Logan, the X-Men’s famed Wolverine, bested the world’s worst hombres in his day. He tangled with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants, fought the Silver Samurai and battled his very own brother.
But not even Wolverine can win the war against time.
It’s 2029, and the world has changed. Mutantkind has all but disappeared. The few who remain aren’t all that interested in donning tights and saving the world.
Logan’s no superhero now but a limo driver, chauffeuring grieving widows or drunken revelers through the streets of El Paso, Texas. He lives in an otherwise-abandoned compound just south of the border, doing his best to stave off a hidden, ticking time bomb.
That bomb is Charles Xavier.
The mind-reading former leader of the X-Men has some form of dementia now—a degenerative brain disease eating away at the world’s greatest brain. He babbles incoherently or rages at shadows. He’ll suffer seizures that, because of his psychokinetic abilities, can hurt or even kill those close by. And even when Charles seems to be in his right mind, he insists that he “talks” with a little mutant girl. Laura. But Laura’s just another delusion, Logan knows. It’s been decades since the last mutant was born.
Logan keeps Charles’ seizures in check and his mind manageable through some ill-gotten meds, but they’re losing their power. Charles is getting worse. So Logan’s squirreling away money to buy a boat—something they can take into open waters, where Charles’ increasing dementia won’t hurt or kill anyone. Well, anyone but Logan.
But Charles isn’t the only mutant on the clock. Logan limps now. He coughs. He bleeds. His wounds don’t miraculously knit themselves together like they used to. No, Wolverine’s legendary powers of regeneration are failing him. He’s dying.
But dying or no, Logan’s still a legend. And one day, a woman comes to him for help. She needs to get to North Dakota, she says. She’ll pay well if he’ll take her and a small, important bit of cargo: a little girl with a penchant for horses and pink sunglasses, a little girl being pursued by some very bad people.
She seems normal in most ways.
Except for the way she looks at people. The way she never speaks. And the way claws come out of her knuckles when she’s mad.
Logan has no inclination to take little girls to South Dakota. He can barely stand his own company, much less that of others. The former superhero is still strong in body (at least compared to the rest of us), but broken in soul. Charles tells Logan how disappointed he is in him, what a pitiful excuse for a hero he turned out to be.
But in this strange, last mission, Charles sees one last opportunity to teach Logan something about life, hope and love. And when the two are forced to take the girl with them on one of film history’s strangest road trips, he drops a little life lesson on Logan at every stop for gas.
When the two come across a farmer and his son, trying desperately to shoo their wayward horses off the highway, Logan’s inclined to want to keep driving. “Someone’ll come along,” he says. “Someone has come along,” Charles points out. The two wind up having dinner with the family, one filled with smiles and laughter.
“This is what life looks like,” Charles tells Logan. “People love each other. You should take a moment …”
Logan doesn’t. Not then. But as the road trip progresses and he grows ever fonder of this little girl (Laura), he begins to see what Charles was talking about. And he discovers—perhaps to his own surprise—that he’ll do anything and everything to protect her.
The family that Logan, Charles and Laura eats dinner with is Christian. They pray before dinner. And when the father gripes about their rural trials, the mother tells him gently, “The Lord will provide.” “I’m still waiting for the Lord to provide a new thresher,” the father quips.
Charles also expresses a certain level of faith. “We were all part of God’s plan,” he tells Logan, speaking of he and his fellow mutants. “Maybe we were God’s mistake,” Logan counters. There are other references to mutants being like gods themselves. We also see a funeral scene from an old Western (Shane) that includes the Lord’s Prayer. Laura’s mesmerized by the scene.
[Spoiler Warning] Laura is revealed to be Logan’s own daughter—created and raised in a lab, but nevertheless crafted from Wolverine’s seed. The lab was trying to create an army of superhuman killers. (“Don’t think of them as children,” a scientist cautions a nurse caring for them. “Think of them as things.”) What they didn’t account for, however, was the presence of these children’s “souls.” Thus they decide to scrap the test-tube-baby program in favor of straight-up cloning—a process that creates soulless killing machines.
There’s a brief topless scene when a woman pulls down her dress. Some of Logan’s limo customers wear cleavage-baring evening wear.
When Logan discovers that Laura’s mysterious female guardian has a bevy of old X-Men comics in her possession, the former X-Man is dismissive of those tales. “In the real world, people die!” he tells Laura.
In this movie, people die, too. Lots of people, and often in intensely grotesque and gratuitous ways. Frankly, there’s so much liquid, meaty mayhem here that I don’t think we can catalog it all.
Logan’s (and Laura’s) claws rip through reams of flesh. Logan skewers bad guys up through their jaws and into their skulls. Laura, off camera, apparently slices off someone’s head. (She comes out of a warehouse and rolls the noggin to the bad guy’s boss.) Limbs are hacked off. Throats are gashed. It’s doubtful you’d see so much sliced meat in a beef packing plant.
But Laura and (especially) Logan suffer their share of injuries, too. Both have an ability to heal the severest of wounds, of course, even though Logan’s abilities are fading. Laura’s own battle injuries are more suggested by the sheer magnitude of bullets and violence hurtled her way. (We do see dried blood on her knuckles where her blades come out, though.) Logan doesn’t get off so cleanly. He’s shot (with a shotgun no less), stabbed and shish kabobed plenty, up to the point where you’re a little surprised you don’t see organs hanging out of the guy. In one scene, he squeezes bullets out of freshly made bullet holes.
We also see some horrific moments of violence done by other means, as well. Someone has half their head blown off. Someone else gets skewered on a farm implement, the blades sticking out of the guy’s torso while he continues to squirm. In a truly horrific scene, people are slaughtered, leaving a home covered in blood. Others have their arms and heads frozen, then knocked off in sprays of blood. Vehicles fall on people. One man seems to be sucked into the very ground, wrapped in killer strands of grass.
In addition, Charles’ destructive mental fits have massive repercussions to those around him. While mutants seem most susceptible to his brain waves, Charles’ powers can impact normal folks, too. Most patrons of what appears to be a Reno casino are paralyzed and collapse unconscious when he suffers a breakdown there. (Charles apologizes to everyone, some just beginning to revive, as Logan hurriedly wheels him out.) We also hear rumblings of another terrible happening that took place several years ago because of Charles’ faltering brain—one that left several people dead.
In an old video a boy jumps off the side of a building, apparently choosing suicide as opposed to serving an immoral cause. Someone else blows himself up for much the same reasons. A man carries around a special bullet, planning on using it on himself when he feels the time is right. Another mutant (Caliban), who’s sensitive to the sun, is exposed to its harmful rays by bad guys who are “encouraging” him to join their cause. It burns him terribly.
About 45 f-words and nearly 25 s-words. We also hear “a–,” “d–n” and “h—,” along with three abuses of Jesus’ name and two parings of God’s name with “d–n.”
Logan is very sick, and he self-medicates throughout the movie with whiskey, flasks full of booze and whatever liquor is available. He also uses a vial of medication that speeds up his unique healing processes at the expense of some of his rational mind. (It seems to wear off quite quickly, however.) Logan buys Charles’ drugs, apparently illegally, from a hospital worker. People drink heavily in the back of Logan’s limo.
Some of Logan’s limo passengers seem to taunt Latinos with chants of “U.S.A.!” insinuating that they don’t belong there. Someone tries to steal the hubcaps off Logan’s limosuine—much to their eventual agony.
Wondering if Logan’s R-rating is a light one? Forget about it. When the moviemakers decided to go for a full-blown scarlet R, they didn’t skimp on the scarlet. They went full-bore bloody.
I don’t envy the parents of teenage X-Fans trying to navigate the conversations they’ll need to have about this often gratuitously gory movie. Put the foot down, and there may be Wolverine-style howls of protest. Give permission … well, the aftermath may be, in its own way, as scarring as anything Wolverine typically suffers.
It’s doubly unfortunate because, for all its blood, for all its f-words, Logan delivers some powerful messages.
Logan acknowledges the cost of shedding that blood. Clips of the film Shane—about an old gunfighter trying to clear a valley of guns—emphasizes this again and again. “There’s no living with a killing,” Shane says. “There’s no going back.” In his own gruff way, Logan tells Laura the same thing. Even though Laura does her share of killing, there’s a sense of innocence about her. Logan wants to preserve that innocence as much as he can. “Don’t be what they made you,” he tells her. Don’t be a killer, he’s saying: Be a little girl. Be better than me.
We’re given something else here, too: a family. Charles, the wise, aging and sometimes infantile grandfather; Logan, the angry, imperfect father; Laura, the daughter desperately needing a guiding hand. We watch as the traditional roles reverse: Logan gently carrying Charles up a flight of stairs to bed. Laura caring for an unconscious, sick Logan, finally managing to take him to the hospital. It’s strangely touching, especially in the confines of a superhero flick.
And then there’s this: Implicitly, Logan’s story is one of redemption—one, perhaps, of salvation. Our protagonist is, after all, a wreck of a man when we first meet him, a beaten-down superhero with nothing left to save and no will to save it. Against his better judgment, against his own will, he discovers he does care. He finds someone to love, to save. And in the process, perhaps he saves himself.
Logan is, in short, frustrating. It’s painfully bloody and oddly beautiful, insanely profane and strangely spiritual. And there’s that brief instance of nudity, too. Because of those issues, Logan‘s a movie I can’t recommend to anyone. But in some ways, I wish I could.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.