Logan: The Movie I Saw Might Have Been Different

So my son and I saw Logan a couple nights ago, and I mentioned on Twitter that I nearly walked out about ten minutes in. What I didn’t add was that I wanted to walk out and throw up. Neither the urge to walk nor the queasiness happened because the film did anything wrong for me. Instead, it was because the film depicted something so incredibly well, I took the gut punch before I even knew it was coming.

So this is not a review. It’s a reaction. Mild spoilers shall follow in this post, and might show up in comments should folks choose to chime in.

First, a review-ish thing unrelated to the gut punch: The fight scenes are incredible, and not because they’re all fancied up with slow-motion or odd lingering close-ups or flashy weapon manipulation that actual fighters won’t bring to an actual fight. No, my darlings, the fights in Logan are logical and smart. They are swift. They are economical. And those are the two traits a fighter who is experienced—and, frankly, plagued by a lifetime of scars and reduced stamina—will demonstrate in real life. Fighters who survive don’t become flashier as they age. They become efficient.

Now for the gut punch.

Many people have mentioned the aspect of abuse and trauma survivorship. I was hit with something else early in the film.

Caregiving.

Spoilers are below the cut for courtesy.

Logan is quite literally limping through life. But he and fellow mutant Caliban have a purpose, and that purpose is taking care of Charles.

Charles is declining, showing all the combativeness of an elderly and intelligent man whose mind is betraying him as surely as his body, and who is aware of that terrifying fact. He hates the need for meds that he both knows are necessary and hates the effects of. He hates the fact he needs them at all, and that hate sometimes snaps at Logan and Caliban because the pills don’t give a damn either way.

But there is more than upsetting senility. Charles is prone to seizures that unleash psychic attacks able to affect everyone in their proximity. And by “affect,” I mean everything from paralyze to kill. The killing has already happened, before the film opens, and Charles knows that, too.

Logan and Caliban endure these attacks, and try to prevent them by hustling for the right drugs to keep them at bay. It’s easy to see how most folks would consider the willingness to face that threat an indication of both bravery and love. It is, but their day-to-day, hour-by-hour willingness to do everything else—right down to lifting him on and off a toilet—is the greater courage and love.

It’s dementia, along with the violence often seen in Alzheimer’s. As one who has watched someone in mental decline, and will likely do so again, it ripped at me, and took the pieces I think the filmmakers assumed the audience would see and tilted them just a bit.

I’m pretty sure the film intended to show Logan as a man who needed to learn how to love—how to believe in the power of family—and young Laura was intended to be the vehicle through which he learned.

That fell totally flat for me, so I brushed it aside and watched my own version of the story.

In my version, Logan is not the “usual” self-absorbed aging fighter just waiting for the chance and the excuse to put a bullet in his head, who must thus be taught by a magical young woman how to love and accept family.

No.

Logan is a man who loves fully and deeply the men who share his past and understandings, and particularly loves the man who always expressed love and understanding for him. That love is strong enough to endure senility-fueled nastiness day in and day out, to accept the possibility a murderous seizure could hit in the midst of breakfast, to include all the body care tasks an elderly man in failing physical and mental health will require.

Logan already loves, dammit. He doesn’t keep that bullet around because no one loves him and he loves no one in return. He has that bullet because caregiving is fucking hard, and acknowledging it’s fucking hard can feel like a betrayal of the love. And because Logan knows—as all caregivers of the elderly and terminal know—that the only thing that’ll stop the fucking hard is losing the person you love.

And in the middle of the film comes a set of scenes with a farm family—a sweet and brief retreat intended, I’m sure, to give Logan a chance to reflect on the kind family life he could enjoy if he just stopped being so gruff all the time. I actually thought the scenes a stopover in the land of cruelty, placed there by a misunderstanding of the love involved in caregiving, and the limitations caregiving requires be set on life. Logan isn’t missing out on love. He is loving the way his life is permitting him to love. He is choosing to love.

He is still, exhausted and in pain, carrying the person he loves upstairs to a safe and comfortable bedroom. Without complaint.

And here’s the most heartbreaking thing: The person he loves still doesn’t see the beauty of that love. Charles still wants “normal” for Logan, which is at once an act of love that mistakenly dismisses love. It is the parent who, out of love, “knows” what’s best for the beloved child without actually seeing the child.

When Charles is gone, and Logan is left with young Laura, of course he takes care of her. But he doesn’t do it because he’s suddenly been enlightened on the importance of family and yada-yada. He does it because he is a caregiver, and the easiest thing in the world to do in the midst of grief and crisis is to keep doing what you know how to do.

Truly, the only thing harder than caregiving is to cease caregiving.

But there is indeed a character who learns the worth of family, of depending on someone and being someone others can depend on, of the responsibility of giving a damn.

Laura.

Logan’s legacy is not that he suddenly realized how to care for other people. It’s that he taught someone else the value of caring.

That’s the movie I saw.

What movie did you see in Logan?

#SFWApro

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4 thoughts on “Logan: The Movie I Saw Might Have Been Different”

  1. Interesting take . . . but if the movie makers did not intend it, I’m not sure how much attribution can be given to the character. Conversely, if they hit all those triggers so well, I have to believe at least a part of their intent was along those lines.

    I’ve had people occasionally “interpret” what I write differently than what I intended, but still within the bounds of themes I consciously put in there. I don’t have many readers, but to date, no one has interpreted something as completely different than I intended.

    You have a much wider readership (and skill) so you can speak more authoritatively with regards to unintended messages, but still . . . do you really think there was no intention to it? I’ve not seen the movie, but what you describe could also be the transition between two different kinds of love, both were presented in contrast (complement) to each other.

    . . . perhaps I’m overthinking this . . . please don’t take this as criticism of what you write (it’s not) but I was struck by the statement “they” meant one thing and you got another. I’ll eventually see the movie if it comes to Netflix or Amazon Prime and will keep an eye (mind) out for the themes. Thanks.

    1. First, I don’t take it as criticism, in a negative sense, at all. It’s all conversation, and a process of understanding the art we create, the art in take in, and what cues touch individual viewer’s/reader’s experience. 🙂

      I did hear the director speak that he wanted the film to be about family: “fathers and sons, fathers and daughters,” I believe was his quote. And it is indeed that. And I’m certain Charles’ mental decline (and lost control of his usually-disciplined abilities) were patterned after dementia/Alzheimer’s on purpose.

      What might not have been purposeful–but still worked beautifully–is the depiction of caregiving and a caregiver’s love. I wouldn’t speculate what the director’s/writer’s/other creator’s experience has been with caregiving, but based on how many audience member reactions I’ve seen that mention caregiving as a sort of plot set-up rather than what drives the characters and their emotional journey leads to believe the caregiving elements weren’t strong enough to alter the expected “Logan must learn to love in order to give his life purpose” arc.

      And that’s not a bad thing! I fully acknowledge I experienced the movie as I did because my *life* experience has given me a different lens. Not better, not worse, just different.

      As for my own stuff… Yeah, I’ve had reactions outside my intentions, from people whose life experiences differ from mine. I actually *love* hearing about it because it teaches me to be more deliberate in my creative choices, and actually expands my ability to use those choices. 🙂 Does that make sense?

  2. Oh man, you nearly made me cry – AGAIN, lol. You described a lot of what I was feeling too watching this. My poor husband thought I was crazy when I said I was hesitant to watch this one – but it was because I knew going in that I was probably going to cry like a baby (the freaking trailer made me cry, with Johnny Cash singing “Hurt.” *ugh*) – and I totally did.

    It really was a great movie though, and I agree about the action scenes. Those were amazing! Lol, I especially loved Laura with her roar every time she tackled someone.

    Really, I love this review – thank you for sharing. 🙂

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