Inside the desperate sadness of Wolverine in 'Logan'
This post contains spoilers for the film “Logan.”
There is a desperate sadness to Wolverine in “Logan” that lingers long after the deafening sounds of bullets and explosions have dissipated.
“The world is not the same as it was,” Logan says with remorse but no further explanation, leaving us to wonder what he really means. The present seems no worse than the past of previous films: filled with inhumane covert corporate experiments, impotent governments, widespread discrimination, and endless violence. Even the good guys were bad.
What has most remarkably changed is not the world but Logan himself—still indulging his angry, solitary disposition, but this time without the respite of friends, a lover, and humor. Furthermore, for the first time, we see an emasculated Wolverine, startled by his inability to get one of his claws out when it’s called upon, refusing to rise to the occasion.
There is no sex in “Logan,” only its shadow. Inebriated girls flirt with Logan, as he drives them in his limo, and one flashes him. The gratuity of the sexual gesture points to a greater emptiness: Logan’s dying masculinity. He offers only a resigned smile. This is not the Logan that wooed Jean Grey or fascinated Rogue, whose crush mirrored the charmed, seduced audience.
This is a Logan reduced to driving assholes for cash to score pharmaceuticals for the ailing Charles Xavier, the once all-powerful Professor X now suffering from Alzheimer’s and in need of regular doses to keep his powers in check. His new home is a makeshift dome that loosely resembles his old quarters, like the ruins of a great civilization kept around for tourists. Playing the severe, ungrateful father, he tells Logan, “What a great disappointment you have been.”
“Show’s over,” Logan seems to be grumbling at audiences. All that is left of the X-Men comic fantasy is its real world consequences. Yet, like the aging, disillusioned gangster doggedly determined to pull off his last heist, he cannot help but fight, waving a tired hand that invites us stay and watch him die.
The show goes on for Laura, his daughter and legacy. Like him, she is fierce and irrepressible; but she does not carry the burden of his masculine entitlement, his owed power and its pleasures. More importantly, she has friends: an army of mutants running away from, and not towards, their powers of destruction. In the end, Logan must stay behind.
I could not help but have wished a less conventionally masculine existence for Wolverine, defined by his volatility, grunt, impressive body and facial hair, bulking muscles, and long, strong, shining claws. When his physical prowess withers, he is nothing. When he can no longer protect the women in his life, he is obsolete. He cannot see beyond this, and his anger has no object but itself, content to recycle its outrages, to find more victims, regardless of purpose.
Laura, increasingly calm and wise, articulate and kind, in crossing the border in the final minutes, frees herself from the sadness of a man poisoned by what the world has told him to be. Having him take that industrial green liquid--a Viagra for killing--and unleash his worst instincts on the enemy finally gives the tourists a sight to behold, ultimately at the expense of his life.
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