Before anything else, I have to tell you this: Logan deserves a second viewing, at least, before you can fully grasp the magnitude of the film.
Logan, directed by James Mangold and starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and newcomer Dafne Keen, doesn’t feel like a superhero movie, at least, not in the blockbuster, “Marvel Cinematic Universe” sense that many of us have come to expect from this genre of film. There’s little levity in the story that’s told, and in the times that it is present, it is often ripped away violently. This isn’t like last year’s Deadpool, where the action and comedy intermingle constantly and drive the story forward. This is a finale for a character most of us grew up with, and the nature of said character necessitates a somber look at the universe he came into and grew up in.
Logan, to put it simply, is dying. The adamantium that made him the Wolverine is poisoning him from the inside, and the healing factor he’s been sporting around for years is virtually non-existent. In one scene early in the film, the audience watches as he has to forcefully pull out one of his claws, by hand, before bandaging the now-gouged hand. For a man who has lived for nearly a century and a half, Logan’s age is catching up to him.
In the same way, Stewart’s Xavier, in his nineties, is a shell of his former self, stricken by a neurodegenerative brain disease and forced to be constantly medicated to suppress his now-dangerous mind. Even while he brings some humor to the film, like spouting off random advertisements while refusing to take his medicine, you can’t help but feel some sort of sadness for the character. Neither Logan nor Xavier are what they once were, and the bitterness of that loss forms an interesting dynamic between the two, almost akin to a father and son’s relationship to each other.
This concept of age, and the following inevitability of death, is one of the main themes of Logan: nearly every character that Logan and company come across ends up dying, oftentimes directly because of them. Heads roll, literally. The violence shouldn’t come as a surprise to avid readers of the character’s comic book history; in fact, it, along with the foul language and overall cynicism underlying Jackman’s character, is a necessity in order to do the Wolverine justice.
But, even as the gore flies, there is still a small bit of hope present throughout the film, personified by Keen’s Laura, who, without saying much, communicates just as well as Logan through simple eye contact and grunts. She’s not innocent; after all, that first head that rolled? She cut it off. But all the same, you can get a sense of the character through simply watching her interactions with the world, be it staring wide-eyed at a casino in Oklahoma, or silently asking for a kid’s iPod. She’s the one with the most innocence throughout the film, and the relationships she forges with Logan and, to a smaller extent, Xavier, are what drive the film forward.
It’s hard for me to explain all that happens in Logan without delving into spoilers, so I’ll make it brief: Logan, at its core, is about family, and the effects of loss and gain within the family. Logan, Laura, and Xavier have all lost something, but in the end, what they obtain through each other make up at least a small part of the regrowth they each go through by the end of the film.