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Logan redefines heroism

Trying to escape his violent past, Logan finds peace.    |   Courtesy of joblo.com

 

Superhero movies have asked the question “What makes a hero?” countless times. The answer always contains the idea that a superhero is able to “rise to the occasion,” meaning the hero develops or finds within themselves the physical or mental strength to contend with the threat in a way previously thought impossible.

A heroic anomaly

Even Iron Man, who does not start out with a generous helping of selflessness or decency, gains those virtues in “Avengers” after Captain America confronts him and tells him, “You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.” In the climax of the film, the audience watches Iron Man intercept the nuclear missile sent to obliterate the city and fly it into the black hole with him. Turns out he can rise to the occasion.

In “Logan,” the titular character struggles to rise to any occasion, both physically and emotionally. Although rated R and extremely graphic, the weakness and frailty of the characters in this film make it unlike any other comic book movie to come before it. It reminds viewers the X-Men may be godlike compared to humans, but still struggle with the same foibles and temptations. It is established from the very first scene Logan’s abilities are significantly weakened. While sleeping, Logan — played by Hugh Jackman — awakens by some thugs trying to steal the wheels off his car, he confronts the robbers and begs them to leave. They refuse and blast him in the chest with a shotgun.

When Logan recovers, he does not jump into the fray — he lumbers. His swings feel heavy, and they often miss their target. Logan takes hit after hit after hit, and a fight that would once only last milliseconds now takes agonizing minutes. Eventually the survivors flee, but Logan leaves the skirmish weak and apparently dying.

The same rings true for Professor Xavier, played by Patrick Stewart. His once great mind has deteriorated, leaving Logan as the only person to take care of him. They have plans to escape and live out their remaining days on a boat, but those plans go awry when Laura — played by Dafne Keen — shows up. She is a young mutant girl created in a lab with the same DNA as Wolverine. She eventually reveals herself as his daughter who wants to go to Eden — a supposed safe haven in North Dakota for the remaining mutants.

“Someone has come”

Xavier and Laura both depend on Logan for help. The only problem is, Logan does not want to stick around long enough to help either of them. He would rather drink his days away in the middle of the arid Texas desert and avoid others so he does not risk letting them down.

However, Logan becomes the target of the same people chasing Laura, and eventually gets forced into the task of getting Laura and Xavier to Eden. While driving to North Dakota, they see a family of farmers trying to wrangle their escaped horses off the road. Xavier wants to help, but Logan wants to pass on saying, “Someone will come.” Xavier responds, “Someone has come.” They stop, calm the horses and introduce themselves to the farmers as a family on vacation.

The idea of the trio as a family combined with Xavier’s line, “Someone has come,” draws an interesting connection between being a superhero and being a family member. Xavier’s quote and others like it always urge Logan to stay and confront certain issues rather than running away. That is how families are formed: by a commitment to staying and working out a problem. The movie’s thesis centers around what makes any superhero is not their powers, but their commitment to remaining in the same place, even when physical threats and emotional damage seem too intimidating to confront.

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