Debate Club: Did Logan's ending work?

Contributed by
Mar 20, 2017

(SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF LOGAN. AND ALSO MOST OF THE REST OF LOGAN, TOO.)

Everyone loves Logan. The final Wolverine movie starring Hugh Jackman is the slice-of-life, adult superhero story that redefined the capes-and-tights genre forever. That's great.

But the ending is all wrong.

Or, maybe, it was just right.

This is is Syfy Wire Debate Club, a little something we like to do when a heated debate is so hot, we just have to pass it along. Syfy Wire Debate Club: like a hot potato, but words.

And some of these words are going to be adamantium-sharp as we'll be discussing the hugely successful Logan, or, more specifically, its ending. Is it great? Does it fit into the context of Logan, the film? Does it make sense for Logan's life?

In order to debate this in full, I went back to the root of where all great comic-related debates originate, the truest salon of our day: the comic book store. I used to work at NYC's Forbidden Planet and there I got into it with fellow FP veteran Danny Lore. That's right! It's Dany vs. Danny for a fight over how many "n's" you need in a name! And also a fight over Logan! Okay, mostly Logan.

We actually just talked about Logan.

Here we go!

DANY'S TAKE - LOGAN'S ENDING DOESN'T WORK

There's actually a big ol' list of things I actively dislike about Logan, like its brutalizing of brown folks, for example (link is to an article on the topic from Jourdain Searles, please read it). But, all right; leaving social issues aside, I want to focus on Logan's storycraft -- what kind of story are they trying to tell, and, specifically, how should it all end, since this is the last time Jackman got them claws out?

On its face, Jackman's final turn as Wolverine finds Logan coping with a Charles Xavier struggling with dementia, failing to successfully parent a clone daughter in need of his help, fighting an actual, hyperviolent clone of himself, and trying to protect his daughter and her fellow mutant clones from an organization, Transigen, who isn't just trying to kill them, but have already successfully taken all other mutants out of the natural gene pool. And, oh, don't forget: Logan is basically on his own because Xavier accidentally killed most of their friends with his mind.

Or, put into non-mutant terms, Logan is about: a man struggling with his mentally unstable, dying father as he fights the ghosts of his past, who he used to be, all in order to figure out if he can possibly be a real father to a daughter he didn't know he had and isn't sure he wants.

That's a dope concept for a movie right there, and giving it that superhero angle makes people who might otherwise check out at the family drama way more likely to be down.

But let's talk about that ending, though. After Xavier dies, Logan is alone with just his daughter, X-23 and, eventually, the other mutant kids who Transigen is out to kill. It has become his responsibility, despite his own physical ailments, to protect these kids from Transigen and get them to a safe zone, Eden, which we are led to believe probably does not even exist.

That's a great opportunity for an action sequence. That's fine. I get it. Wolverine movie. Gotta snikt them claws out. And I'm actually fine with Logan fighting his clone self, X-24, which is a physical representation of all Logan's past violent tendencies without any of the lessons long life has taught him. That makes a lot of narrative sense based on this story.

Logan has a lot of anxiety about the possibility of needing to care for these mutant kids. He had a hard enough time dealing with Charles, a man who called Logan a "disappointment," and X-23, a girl who ain't even speaking to him until Act Three.

And Logan seems like he feels like a disappointment to himself, right? He doesn't want that violent lifestyle anymore. He's just trying to get that money and get Charles safe; but Logan keeps finding himself getting violent, killing everybody, decapitating folks ... he doesn't think that's him anymore. But is it, though? Is violent all Logan is ever gonna be?

So here Logan is, fighting these bad dudes from Transigen, with their bad science and their bad robot hands and what not. Again, that makes sense. He is helping these kids fight the evil that made them what they are just like Charles helped him fight against the Weapon X program back in the day. It's a parallel, homie, and you know I'm with those narrative parallels.

But then Logan dies at the end! How you gonna tell me a story where Logan is trying to prove himself to his father figure, Charles Xavier, while literally running from the physical manifestation of his formal violent self only to kill Logan off? And on top of that, there's a whole new group of mutant kids who have nothing except the possibility of a safe zone we have zero sign even exists? Nah, man. I've seen Dark Angel, so I know how that mutant kid struggling on their own story plays out. I don't want that Max life for X-23 and her squad.

Look. I get it. Logan is a stone cold bummer, because it's trying to be real. Those mutant kids are not-terribly-thinly-veiled-allegories for immigrants in the US, and I think we all know how America treats immigrants in 2017. So it makes a lot of sense.

For me, though, every step of Logan's story felt like it was about Logan letting go of who he was. Even his supposed adamantium sickness (which was played up as only maybe what was wrong with him) is all about how he's been poisoned by the violence of his past. He fights so hard to get these kids a new start, and when he kills X-24 and protects the future X-Men from Transigen, isn't he learning how to be the next version of himself? Isn't he learning to be a father?

Everything that happens in Logan feels like steps along the way towards Logan shedding the Wolverine and become the new Professor X. So his death is the one part of Logan that just makes zero sense to me. That never feels like the story that's being told; it feels like this is Hugh Jackman's last movie, so he wanted to make sure he was written out and couldn't be tempted to come back.

But, in addition to it not making narrative sense, I just don't think you sacrifice the gritty realness by throwing in a little hope, sis. Instead of Logan, let that grave belong to X-24. And instead of X-23 flipping the cross around to make an "X" on her own, let her do it as a sign to help Logan understand what's next for him. Let her take his hand and lead him to his new life training the next generation of mutants. That's the end Logan was setting up from the jump, and that's the hopeful ending this torn-up, violent, refugee-hating, brown people-killing, seemingly heartless world needs right now.

DANNY'S TAKE - LOGAN'S ENDING DOES WORK

The ending of Logan works because it completes the primary story arcs that Mangold was looking to tell, instead of focusing on secondary stories. Logan is about the end of the journey for the old guard (Xavier and Logan) and the autonomy of the new guard (Laura and the rest of the children).

Listen: The core of Logan isn't the history between Xavier and Logan. It isn't even the X-Men. Logan is the vehicle for a story about immigration. Specifically, it’s about Mexican immigration, and what it means for the children stuck in the horrors of border control. Logan's personal arc, as compelling as it is, is window dressing. After all, what's the core plot? Getting Laura to Canada and bypassing America because America isn't a safe option for her.

This means the question we're left with at the end shouldn't be about Logan, and it's not. It's "What happens to those children," and what world do they make for themselves. Mangold wants Logan to inspire, not shape, the future that Laura finds herself in, as evidenced when he doesn't have Logan offer advice on how to live with the violence in their lives. Laura's future would be shaped by Logan as long as he's present, and you don't end a story about Mexican immigration with the future still being shaped by the white lead.

If you look at it like that, Logan's not trying to prove himself to Xavier; there's no evidence he needs to. When Logan tragically whispers "It wasn't me, it wasn't me," there's zero indication that Xavier died thinking that it was. Xavier spends the movie trying to convince Logan to open his heart again, to care about someone's future instead of feeling indebted to his past (which is shown here in the relationship between Xavier and Logan, but is also entrenched in every scene that Logan has been in since the first X-Men movie). This isn't about taking care of Xavier physically; that is clearly a great story about a son taking care of the father. The debts come out of their history and the X-Men. The movie doesn't want to make Logan the new Xavier, because if they did, they'd treat the deaths of the X-Men differently; they don't ever give Logan his own moment in the mansion, to make a different choice, to parallel him with Xavier. They could have easily made mindless violence out of Logan's "telepathic seizures," but they didn't (in fact, one of my only complaints about the movie is, after talking about the serum causing madness, all that meant for the climax was that Logan screamed loudly and ran fast; the lead-up to that scene implied that Logan should have been a threat to the kids and then regained control).

Also, this is a low blow, but ... think about Seasons 5 and 6 of Buffy. In Season 5, the original ending, Buffy died. Buffy's death, the grave, the honor of dying in service to the younger (and ALSO engineered) generation was all the culmination of a hero's life. In Season 6, there is a horrific realization: "There was no pain/ No fear, no doubt /Till they pulled me out of Heaven." The 'happy' ending for Buffy was a peace that can't exist while she's alive. It was a surety that cannot be achieved when the future could contain greater threats to those she loved. Logan ends with the same idea; as long as he's alive, Logan can't be at peace. He'll always be at the ready.

The ending finally allows Logan to rest, for the first time in his life. And that's the best ending we can offer him.

CONCLUSION

There you have it. Two bold opinions about Logan that somehow wound up referencing Dark Angel and Buffy, because that's just how things go in a comic shop.

What did you think of Logan's ending? What worked? What didn't? Debate it out with each other in the comments below.