What happens when our superheroes get old? It’s essentially something that never happens in our movies, where our heroes are always virile and robust, and if they get a little long in the tooth, we just reboot the series and start over with a younger model. But that’s not the case with Logan, which follows maybe the most famous of the X-Men, Wolverine, as he not only deals with his own broken-down body, but with nursing the longtime leader of the X-Men, professor Charles Xavier. Xavier is now in his 90s and struggles to take care of himself, occasionally slipping into dementia and having trouble recognizing Logan or understanding just what’s going on at any particular time.
And this is just part of what separates Logan from any other superhero movie we’ve seen. I’ll admit that I’ve grown a bit tired of superhero origin stories and crash-and-bang ensemble pictures, but Logan is neither of those things. The characters here feel lived-in and real, and the violence is shocking and gritty. When innocent people are killed in this movie, it doesn’t feel like collateral damage; it’s genuinely disturbing and actually makes us realize that real people’s lives are at stake in this universe.
And even all of this barely scratches the surface. Logan gets involved in trying to save a little girl who’s far more like himself than he’d like to admit, and we eventually follow them as they work with a group of young mutant refugees trying to cross the border into Canada to escape persecution. If that doesn’t resonate with our times, I don’t know what will. The X-Men stories have always reflected racial and ethnic tension and fear, and that’s brought to the forefront here in ways I won’t spoil.
But ultimately, it’s the grounding in reality that makes Logan a special film. We see the broken bodies of our superheroes laid bare, we feel the difficult emotional reality of trying to care for an elderly loved one who has difficulty understanding his own condition and can snap in strange ways at any moment, and we know that nothing can last forever, not even our greatest heroes.