Certainly one of the best ‘superhero’ films of all time, Logan separates from the pack through character depth and development akin to a Greek tragedy–perhaps of the neo-mythological kind.
Logan’s arc, what a multitude of previous franchise installments have presented but never mounted, becomes apparent in this road film—the epilogue to an Odysseian journey. An old man, he grieves for fallen friends, those he cared about who died because of him, because of what he is. Suffering from traumatic memories and living in an ageless body incapable of surrender, he chooses—perhaps in guilt, perhaps in nobility, perhaps in cowardice–to allow his one vulnerability, the techonology which once built him, slowly put him to rest.
As one who heals and survives, the well of guilt built from seeing others die has taken its toll. Self isolated and alienated in spite of living throughout many a generation, why should he deserve to live when there are better people in the world dying because of him? This is what he thinks: he is the cause of suffering, so he must suffer as penance for what he has caused.
Old man Logan realizes this towards the end of his Odyssey, and so he chooses to reject the world, to no longer interact, to become invisible. His guilt has engendered what might be considered a noble act; as a vagabond, others will no longer die as a result of his actions. And so he withholds from helping others. It is not that he’s a prick who is unwilling to help, but that he is aware that his presence will only draw violence.
After the nurse is killed, he apprehensively aids the girl, only at the behest of Charles—Logan’s father figure whom he cannot refuse. But once he develops a bond with the girl and Charles is no longer with them, he quickly searches for a way out.
At this time, Logan is not motivated by virtue but by cowardice. He quickly rejects the doctor who offers to find and remove the poison, because he is afraid of continuing to live. To quickly remove himself by way of an adamantium bullet would be the ultimate coward’s way out, but Logan is a complex character and, with this film, Mangold endeavors to truly mount the study of a complicated soul’s uncommon journey through life—one of biblical, mythological, and spiritual proportions.
As the film nears its end, the greatest of tragedies is borne. There is no tragedy in death or in eternal suffering. Tragedy involves catharsis and sorrow. Beyond the mere internal conflict of a Greek tragedy, wherein Logan’s inability to cope with his vices begets personal suffering, we have a reversal of circumstances, a provocation, catharsis, and sorrow.
During its brief length, Logan’s death scene—and even Charles’ death scene though I won’t get into this here—presents all of the above. A man with an inclination to suffer and die realizes only at death his reason to live, if only to protect his daughter. In distress, he experiences a two-fold catharsis:
“So this is what it’s like”, he states in wonder. At once he realizes two things: this is what death is like; this is what having a daughter to love and protect is like. This two-fold catharsis relieves Logan’s repressed feelings towards life and love, respectively. For once, the man dies for someone he cares for, instead of watching those he cares for die because of him. Tragically, this revelation of life and love come only upon him at his death, at the point wherein life and love can no longer be healed.
87/100 – Excellent.