[Spoilers for Logan]
Logan is the inevitable end point for superheroes. It’s the world after, the world where the bad guys as tall as skyscrapers and as blue as a supernova have all been defeated. The world should be a better place, right? This movie asks what happens when you take away the supervillains, and the answer it gives is scary, because, at the end of it, at the end of this long and twisting road, there will always be ourselves, waiting, watching.
There’s one scene in the film that stood out to me and it shaped my whole view of the movie. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment of X-23, Logan’s sort of daughter, cutting herself with her claws and watching the wounds instantly heal. She’s locked up in a facility, self-harming, as doctors observe and study and poke and prod and decide her life for her. It’s pretty dark. But I think that tiny moment where we see her cutting herself shows so much about how she’s dealing with the situation, about her methods for coping with her world. Piece by piece, step by step, we discover everyone’s techniques for coping with their personal situations, and none of these methods seem to be healthy or productive. X-23 takes it out on herself, Professor X takes it out on Logan, and Logan takes it out on absolutely everyone else, Caliban included, a character who I’m sure would take his own sadness and anger out on the world if only he was able to explore it a little more. It’s a never-ending cycle of hate breeding hate, where in the end it all comes down to a simple root problem. These characters have lived lives. They’ve existed in the world for long enough to see things go wrong, to have made their own mistakes. And they hate themselves. They hate what they’ve done and they hate the world that’s let things get so hard but most of all they just hate who they are.
X-23’s self-harm is a perfect encapsulation of what the world has done to our characters. She’s been bred in a facility, and she’s had doctors hurt her and scare her and treat her friends like toys to be discarded at the end of the day. These things have happened to her, not because of her. She directs the blame inwards anyway. Whether she cuts as a coping mechanism or as a result of her internal anger or even just to see how her powers work, she’s hurting herself, and that’s intentional. It’s not dissimilar to the way Professor X, confused and lost in his struggle with Alzheimer’s, directs his fury towards Logan, a man whose done everything for him, the same way Logan shouts at Caliban, whose also trying, but whose struggling just as much as anyone. It’s a response to a global problem. We, as a human race, hate ourselves. And that’s the ultimate villain, at the end of it all, once the space aliens have been zapped and the mecha dinosaurs explosioned. When nothing else is left, there’s still ourselves, and it’s this most human aspect of the superhero that this movie so deftly explores.
Life is hard. Life is hard for people who don’t have enough food to feed themselves, for people who live absolutely decent lives but want to end it all anyway, for muscly actors who’ve been trying to hang up the cowl for years but have never quite found the right opportunity. Life is more often than not a struggle, a struggle not just to find happiness but to find peace. We are so angry, so much of the time, because things are unfair and people are cruel and the world isn’t what it should be. Everyone feels that, everyone. So of course that’s where we end. Of course that’s where Wolverine, of all people, ends. No matter how strong you are, no matter how many crazy regenerative powers you might have, you’ll still be struggling, because you’ll still be around to punch yourself in the face.
Logan loses his fight with himself. Logan is literally killed by his clone, and the death is real and there are no sneaky end credit scenes where he wakes up. He’s gone, this is the end of his story. The world doesn’t look set to change either. Bad people are left to do bad things. We don’t know if the kids are going to make it. The struggle doesn’t end just because the superhero dies. We should know that by now, after all, the superhero died long ago. This is Logan, the man, dealing with human problems in a human world, not the bright yellow spandexed Wolverine of old.
But X-23, little, self-harming X-23. She’s not gone, not by a long shot. And she’s trying. That’s the key, that’s the little bit of genius in an otherwise soul crushingly depressing film. She’s stepping forwards into a position of care, rather than anger. She’s with a group, a group of children just like the long dead X-Men, a team that will have to care for each other and fight for each other and struggle in a world that does nothing but stand in their way. Last time that didn’t go so well. Last time it resulted in Logan, and Professor X, and Caliban, three men who struggled till their very last day. X-23, Laura, knows what was done to keep her safe, though. She knows that Logan died to keep her alive, she knows that Caliban did the same. She knows that even though those people lost their fights, even though they struggled with their anger and their hate right up until the final second, they made a sacrifice. Which means there must be hope. Logan and Caliban and Professor X never did defeat this final villain, but they came close enough to see that it was possible, and they decided it was worth loosing so that Laura, so that all of her friends, could get the chance to fight it themselves. Laura knows this, and so somewhere, deep down in her heart, she knows that her father, her family, believes she can win. All she has to do is to keep on going. All anyone has to do is to keep on going. It is possible to win this fight, so we have no choice. We have to keep on fighting.