destroying alien monsters, continual Spider-Man reboots and a Superman who looks genuinely disinterested in being the alleged saviour of mankind. Here, Logan doesn’t avert catastrophe, foil an extraterrestrial plot to destroy the earth, or even win the final fight with his nemesis. This is a far more intimate tale, with all roads leading to the battle that Logan knows he can’t win.
As a result of that need for solitude, he’s depicted as very apathetic to the needs of Laura, the new mutant who Professor Xavier has been conversing with. Wolverine knows that because of her abilities, trouble won’t be far behind, and thus starts a road trip to get her to the mythical Eden, a place of refuge for mutants. That’s before Transigen (the default “evil corporation” of the movie, headed up by Richard E.Grant’s Dr. Xander Rice – with chief henchman duties being taken on by Boyd Holbrook’s Donald Pierce and his Reavers) can catch up with them.
Many of the trailers focused on this early part of the movie, showing the introduction of Laura as an animalistic tiny ball of terror – not surprising given her backstory. Laura is never referred to as “X-23” in the script, even though her designation is briefly seen on her medical notes, but the character is a child engineered from Logan’s DNA, and thus has his abilities, healing factor, and Adamantium claws. While Wolverine is still reluctant to help, he still chooses to side with her than simply hand her over to Pierce and his men. Deep down, he still knows the right thing to do, and he’ll put considerations for himself aside to do it. He makes decisions to try and save everyone other than his own skin, and isn’t the gruff, uncaring mercenary he’d have you believe. For anyone new to the character of Wolverine, that’s pretty important. Logan is often made out to be an anti-hero, the man much happier skewering people on the end of his claws than he is playing happy families – the truth is that’s all Logan wanted, but his own selflessness continually denies him that. At more than one point in both the comics, the cartoons and the movies, Logan makes choices that hurt him, but keep others safe. His unrequited love for Jean Grey, a theme that runs across all media, is perhaps the most well known of these, and makes him relatable to an audience who have seen the object of their affection run off with someone else (and amongst the comic book crowd, that’s a pretty big percentage).
Here though, one of the most touching scenes is when Logan, Laura and Professor Xavier have dinner with the Munson family, who they help reclaim their horses during their trip. For a brief moment in a movie that relies on regret to ground it’s hero, there’s a glimpse of optimism, and maybe even happiness as the trio keep up the pretence of being a family. They laugh, and joke about Xavier’s school, Logan’s lack of discipline and Laura’s lack of table manners. Even Xavier tells Logan he still has time to have something resembling this, but Wolverine’s skepticism trumps even this little chink of light. He’s not convinced about seeing the good in people, as Logan himself tend to have experienced the bad.
He’s actually proved right, as the Munsons are massacred by Transigen’s latest creation – a clone of Logan with his compassion, and humanity removed. If anything, this furthermore reinforces Wolverine’s humanity. X-24 brutally murders Professor Xavier, the Munsons, and the henchmen of a neighbouring landowner who come looking to intimidate the family themselves. Rice even makes a point of showing how this facsimile is devoid of anything other than rage. It’s at this point that Logan realises he’s more than what he was created to be. X-24 is what Logan was designed as – a remorseless, unfeeling, killing machine. But the real Wolverine is much more than that, and while those emotions that he does experience – love, passion, friendship – cause him a lot of pain, ultimately, they are what define him, and set him apart.
Logan is gravely injured after this encounter, which sets us on the path to the final act. Laura cares for the stricken Wolverine, and it’s here that it becomes apparent that his journey is coming to an end. At this point he really does have no one else left to care for other than himself and his young companion. Jackman excels here: Wounded, angry, exhausted, but committed to following through on his promise to help Laura reach Canada, however reluctant he might appear. The weight of past indiscretions pressurises him further. He feels responsible for both the creation of the clone, and the role it played in the deaths of Xavier and the Munsons, and the threat it poses to the children it wants to kill.
It’s here too that the lines of fantasy and reality get blurred somewhat. Eden, and it’s location, is established early on to be part of the fictional X-Men comic book universe. Logan, the movie, sets up the X-Men comics as dramatic embellishments of “real life” events that happened to Logan the character. As he says at one point “maybe half of it happened, and not like this.” The serious take continues when he describes comic books as “ice cream for bedwetters”, which is a sly dig as some really, really attentive comic books fans who often quote source material as being above reproach, but it also underlines the fact that, in the movie’s world, Logan is sick of people thinking he’s a hero, and is there to save them: He’s much more concerned with staying away from people. He’s forced to confront that when Eden turns out to be a real place, created by the children fleeing from Rice, and realises that the children themselves will be horribly outmatched by the Reavers and X-24. He then has to be the hero that he’s spent a lifetime trying to avoid, but never quite escaping from.
The final scenes then, are especially heartbreaking, as Logan tries to shun Laura, telling her that the closer she gets to him, the more likely she is to get hurt. Wolverine, as we’ve already discussed, desperately wants people near to him, but knows that those he loves are always hurt by demons from his past, and on some occasions, by his own actions. For that reason, he often sacrifices his own happiness to make sure other people are safe. Here though, he has to make another decision. Beaten, wounded and unable to take on the men following Laura and the others, he takes an overdose of Transigen’s serum to heal mutants from injuries, transforming him, for at least a brief period, into the snarling Wolverine of old.
The R rating the movie garnered is effective here, as the cold blooded violence that Logan displays in dispatching Pierce’s men is akin to what the printed page has held for Logan over many years. For those only familiar with the character from the films, he’s a lot nastier in the books, and over the years has committed horrific acts of violence when angry – but again mainly to protect those he loves. An emotional Wolverine is the most dangerous version of the character, driven by an animalistic, berserker-like rage.
The ominous part of this sequence is that you know it won’t last. Wolverine’s return to bone-cleaving from will be short lived, and his injuries, age, and body will catch up with him. Seeing the serum wear off, and understanding that this really is Logan’s last stand, is heart-rending. Confronting Pierce and Rice, he uses the last of his strength to deal with one while the children deal with the other, but is hopelessly outmatched by his younger doppelganger. Wolverine falls at the hands of a more vicious version of himself, and there’s a degree of symbolism of him being beaten by his baser instincts. That though, would be wrong, as Logan dies defending his daughter and her friends. In essence, it’s his humanity and willingness to sacrifice himself that leads to his death, as much as his failing physical condition. The true symbolism comes from Laura killing the clone with the very Adamantium bullet Logan had intended to use on himself. The animal, the brute, is killed as he wanted, even if it was in another body, and Logan himself dies in a more tranquil way, his life ebbing away after being impaled, in the arms of Laura, who finally calls him father. In his closing words, he tells her not be be what she’s designed to be, echoing how he grew to be more than what he was capable of.
The end of the film is a touching tribute to the character himself, with no grand flashbacks, no epic redemption, no promise of resurrection like Superman’s alleged death in Dawn of Justice. There’s no regal funeral, no full military honours, no grandiose memorial. Wolverine is laid to rest as he lived: Simply, and alone. Only Laura’s final eulogy, using the the speech used in the Western Shane to herald the title character’s departure, gives any voice to the memory of the character, who finally finds the peace he was looking for.
Logan is a fitting end to Hugh Jackman’s tenure. It’s not a superhero film. It carries no influences from Disney’s Marvel continuity, or DC’s emerging behemoth. It even shuns large sections of Fox’s previously established (however thin) X-Men franchise. It stands alone as a testament to what Wolverine is truly about: Age, loneliness, humanity, sacrifice, love, and ultimately death. In a genre where heroes are brought back to life as quickly as it takes to commission a sequel, the fact Logan is a closing chapter is a refreshing change, and it’s just a shame that it finally was, for Wolverine, the end.