Liberty at the movies: Logan

Logan is the first super-hero/comic book blockbuster of 2017 and boy does it set a high bar for the rest of the movies coming this year!

The latest entry in the X-Men series, Logan is Hugh Jackman's swan song as Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, the character he has played in nine films, starting with the first X-Men movie in 2000. The film also makes the last appearance of Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier (Professor X), the founder and leader of the X-Men.

In my not so humble opinion (along with those of many fans) Stewart's Professor X and Jackman's Wolverine are the heart of the X-Men films. The first X-Men movie was released in 200o, and represents the birth of the modern supper-hero film. Since 200o, there have been 13 X-Men films, with various casts and varying quality. One thing that all of the movies have in common is a political theme.

The political themes of X-Men stem from the comic on which it is based. X-Men was one of the first comics to use the super-hero story as a vehicle to explore political and social themes. Years before Civil War, the Watchmen and other politically-themed comics (which later become politically-themed movies) X-Men was examining the question of how society and the government would react to the presence of human begins with super powers, and telling stories that reflected "real world" concerns about the role of fear and prejudice in public policy.

One of the big villains of the first movie was a Senator seeking government action to stamp out the mutants, and a vaccine to "cure" mutants was a major plot point of the third movie. The theme of seeking a "cure" for initiation was also a theme of 2013's Days of Future Past, while 2001's "reboot" X-Men First Class was set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Logan is the best of the series. The film takes place in 2029, 25 years after the birth of the last mutant. Logan has given up the super-hero business to work as a driver for an Uber-like business in Texas.

Logan lives in Mexico (we see him crossing the border and yes, there is a wall) where he is held up with Professor X, who is suffering from a degenerative brain disease which can cause massive tremors.

It is implied that Professor X is a wanted man because of the "Westchester incident," where his seizures lead to many civilian deaths.

Logan also leaves with Caliban, a mutant with the ability to track other mutants.

Their relativity quiet life is interrupted when they discover Laura, a young mutant with powers resembling Logan's. Laura even has a pair of metal claws.

Laura needs help fleeing a band of mercenaries. At first, Logan's reluctant to get involved, and only does so because a women claiming to be Laura's mother offers him $50,000 to get Laura to a mutant haven in South Dakota.

The majority of the film focuses on Logan, Charles, and Laura's drive from Texas to South Dakota. While the film features many fight scenes which are the most realistic and graphic ever seen in a comic book film (the movie earns its R rating) the main theme of the movie is the growing bound between Logan and Laura.

The bounding is helped by Logan's learning that it is no coincidence that Laura's powers resemble his own. Laura is the creation of a sinister corporation military-industrial complex that breeds children for the purposes of turning them into mutants, to create a mutant army raised to fight and kill without conscience. This corporation infused young Laura with Logan's DNA, meaning that Laura is his daughter.

It may be jarring to see a child as young as Laura use the same level of carnage as the older Logan, but it does serve to underscore the natural bond between them.

Logan's politics may be understated compared to some other X-Men movies but they are there. While most movies examined how prejudice and fear would lead to government attempts to exterminate the mutants--and cause blowback among mutants -- Logan looks at how the military-industrial complex might look at mutants as an opportunity for new frontiers in military contracting.


Laura, and the other children 'created' buy the villain are deemed dispensable by the corporation because they see them as mere "patented products," not as human beings. In contrast, the children are considered failures because, despite being raised to be killing machines, they still have a conscience.  This could be a commentary of how seeking power and riches through war erodes the moral sense as one comes to see others as less than human.

Later in the movie it is revealed that the corporation is behind the end of the mutant line. High-fructose corn syrup planted in popular foods and drinks. It is also hinted that they are using the syrup to introduce other changes into humanity's DNA.

A subplot involving a farming family that gives Logan, Charles, and Laura shelter after Charles uses his powers to help them round up some horses contains some themes that will be pleasing to libertarians.

The family is the only farm in the area that did not sell out to a major corporate agribusiness--which could be the same corporation that created Laura. The corporation has put most of the local law enforcement on its payroll, giving the ability to harass the family by, amongst other things, regularly cutting off their water supply. The corporation even tried (and failed) to use eminent domain against the family.

Logan is not just the best of the X-Men franchise, but one of the best super hero movies ever. Its themes of loss and redemption will appeal even to many non-comic book fans, and, as with the all of the X-Men movies, libertarians will enjoy the political subtext.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are certainly leaving the series at the top of their game, while newcomer Dafne Kane does more than hold her own as Laura. In fact, if Fox is interesting in containing the X-Men franchise, they could do worse then make a follow-up movie featuring Laura.



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