Warning: This post contains big spoilers for the final scene of Logan. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know how it ends, read no further!
The unthinkable has happened, true believers. James Howlett, a.k.a. Logan, a.k.a Wolverine, has gone to his great reward. Sure, the character has already died in the comics, where deaths often have a way of reversing themselves. But based on the events in Logan, the new entry in the X-Men film franchise, it seems very much like this cinematic version of Wolverine — played by Hugh Jackman across 17 years and nine films — really isn’t coming back. In the final act of James Mangold‘s film, an aged, dying Logan pops his claws for one final battle, taking on the Reaver army commanded by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and serving the interests of Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), the head of the genetics company, Transigen, that was breeding its own army of mutant child soldiers until the kids went AWOL.
One of those escapees is Logan’s own daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen), created in a lab from his DNA. She’s been brought to him with the expectation that he’ll lead her and her fellow “New Mutants” from a dystopian future America to the relative safety of his home and native land, Canada. In order to do that, though, he’s got to get through a swath of Reavers, plus an even more lethal duplicate of himself, X-24, without succumbing to the injuries endured by his adamantium-poisoned body. Impaled on a tree during his bout with X-24, Logan is rescued by a well-aimed adamantium bullet fired by Laura that takes off the clone’s head. But this is one wound his celebrated healing factor can’t cure. Logan dies in the woods overlooking the Canadian border. “So this is what it feels like,” he says, as his spirit leaves his body. Laura and her comrades bury him where he lies, leaving — what else? — an X behind to mark the spot.
Clearly, there’s a lot to digest in this farewell to one of the all-time great cinematic superheroes. So follow along as Yahoo Movies editors Ethan Alter and Marcus Errico discuss the ins and outs of Jackman’s death scene, and what the X-franchise might be without him.
ETHAN ALTER: I have to admit that just before the credits rolled on Logan, I was bracing myself for James Howlett’s claws to come bursting out of his makeshift grave Carrie-style. That’s how trained we are as both consumers of comic books and comic book movies to expect miraculous resurrections in the closing splash page. But it seems that both James Mangold and Hugh Jackman are sticking to their guns about this being the final Wolverine story in this current incarnation. And while I have some issues with the movie as a whole (an inert second act, a fairly bland villain, and a pervasive nihilism that grows wearying), Logan’s ferocious rush toward death felt right and, more important, felt earned.
I should note that I was only ever a sporadic reader of Wolverine’s comic book exploits, so Jackman’s version is the one I’ve followed most intently since his debut 17 years ago in Bryan Singer‘s X-Men. I liked him immediately then, particularly the way he found just the right balance between menace and mischief. And I missed that earlier Logan throughout Logan, which, of course, is part of the point; the fight, to say nothing of the fun, has gone out of him and he’s a walking 200-plus year-old shadow of a hero, just marking time until the adamantium poisoning his blood drives him into his grave.
But the great thing about the final act of Logan is that it does give us back that youthful version of the character we met in X-Men. For starters, he rushes into battle specifically in the name of protecting a young mutant, X-23, just as he did with Anna Paquin‘s Rogue all those years ago. And, just like in the Statue of Liberty fight, he’s willing to trade his life for hers; in the earlier film, he allowed Rogue to “borrow” his healing factor even though it would potentially kill him. Here, he extinguishes his healing ability with that lethal dose of anti-virus and fights until he can’t stand anymore. For the most part, Logan is deliberately light on overt references to previous X-Men movies. But I love that Logan’s final on-screen moments so specifically recall his inaugural outing as an X-Man.
Your turn, Marcus! Do you also view the respective finales of X-Men and Logan as ideal bookends? And, be honest, did you also flash back to The Last Stand a little bit when Wolverine ran berserker-style through the woods in a sleeveless T-shirt?
MARCUS ERRICO: Yes, my friend, you are very correct about us viewers being conditioned to expect the Hollywood ending in comic-book movies. The dirt moved! Bruce Wayne’s on a Roman holiday, knocking back espressos. Heck, Wolverine already came back to life once before, reviving moments before the credits of Days of Future Past. One of the biggest knocks against the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper is the lack of stakes — no matter how dire our heroes’ predicament, we know Iron Man, Thor, and Cap are going to be back for the next Avengers. But Logan telegraphs from the get-go that there are stakes, and this will not be your typical superhero flick.
I grew up on the X-Men books of the 1980s, with Wolverine — a wise-cracking misfit and raging force of nature — front and center. From the outset in Singer’s X-Men, Jackman captured Wolverine’s inner turmoil, the James Dean of superheroes searching for his cause, which reached its apotheosis in Logan.
The film has so many meta moments — notably him thumbing through vintage X-Men comics, and him willfully downplaying those glory days — but, like you say, it also echoes that original X-Men movie. There, we have Wolverine finding humanity by helping surrogate daughter Rogue on a road trip/voyage of self-discovery. Here, it’s his real daughter, Laura. Those similarities are no accident. Logan/Jackman have gone full circle and it’s time to say sayonara.
While his death itself felt a bit underwhelming — this isn’t the first time a cinematic character has been fatally impaled by a jagged tree limb — I did appreciate how he was ultimately killed, and saved, by versions of himself. Very fitting.
ETHAN: I agree that the specific manner of his execution, death by tree branch, is familiar. I’m trying to think of another way I’d have seen the killing blow dished out. Maybe his “brother” X-24 could have skewered him just before Laura blew his clone brains out with that adamantium bullet? That would have been a nice callback to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the rivalry between half-brothers James and Victor Creed, a.k.a Sabertooth. Although, I’m guessing everyone involved with the X-franchise would rather forget that particular entry exists. (Allow me to play devil’s advocate on one Origins element, though: I’ve always maintained that Liev Schreiber was a fantastic Sabertooth. I’m sorry he never got the chance to reprise the role or, you know, digitally replace Tyler Mane in X-Men like Hayden Christensen has now been swapped in for Sebastian Shaw as Ghost Anakin at the end of Return of the Jedi.)
Leaving aside the exact manner of how he got his fatal wound, I’m very glad that Mangold allowed the scene to play out well past that. One could accuse him and Jackman of milking Logan’s final moments far beyond what was necessary, but after 17 years, I think he’s earned a victory lap on his way to the graveyard. It’s so rare for an actor to get the opportunity to permanently retire a hero they’ve portrayed across multiple movies and decades. Off the top of my head, the only major examples that come to mind are Harrison Ford in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and William Shatner in Star Trek: Generations. (Although Kirk came back later on in book form.) The next big one, I’m assuming, will be when Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Stark dies — for real this time — in an upcoming Avengers movie. Because you know that’s the last big trump card the current incarnation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will play.
I also think that Jackman couldn’t have delivered Logan’s last line, “So this is what it feels like,” any more eloquently. On the scale of a superhero’s dying words, it notches in well above “Not like this — like this!” and “Doomsday…is he…is he.” Is there something else, though, that you would rather have heard him say? Like, “Tell Deadpool to eff off.”
MARCUS: Ha! No, I agree with you there. The final line was a heartbreaker. As a father to a daughter, the poignancy of their goodbye hit me right in the solar plexus. And don’t get me wrong, I loved the setup for his big death: a rejuvenated Wolverine who literally battles a soulless form of himself to save the best part of him. That works for me. And I guess I can forgive the stick-through-the-heart trope.
Jackman milked the moment and delivered. I found it far more rewarding — and earned — than Han Solo’s demise, which felt like it served Harrison Ford more than the character or franchise.
But there are so many wrenching farewells in Logan. It’s early in the year, but I could see some awards love going to Patrick Stewart for his Professor X swan song. This is as Shakespearean as comic book movies get.
That said, do you think people will be satisfied with the ending? Are the “new mutants” interesting enough beyond Laura/X-23? And will folks find the lack of a credits scene a letdown, since it’s something we’ve been taught to expect from all these comic-book flicks?
ETHAN: I think that hardcore Wolverine fans — those who have been craving an R-rated version of his exploits since the first movie — will be thrilled with Logan overall, and ecstatic with the ending. It gives the character a final full-on berserker killing spree, followed by the kind of melodramatically macho exit that aging fanboys adore. In that way, it’s both Shakespearean and Eastwood-ian. Had Clint not been otherwise engaged with Sully, it’s easy to imagine him behind the camera here.
One plea to those aging fanboys: Please, please, please do not bring your kids to Logan under any circumstances. Even if they’ve watched all the other X-films, plus Wolverine’s solo adventures, they should pay their respects to Logan when they’re a little older. Beyond the heightened level of brutality, the movie is rife with depictions of child abuse that work within the context of the story, but would be deeply upsetting to kids and the parents of kids, myself included.
Because of that, I actually think Logan can’t be the direct link to whatever the next generation of the X-Men franchise proves to be. The film ends with Laura and the other New Mutants crossing the border to Canada while Wolverine, like Moses, doesn’t live to see the promised land. That establishes a seemingly clean line of continuity, with Logan passing the torch to Laura. But, speaking for myself here, I’m not especially eager to spend any more time in this particular future, which seems like a narrative dead end to me.
A New Mutants movie set in this timeline would almost have to be as dark and depressing as Logan for it to feel like a natural successor. And if Fox’s mission going forward is to find new ways to bring new fans into the aging X-Men franchise, young audiences in particular are just going to be left out if that future involves an R-rated X-23 movie. Better to let Logan’s passing mark the end of an era, and create a New Mutants movie from the ground up that has some of the same maturity — but also the childlike fun — of Bryan Singer’s original X-Men outing, which is largely responsible for the franchise-rich present we inhabit.
MARCUS: Funny you mentioned Eastwood. The Old Man Logan comic, which this film is very loosely based on, is essentially a Western, and, in the end, Wolverine gets to walk off into the sunset with a renewed sense of purpose. My inner fanboy is saddened by the finality of the film, because Jackman was so good as Wolverine, usually better than the material deserved. And I think he and Mangold knew that the sunset-walk wasn’t an option for them — they needed Wolverine to be buried to establish the certainty of his death, as much as Harrison Ford needed Han Solo to be impaled by a lightsaber, fall into a bottomless chasm, and, for good measure, get blown up with the rest of the planet. Neither is coming back.
As much as I loved the character of Laura, and the performance of Dafne Keen, I don’t see a viable sequel from here either. Laura/X-23 is currently the “all-new Wolverine” in the comics after a long stint on X-Force. But Fox has already decided to do X-Force as a second Deadpool sequel, and the New Mutants movie that begins shooting this year seems to be linked with the younger characters introduced in X-Men: Apocalypse. You are absolutely right that a film set in Logan’s dystopian future featuring a team of kids would be tonally jarring and all kinds of inappropriate. Wolverine’s DNA and his spirit live on in Laura. There’s a rebirth of mutants. There’s hope. There’s closure.
If that doesn’t satiate the Hollywood suits, we might get prequels, reboots, or, help us, another time reset. But I prefer that Jackman’s Wolverine rest in peace. He deserves it and so do we.
‘Logan’: Watch Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart Rave About Dafne Keen, Young Scene-Stealer as X-23: