A reflection on the final installment of the X-men Wolverine films
Perhaps no actor has been so closely aligned with a particular superhero or more defined by one role than Hugh Jackman has been by Marvel’s Wolverine character. Jackman has portrayed the clawed mutant in nine films, beginning in 2000 with X-Men, and has starred in both X-men sequels and his own stand-alone movies. This past March, Logan was released, a work which Jackman has declared to be his last as the superhero. Logan provides a darkly tragic yet beautifully uplifting ending to the franchise as the Wolverine saga ends after 17 years, a period longer than Jackman’s co-star Dafne Keen has been alive.
Wolverine, who goes by Logan, is not his old sparky self. The first time viewers see him, he stumbles around, can barely fight, is tired and sick, and sports a monstrous grizzled grey beard that was lighter than in Jackman’s younger years. Logan’s healing abilities are diminishing, and age is finally taking a toll on the almost-immortal mutant. Throughout the film, director James Mangold plays with themes of old age, sickness, time, death, and finality. Logan, in hiding, cares for an ancient Charles Xavier, the former leader of the X-men, played touchingly and for the last time by Sir Patrick Stewart. Both Xavier and Logan have lost their one-time prowess as great fighters and leaders battling their foes out in the world, and are reduced to crippled ailing geriatrics on the run.
Logan was intentionally made as a much darker story, receiving the franchise’s first R-rating (depending on where one counts last year’s Deadpool in the X-men canon) for its incredibly violent fight scenes, which include Logan slaughtering human mercenaries and brutally fighting other mutants. Jackman’s touch is difficult yet almost tender to watch; Wolverine is heartbreakingly exhausted and just wants everything to end. As he plays the iconic hero one last time, he leaves everything he has on screen. Actor and character alike give everything.
Although Logan’s life and his time as a force for good draws to a close, there is still hope for the future, albeit in a surprising form. Early on, Logan and Xavier take in Laura, a young mutant on the run from Mexico, and plan to protect and raise her as the last new mutant. Laura, who displays claws and a berserker rage like Wolverine himself, is revealed to be the biological daughter of Logan. She was made with his cells in a lab and was intended to be used a weapon against him. Laura, along with a number of other mutant lab children, had escaped and was, like Logan, on the run from the film’s generally nameless mercenary villains.
Played by the 12-year-old Dafne Keen, Laura is just as violently angry, lethal, and in need of direction as her father. Despite Logan’s reluctance, Xavier takes her in, an action that begins the the movie’s powerful reflection on fatherhood. Logan must learn to look out for someone besides himself, and he struggles to move beyond physical protection to actual guidance for his child. The hero has lost hope, and Laura provides him with a chance for redemption and something to live for. She gives him new purpose.
Hugh Jackman played this kind of role in 2012’s Les Miserables when he played Jean Valjean, an ex-convict given new life by his adopted daughter Cosette. Clearly that influence is still with him. The film makes the viewer question what it means to be a parent beyond the mere biological bond. Logan posits that the giving of life is not enough, claiming that parenthood must consist of something more.
Logan’s graphic and bloody violence may alienate some viewers, but Hugh Jackman’s gloriously gritty last ride as the side-burned warrior is no joke. He leaves his career defining role on top. The plot is emotionally wearing and as brutal to stick through as Wolverine’s own struggles, but it is worth it in the end. And surprisingly, despite the non-stop action, it offers an unsettling and probing meditation on fatherhood and parenthood’s life-giving qualities. Logan is not for the faint of heart, but, for a thoughtful audience, it can provide underneath the thrilling surface a deeper look at what bonds us together as humans—or mutants.
Rover rating: 3/4
John Paul Ferguson is a freshman living in Fisher Hall, completely obsessed with literature and film. He is majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and likes to feed squirrels outside of O’Shag. Email him about Logan or any other Hugh Jackman movie at firstname.lastname@example.org.