James Mangold’s Logan is not like other X-Men movies. While I have enjoyed the X-Men series overall, I’m not the biggest fan, I don’t know the lore well, and I’ve never cared much for Wolverine’s gruff character. But that’s exactly why I was excited to see Logan. I had heard it was different, and it is.
Saying that I “enjoyed” the movie might not be the right way to put it, but it’s a powerful film that sticks with you afterwards. It took me some time to process it after I left the theater. It almost made me cry.
But leaving enjoyment out of it, here are a few reasons I think Logan is such a special film. (Minor spoilers to follow — nothing major!)
A Child’s Perspective
The story revolves around the discovery of a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen). Charles Xavier — old Professor X (Patrick Stewart) — is dying to help her, and it quickly becomes apparent that it’s not just because she’s a mutant: She has claws like Wolverine’s. Though Logan (Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine) doesn’t want anything to do with her at first, learning that Laura is his daughter helps him come around and gives him one last thing to fight for.
What’s more, seeing Laura’s violence makes it all the more disturbing. By now, I’m used to action scenes with adults fighting adults, and I know it’s all fake — but seeing a girl, about 10 years old, screaming while she claws men to death makes the violence feel more real. I was no longer desensitized to it; the new perspective made me appreciate how messed up the world is — that a young girl has to fight in this way, and that she could have permanent scars.
Getting to Know Laura
For most of the movie, Laura doesn’t speak. It took me a few scenes to realize this, but halfway through the film, Logan and a new friend discuss her muteness. I thought this was a brilliant way to introduce her. We don’t need her talking about her past; the mystery of who she is makes the unveiling of her history and inner strength all the more powerful. Young actress Dafne Keen does a phenomenal job of expressing the character’s cleverness — I loved a scene where she casually eats cereal while watching a security monitor that shows enemies approaching outside — as well as her rage. Her actions identify her inner energy quite a bit, first when she incessantly throws a ball against a wall, then when she enacts violence on those who are trying to capture her.
Unlike a lot of the PG-13 action flicks, Logan is rated R — and earns that rating. While I don’t mind a story being careful to fit within a “younger” rating if it makes sense, in this case the R rating is totally needed to shed light on the movie’s themes. Logan, worn out and sick from the inside, is tired of violence — yet it keeps coming back to him.
Each action scene feels warranted, and the camera doesn’t shy away from the bloodshed. The fights are brutal to watch, in a way that makes you understand why Wolverine is over everything, why he’s been hiding out driving a limo in Mexico, why he wants to buy a boat and escape the rest of the world. Fights are not glamorous in this action movie — they’re raw and ugly, and I cringed at times seeing men speared by Wolverine’s claws. I could feel the hits Logan took too. As hard as it can be to watch, the violence serves its purpose: It fully shows the wear-and-tear on Logan, both physically and on his psyche.
Family Road Trip
Much of the movie shows Logan, Charles, and Laura on the run in a rundown car. They’re road-tripping across the United States, on their way from the Mexican border to the Canadian border so Laura can join up with her fellow survivors and escape to Canada.
I love the family atmosphere here, as dysfunctional as it is. There are some great scenes showing the progression of life that we all can probably relate to. For example, in one scene, Logan helps Charles use a gas station restroom, since Charles is in his wheelchair and needs help with these things. In that same part of the film, Logan finds Laura in the gas station shop, clawing the cashier who reprimanded her for stealing; in a fatherly tone (which made the audience in my theater laugh), Logan grabs Laura’s wrist to stop her violence and says, “Not okay.”
A Redemption Story
At the beginning of the movie, Logan is an alcoholic lone wolf who wants nothing more than to get away from the world. We see the side of him that’s still good when he goes to take care of Charles every day, giving him his medicine to prevent seizures and making him comfortable to sleep at night. But he’s stopped taking care of himself.
Meanwhile, Charles is dealing with these seizures that seem to freeze the world around him, making it impossible for others to breathe. He may not like taking his pills, but his conscience tells him that his seizures put others at risk. Hearing about his guilt over the episodes — even though he can’t control them — is heartbreaking.
But Logan is a story of redemption, and we see that mainly through Logan’s journey. Charles is clearly a good man, but Logan needs that push to do the right thing. Seeing his interactions with Laura — how he helps and protects her, even while remaining gruff and argumentative — are a big part of what redeems him. And in the end, he fights for her no matter what the cost to himself.