Were the Themes in Logan Overshadowed by Its Reputation?
It has been over a year since Logan came out and because Avengers: Infinity War is coming out to wrap up such a big hallmark for the superhero genre, I thought we’d take a closer look at what this movie had to offer. Many including me believe it more than deserves to sit among movies like The Dark Knight, The Avengers and Spider-Man 2 as the genre’s best. Strangely enough, it already seems people have forgotten what the film was originally trying to convey and, ironically, it has itself to blame. This article is meant to dive deep and reevaluate the craftsmanship that made it such a powerful picture.
“They’re everything you say…”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “Logan evolved superhero movies”. The studio behind it did something unexpected, quite shocking actually. It put creativity over commerce. So rarely do we see big budget studios taking risks with marquee characters and give them the R-rating. Maybe if Deadpool hadn’t of proved the success of the R-rated blockbuster things would have looked different, but what set this one apart from even that movie has little to do with the rating. The big headline that did, though, was that James Mangold’s passion project saw the light of day and worked both financially and critically.
Considering the drama surrounding superhero projects, it’s no wonder the movie feels like a giant leap. Patty Jenkins had to fight over the inclusion of the No Man’s Land scene in Wonder Woman, aka the part which got everyone buzzing. Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four was reworked by the studio without the director’s permission to the point of no resemblance to the original product. Then there are the multiple cuts of films which don’t get released until the Blu-Ray/DVD edition. Even looking at the more positive examples, Kevin Feige planning out the future of the MCU puts creatives at a limit to their craft. This alone makes Logan a groundbreaker, a revolutionary game changer. It’s different and profitable. Sadly, there are also downsides to this praise.
“…but so much more.”
The viewers stop caring about what the film is and focused more on what it accomplishes. For many, it’s a much more comfortable conversation because those opinions are then more based on facts making them less disputable. How many headline articles have you seen about the massive success of Black Panther? In truth, it’s human behavior. That’s why we keep world records on everything. It’s not wrong, but in this case, a part of it does more harm than good.
I’ve barely seen anyone speak about Logan in a way that deconstructed its themes to the fullest. There is an overabundance of analyses only highlighting the importance or what it did for the industry. Today, I wanna change this, not to show how smart, wise and all-knowing I am, but because I loved this movie and desire to start more conversations surrounding the meanings which are covered by its positive reception. It’s as if I only spoke about the box-office success of Star Wars and never its emotional impact. I wanna look at what concepts it presents. Shed a less monotonous association of the movie.
There are exactly three main themes in Logan that give it its identity. I believe Mangold purposefully chose the focal characters of the movie, so with each, he could say something meaningful. Here are the themes which many more need to notice. Expect a major spoiler warning.
“It’s not about deserve.”
Patrick Stewart did an amazing job portraying the oldest character in the film. Charles Xavier is the man who created the X-Men, who decided to help the ones in oppression, the marginalized ones. You could call him the definition of what X-Men stand for. He represents the team’s legacy, the history and most importantly, the past. An old man who can do no wrong.
In modern-day though, Charles is mentally ill and vulnerable. Mutants around the world are fading away and in turn so are his dreams. He can barely pee on his own. Then there are the seizures which cause a psychic wave of devastation and the only way to stop them from happening is by taking medication he doesn’t want. A man who used to help others is now in need. Now they’re the X-Men themselves.
Through his monologue, we find out he did something to them. In the comic which this film was inspired by, Old Man Logan, Wolverine was mind-controlled into killing all the X-Men. Here the credit seems to go to Charles. He refers to it as the incident in Westchester. Did he kill them? Was he also under the influence of mind-control? We never find out. All we know is that he hurt them, betrayed the group of people he trusted, the family he swore to build bridges with. Why am I bringing this all up? You see, the farmhouse scene in Logan was all around his closing arc.
This was, without a doubt the most perfect night I’ve had in a very long time…..and I know I don’t deserve it, do I?
A family who needed help let Charles into their lives. They gave them their own food, bed, and water. The family in a way was a symbol of what mattered to Xavier. He was also the one who was persistent in keeping Laura with them to recreate the old days. It’s also partly why he was the one who insisted on staying because he wanted to share the value of belonging. And on that day, Charles belonged. Later, going back to the monologue, we see him lay in bed and questioning things. Does he deserve this moment?
Charles Xavier represents many of us. In life, we get a lot of things which we maybe did not deserve. We did things which were wrong. We hurt people. And we question if it’s right whether we earned it. But beforehand Charles also did a lot of good, and maybe the good is why the bad doesn’t matter. Maybe that’s why James Mangold doesn’t even tell us what happened in Westchester. It’s about the right intentions we have. Sometimes we mess up, we happen to hurt others. Charles failed the only thing he cared for, but did he? He saved so many lives and dignities even if he later disappointed them. Thanks to him they too were able to spread love to others. Like a true hero.
To me, this is the saddest scene in the entire movie. Not because Charles dies. So many of us see this as a very tragic conclusion to his life, but right before X-24 performs the final blow he says, “I think I finally understand it”. The speech is what made it such a tear-jerker and dying in such a way may have felt catastrophic, but in a way, it was also beautiful. From his perspective, his arc comes to a close. It’s the perfect way to go out because he left with something missing before. Inner peace.
“It’s about what you believe.”
The second most important character in the film is no other than Laura Kinney, performed by Dafne Keen. She’s a character that’s sort of forced upon Logan by some woman he doesn’t know, and later Charles. In a world when fewer mutants exist, there is Laura who means something to everyone.
She represents a rebirth to some, a weapon of mass destruction to others. Yet there’s always a common theme linking the differences. She is all their future. It’s fitting how they decided to use a little girl as children are usually used to symbolize tomorrow, the new age. She’s a new hope for mutant kind. The character herself has motivations set in place and it’s all represented in one item. A comic book.
Logan: Where we’re going, Eden, it doesn’t exist. The nurse got it from a comic book.[…] It’s not real.
Charles: It is for Laura.
A silly, comic book. You see, earlier in the movie Logan is given coordinates said to take the girl to Eden, a safe haven. To his surprise, the X-Men comics Laura was reading had the exact same numbers. An entire group of young mutants wants to escape there without knowing if it actually exists. They just take the made-up story as gospel. What does the comic book have to do with real life? Sometimes even the simplest of things can hold the most significance to us, especially as we’re kids. The comic was their beacon of hope of a world where they’ll be safe. So, in the end, we never get to know if they made it to Eden or not.
That’s the answer the movie again doesn’t provide us with, yet really gives you something better. Getting there was Laura’s main intent. The stories were enough for her to believe and along the way she managed to change people’s lives. Despite the deaths in the film, everyone who she touched got a fulfilled ending. Laura’s relevance to the story, if it’s to continue the mutant gene or help others get to Eden, elevated everyone. Her faith in a comic book inspired others around her to change for the better. Everyone’s faith in her beliefs elevated them. Similarly, others can make us feel inspired. Sometimes even one person can be enough to save another from the miseries eating them away from the inside.
She was the person to give Charles a new reason to live. She was the reason why Logan ended up fighting on. In a way, the meaning has a much more significant sense than the outcome. It’s not about the final destination, rather the journey. Laura leaves the audience member with a sense of affirmation that we’re currently in a better position than at the beginning of the film. In our lives, the same could be true. Many say the world hasn’t changed. It’s exactly as it was, it only hides underneath a different face. Laura challenges that. The downfalls of characters are a focus for the majority of the film.
Charles feels lonely. Logan drinks an excessive amount of alcohol, loses his way, feels miserable and suicidal. Yet at the end, despite the bigger picture of the world still haunting mutants, societies crumbling apart, people changed. Logan and Charles are no longer lost souls. They found an appreciation. Yes, our lives may start becoming surrounded by something darker than ever before, but that doesn’t mean we cannot be better. It’s true that the world doesn’t change, but people can. That’s the future we should aspire to.
“And I believe in love.”
And last, but not least, we have the lead character himself, Logan. Hugh Jackman always brings his A-game, but we can all agree this takes the top spot. Just as Charles represents the past, Laura the future, Logan is what’s happening now. The present is affecting him the most of all people.
Our current states are the result of what the past forged us into. For Logan, he became the Wolverine. He was made a weapon, a monster, but also a hero. It was thanks to Charles who found him and changed his life for the better. The problem was that Logan allowed his monster side to take over. This also explains why Charles admits his disappointment in him.
I called Logan a lost soul. That’s what we see him as at the start of the film, and certainly how he chooses to lead his life. Everywhere we follow him he’s either trying to recover or drink it all away. Problems are what he’s essentially trying to run away from. He wants to venture with Charles into a boat and alienate themselves from the world. Then enter Laura. In the beginning, he chooses to leave her. His involuntarily mandate to take her along proves little development occurs at this stage of his life. The girl trails around him like a chore, another problem. However, a new feeling seeds within our hero.
It’s when Charles demands to stay with the family at the farmhouse. We already established it represents a normal life. It shows the reality of when they feel most human. The inside jokes at the dinner table reminded Logan the days when he was a hero despite the inner flaws. It’s a place which reignites a spark. Charles wanted to stay at the family’s house to feel a sense of belonging, but he also wanted for Logan to see there’s always a better life he can choose to lead. One where he doesn’t always have to run away. The old man saw Laura as an opportunity to change everything, to return to the past, to the good days, not only for himself, but for Logan.
After the death of Charles Xavier, it seems Logan should give up everything. But because of the experience at the farmhouse, he was able to feel something. Even though he was venturing into, what he considered as nowhere, he decided to go help Laura. It wasn’t until the forest scene that he regained a sense of action. He went out to save the young mutants. Ultimately, Logan decided he won’t allow himself to die alone like some deserted animal. He wasn’t going to become the tool they made him into. And that’s also where a lot of Logan’s destiny lies.
To prove that we had the clone, X-24 representing his mirror image. Was he any different from that thing? His life melded him into a man turned weapon, an object, an easily disposable device, only existing for others’ gain. He let himself reach a state as lifeless as the one of the clone. This time he might’ve not been manipulated and forced to kill, but his life held as little of a meaning. He was still the victim of the Wolverine.
And in the final scene of the movie he made his own decision. He decided he will protect Laura and the young kids even if it kills him. Killed him it did. A choice formed by a sense of protection, care if you’d wanna go the cheesy route I’d even say, love. For once he died a free man. “So that’s what it feels like”. What does this exactly mean? Our instincts tell us he’s referencing the feeling of death. However, it contains a double meaning. Its second and more important definition is Logan’s recognition of a true family. Both things he never got to experience until now.
This realization comes to fruition when he tells Laura, “You don’t have to fight anymore […] don’t be what they made you”. The moral he’s learned and wants to pass onto Laura so that she wouldn’t make the same mistake. All so that now she’d be able to “run on home to your mother”.
Logan is a story of understanding, rebirth, and inspiration. The past, present, future all encapsulated within its main cast. Maybe we did bad things in the past. That doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the fruits of life, nor does it mean we are submissive to the dark we once used to abide by. Instead, we should seek to become better people. The past defines you, but it’ll never make you the person you are now if you won’t let it.
It’s funny how going back yet again to the movie’s most important scene, the farmhouse, they pretended to be a family by taking on the name, “the Howletts”. For Logan that was only a cover-up to hide his identity. He thought it was something he couldn’t ever be a part of. He never thought he could allow himself to join one. However, as Laura seems to suggest at the end, it was something he certainly belonged in. We all should.
Charles: You know, Logan? This is what life looks like. A home, people who love each other, safe place. You should take a moment and feel it.
Logan: So this is what it feels like.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on Logan? Comment down below!
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