(THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW)
The soul of this entire film rests in two lines of dialogue from this movie, both of which will be explored in this article.
While the story behind “Logan” is ultimately about Wolverine helping a child cross a border into safe territory, the real story—and the message of the movie—lies within the character of Logan himself. As I watched this film for my second time, what didn’t hit me as strongly the first time was how metaphorical and relevant the message is for everyone watching. I’ll explain exactly what I mean by that later in this article. But to start off, Logan, at its core, is about humanity, and how we as humanity—when we strip away the belief in something greater than the meaning of our Earthly existence—cannot effectively explain why we even consider waking up tomorrow.
THE HUMANITY OF WOLVERINE
Throughout his 17-year-career as the Wolverine, Hugh Jackman continued to dig deeper into the identity of the character of James Howlett–Logan’s name before the adamantium claws came out. The more Hugh dug into the humanity of Wolverine, the less plastic-like and one-dimensional the character was and the more relatable and likable he became. The claws became heroic rather than horrific because Logan used them to save his friends and innocent people from the harm of dangerous enemies. In all the nine previous X-Men films which included Wolverine (two of those being cameos), Logan’s claws did more work defining him more than anything about his character. Marvel merely tickled the surface in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” inviting some backstory to complement the character leading the original three X-Men films. But even in “Origins,” Wolverine remained very close to the corner of the room, hiding the majority of his true colors in the dark. In Logan, James Mangold–the film’s writer and director—truly allows transparency to shine on humility of James Howlett, and we finally get to see the human behind the claws.
This, above all the other aspects of the film to be recognized, is what made this film not so much a Marvel comic-book adaptation, but more of a character study of the famous and well-recognized antihero. While there is still plenty of action, the true strength behind this film is the character development, and James Mangold does not hold back from telling a complete story. By the time the credits roll, we have learned something significant not only about Logan, but about ourselves—and this happens through sentimental, carefully drawn-out storytelling.
I will return to Logan, but there is a point that must be made before I continue which will add layers of depth to our understanding of the beautiful, rich story behind Mangold’s film.
HOLLYWOOD’S SUBSTITUTE FOR GOD
Secularism runs rampant in Hollywood, and it sells in abundance. What do I mean? When most Blockbuster films feel the need to tease audiences with sexual promiscuity/innuendo even in just the trailers themselves to get the viewer’s attention, that says a lot about Hollywood’s opinion of society. Same thing with violence—there’s a reason there is so much killing, torment, bloodshed and vindication in films: These themes sell without much effort—people will pay to see more.
When I was watching the trailers before Logan played, I realized something—there are so many films being made now about “life beyond Earth,” the most recent of which to advertise such an idea being “Life,” (coming out soon) with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, among several others. The trailer itself portrays the story of a crew in space who find life on the Moon and then realize it’s evil, but only after it’s too late. Hollywood’s definition of anything mysterious and supernatural seems to be that it is evil, dangerous, and to be feared. It advertises the unknown as scary, intimidating, and threatening. First Hollywood approaches the idea of “life beyond Earth” as inviting, adventurous, and even swooning—as if to say that the discovery of “what lies beyond” is meant to whet our appetite for the metaphysical and supernatural, feeding our frenzy to understand what we cannot explain.
Another film being advertised is “Alien: Covenant,” where “The path to Paradise begins in Hell.” While this “sells” because it carries elements of mystery, thrill, and action, it still flaunts Hollywood’s classic slogan to use religious parlance in a non-religious setting where unbelievers can be entertained by the idea the words conjure up while distorting the foundation for which the words naturally belong. In other words, movies like “Alien: Covenant,” and advertising horror films like this in such a way only distorts the viewer’s perception and opinion of spirituality by connoting the stoic use of religious paraphrases to the idea that faith is a joke.
Being as Hollywood is not founded in Christianity, their answer to the unknown is that it is either evil or non-existent; they either mock it or connote the notion of a spiritual realm with something unpleasant and treacherous. There is no middle-ground where there is a loving God in a place where souls are forever encompassed by eternal happiness and an inimitable, foundational joy—not without facetious jokes and harmfully mistaken distortions of exegesis (the critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of Scripture). Hollywood creates dialogue Jesus might have said in order to use it in a situation where they know the audience will roll their eyes and scoff. This is Hollywood’s sarcastic depiction of God, Heaven, and all-things spiritual.
THE INFLUENCE OF FILM
Furthermore, Hollywood knows people watch movies—that there are many people in this world who worship movies like gods; claiming the fantasy of the film-world defines and explains the reality we live in outside the theater or our own homes. For example, people 9/10 times will reference a movie or a scene from a movie to clarify a point about a real-life situation. This speaks loudly for how much people depend on movies for something to cling to in order to define their perception of something, or to explain their beliefs. They’ll reference character dialogue or a storyline as if talking about their next-door neighbor, despite the character’s dialogue fictitiousness and their never having actually known the person. This is how real film is for many people.
For another graphic example, take The Matrix. The Columbine shooters took from both the wardrobe and the main concept behind The Matrix and claimed to be “waking people from their dream” when killing students and teachers at their high school. Now, please hear me, this is not a bash on The Matrix films; this is a point about how seriously people take movies to define life outside of the movies. When we take films too seriously and relate to people we have never met while believing what we watch draws a clearer picture of our world than our personal experience—we misunderstand how ironically the opposite is true: Filmmakers take from life to create movies.
A filmmaker who is capable of writing a script that ultimately ends up resonating with its audience is a job well-done—but to glean cinematic history to define our culture, our political opinions, our love lives, and even our belief systems—that is going too far. Film is used to influence, that is case in point. But to reference film as a reflection of reality is paranoiac and illusory.
BRINGING LOGAN BACK
So, what does any of that have to do with Logan, you ask? The movie isn’t as much about helping the little girl, Laura, cross the border to safety; it’s about Logan’s introspection and realization that life without meaning isn’t worth the struggle. How does a mutant view the concept of life’s meaning any differently than a human? That’s exactly the point: A mutant doesn’t view it differently at all. Logan is James Howlett without the claws; a man with a story, a family, several lifetimes worth of experience and pain, and then claws. Logan, the movie, isn’t so much a comic-book Marvel film, but a story about realizing that life must have more substance to it than who we get along with, where we work, and the circumstances outside of our control.
Patrick Stewart has several fantastic, meaningful lines of dialogue in this film as Charles Xavier—or Professor X, as fans would say. I will not spoil your opportunity to experience them without watching the film first, so I will only touch on the one that is most pertinent to this article.
During a quiet point in the film, Charles and Logan have helped a family and their horses off of the freeway and the family offers them dinner at their home in gratitude. After they’ve eaten, Charles says to Logan, “Logan, this is what life looks like; people care about each other. You should take a moment and feel it.” This is HUGE for Logan because, as those who have watched all of Hugh Jackman’s portrayals of Wolverine know, Logan is not very interpersonal at heart; he doesn’t show himself emotionally. He’s more blunt, straight-forward, stoic, and bitter; a raging tornado—whereas someone like Charles is something like that of a cool river. When Charles says this, it is not to mock Logan or to express scorn, but to teach. I also believe that line could be said for many viewers who are watching, a reminder that home is where people genuinely care about you, where they look after you, love you, and do what they can for your best interest. This is foreign material for Logan to comprehend, and when it is spoken, the words do not so much reach deaf ears as they do a disheartened, distraught heart full of pain, regret, shame, bitterness, and stoicism—and Hugh does a phenomenal job portraying a character hearing these words after having experienced and survived as much pain as such a character in such a fictitious world would.
LOGAN SPEAKS TO THE WORLD
In another powerfully moving scene, Logan has been in battle, and is talking to another mutant. What he says is something I believe we all need to hear: “Don’t become what they made you.”
While he’s literally speaking (per context of the scene) into the situation of having claws and a name notorious for violence and a temper—I also found that he could be metaphorically speaking into the hearts of viewers in the way we depend on the world to define us. Like I mentioned earlier, we use film as a strong means of influence. We also look to culture, politics, music, books, and other places. Sometimes we “look” so hard that we fall face-first into the fantasy world and forget that our book is still open. While this topic could certainly open a new article of its own, I have written about identity before—and what is important to note here is that if we shape our identity by the world, then we are really a reflection of the world, not an exemplary role model in the midst of it. Logan, when saying those words, speaks into the truth that no one has to be anything outside of who they want to be. We all worship something, our choice is what we worship.
If we worship vengeance, bitterness, and rage, then we live the life of the permanently damaged, unable to choose to see how beautiful life really is. If we worship entertainment, we forget what reality looks and feels like. When we worship power and status, we forget the humility of recognizing we aren’t the only ones who exist on planet Earth. Logan’s words (written by James Mangold himself) remind us that we are not who the world says we are or what the world influences us to believe about ourselves, we are who we say we are.
As a Christian, myself, I believe I am who God created me to be, and the world does not always speak into this place. In fact, the world taunts that place repeatedly, hoping to dismantle the faith of someone like me (and millions of others) and jar us back to the place it considers to be reality. But the world wouldn’t make any sense to me without God, and less sense yet without Him having sent His son, Jesus, to do what He did on the cross and rising from the dead, sending eternal ripples throughout history. The world wants me to believe I have all I need in the power of my body and mind to be whole; but if I believed that then I wouldn’t be able to form a viable explanation for the existence of shame, guilt, sin, and the need for justice; not to mention the hope of an eternal home where shame, guilt, sin, pain, and death no longer exist. The secular world (Hollywood) mostly preaches of a humanity where religion is target practice for crude, convoluted jokes, and where sex and violence are a necessary means to enjoy oneself in this life. Logan’s words remind us we don’t have to listen to people who believe that. We don’t have to be someone that somebody else says we are. And I believe there is truth to that; in fact, I believe that is the very heart of this film, and for that matter the reason why, so far, this is the best film of the year.
There is absolutely no reason to take a child to see this film. A child wouldn’t understand the message I’ve explained in this article, let alone would (or should) a child be able to handle the graphic violence and pervasive language. There are f-bombs throughout the movie, and the violence is wincingly graphic at times. I don’t even need to go into detail here. The film is incredible, but absolutely inappropriate for children. To truly capitalize on the R-rating, the director even gratuitously throws in a teenage girl flashing a character, which has no purpose in this film other than to gavel the R-rating. I’m not telling anyone what to do with regards to protecting your children’s minds, but I highly, strongly urge parents against allowing your child to see this film until they are older. It’s just unnecessary.
I would give Logan 5/5, because the story, message, action, and writing flow so naturally throughout that it’s even worth another viewing. I highly urge adults to watch this if you’re a fan of Hugh Jackman, any X-Men related stories, and James Mangold as a director. I doubt you will be disappointed.
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