When the 10th film in which Hugh Jackman portrays the Wolverine opens, we find a washed up version of the super mutant asleep in the back of a vehicle we presume he drives as part of his chauffeuring gig he has undertaken as he assumes a new life under the radar. Logan crosses back and forth across the Mexican border as he drives drunken college kids and prom attendants by night in order to earn enough money to purchase meds illegally for the purpose of sustaining the life of the ailing and demented Dr. Charles Xavier, the father of the mutant clan that represents the only true family James Logan Howell has ever known. A group of thugs attempt to strip the car and our protagonist emerges from what appears to have been a drunken stupor in retaliation giving us the first of many viscerally gruesome scenes of violence replete with decapitations and relentless stabbing. There’s a dark texture and macabre overtone as, repeatedly, we are thrust into vicious encounters between Wolverine and a group called Alkali-Transigen attempting to locate him that they might reclaim access to a group of genetically engineered children they attempted to train into war machines.
Appropriately, a burial service in a cemetery facilitates the setting where Gabriela Lopez, a nurse who formerly worked for the above mentioned biotechnical company, has sought out Logan and requested his help in transporting a little girl named Laura (whom we later discover is his genetically engineered daughter) to a safe place in North Dakota called Eden. The Biblical implications of such a haven of refuge bearing this name speak for themselves and thus do not warrant much time or attention in this review. What is of interest, however, is Logan’s dismay when he finds out that the concept of Eden as a place of asylum for mutants and outcasts derives from an issue of an X-Men comic book. At one point in director James Mangold’s film, Logan openly expresses his disdain for the comic books’ portrayal of the X-Men and their adventures. In his own words, bright leotards and exaggerated truths greatly impugn the integrity and dignity of the former superhero team. He cannot believe that Lopez has based her hope of locating a safe place for Laura and her fellow mutant peers on stories told in glorified graphic novels.
Logan’s cynicism disables his belief that there exists such a safe place in a world where mutants are mistrusted and virtually extinct. His friends are gone, the professor is dying, and his powers and identity as the Wolverine are fading. It’s not only that he refuses to believe that in the 2029 setting of the film, mutants yet exist… he refuses to believe that life has a redemptive side. The irony lies in the fact that Professor X, whose mental state wanes, yet has faith. He believes he has connected with and is communicating with a new mutant. His faith proves to be more than senile imaginations when Laura eventually materializes.
Laura brings out Logan’s humanity. Quirky, yet organic interactions at truck stops, in hotel rooms, and in the home of a religious family of hardworking farmers reflect a genuine dynamic between Laura, Charles, and Wolverine as they flee assailants and attempt to retain anonymity under the guise of being a tri-generational family. As we view a previously sequestered Laura clumsily attempting to engage the very mundane world of shopping for candy and trinkets at gas stations, watching a motion picture for the first time, and listening to an MP3 player, we join in her amazement at the ordinariness of the very childhood experiences that Transigent’s project X23 limited her from enjoying.
We appreciate the banter and antics that persist in long car rides as Laura plays with automatic power window switches while Charles, the official grandpa and dad, pokes at Logan to lighten up and have a child’s perspective of the world. While Logan’s disheveled demeanor, constant alcohol consumption, and disgruntled temperament emanate an apathetic aura around the adamantium-clad metahuman, he yet retains the capacity to sacrifice himself and to serve the higher good albeit reluctantly and for the wrong motives. He accepts the responsibility of caring for Laura only after he discovers that Gabriela has been brutally murdered and that the perpetrators have enclosed him at his hideout near the Tex-Mex border. At least twice, Dr Xavier has to cajole him to continue the mission of bringing Laura to the sanctuary whence she and her friends can eventually cross the border into Canada.
“Estas mueriendo… you are dying” are the first words we hear Laura utter after having witnessed her utilize the same mechanically engineered weaponry that immortalized her father’s legacy. She can decimate entire armies of soldiers with adept moves and skillful dismembering techniques that the Wolverine shows he yet retains from his glory days as a mutated avenger of righteousness. By this point in the narrative, the professor has died, and Caliban, Logan’s aide in sustaining the professor’s debilitating disease, has committed suicide in an effort to both redeem himself for his betrayal in helping the villains to hunt Wolverine as well as to further abet Laura’s escape to freedom. Logan loses consciousness after burying Xavier and cursing out a failed automobile. Laura now drives their remaining mode of transportation and leads them to Eden.
Yes, Logan finds a safe place at Eden. The remarkable aspect of their arrival at the rendezvous point is that the other children who await them literally have to airlift Wolverine into the mountainous cabins. He has become completely inept. And that is how faith finds us. When all of our faculties and capabilities have completely dissipated. Faith begins where we in our strength and certitude die (see 2 Corinthians 1:8-9). A final battle ensues as Transigen’s soldiers surface and engage the children in one last fight for control and re-acquisition of the infantile specimen. We are treated to a very tender moment between father and daughter as Logan completes one last sacrifice that secures freedom for the young militants. The safe place Logan finds is… death. The makeshift funeral the child soldiers conduct for Wolverine in which they tilt the cross over his burial site into the formation of an ‘X’ reminds us that in an unpredictable world of unrest, violence, turmoil, and tribulation, we who are in Christ have one place of rest — our union with Jesus through death. We have died and are dying daily as we navigate the troubles of this present age. Like Logan, we may be attempted to bury ourselves in addictions, in jaded disengagement from reality, in our jobs, etc. It is death however that finds us and frees us our attempts to justify ourselves. It is death that creates for us what we cannot create in ourselves or for ourselves… the childlike faith to believe there is a safe place beyond this bleak and disenchanting world — His name is Jesus and his sacrifice bring us into an Eden better than that depicted in Logan… and even better than that depicted in the Bible.