All things age. All things decay.
Even bodies supported by adamantium bones, fueled by superhuman healing powers and sustained by genetic mutation. This was the beautiful launching point of the film Logan, as the superhero, better known as Wolverine, concludes his heroic run. The film finds him drunk, angry, and purposeless. He counts down the days until he can plant his singular adamantium bullet—the one thing that can kill him—into his brain.
Of all films I’ve seen in, say, the past year, this one stood out to me as a film among films. Certainly among superhero films. In it, we see redemption, sacrifice, and one of the clearest and most vivid (read: gory) representations of the gospel I’ve seen in recent months. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the tired and weary Wolverine was raw in a way that shakes you to your nonmetallic core.
I think the starting point in discussing the film is noting the promising setup it begins with. While other franchises such as Spiderman saw it fit to return to the beginning a half dozen times and retell the origin story on repeat, Logan takes viewers to the end of the life of the hero. And that alone causes it to stand out from other superhero films, and it should be commended.
Because our culture needs a good reminder every now and then that all things—and people—do indeed come to an end.
The final chapter of the Wolverine series shows us that real heroes bleed; real heroes die; and real heroes sacrifice it all that others may live. And because of this, as a pastor and writer, the only thing I could see littering the entirety of the plot was images of the gospel. (Remember, wherever there is redemption, there is gospel)
Logan was born different from the rest of the world, and for this, they feared him. They hunted him. They tried time and again to kill him, and finally succeeded. He was part human but part…something else as well.
While Wolverine is an antihero in the film, his redemption begins when he discovers that his own daughter has been raised as a killing machine by private corporations in order to be manufactured as a weapon. It is not immediate, but his affections turn toward her and the other children like her who are trapped in their own asylum, dehumanized.
The children are essentially used pragmatically to construct the ultimate killing force by some dude who seems nice but creepy and ends up being disgustingly wicked. The crazy thing is, walking into the theater I was having a discussion with my friend Joel (a philosophy major) about how becoming a Christian causes an ontological shift within a person. Their entire nature changes.
He pushed back, “well, does that mean that you are not you? Ethan is no longer Ethan? I think ‘ontology’ is too deep of a shift to make here.” I disagreed, but couldn’t figure out why until later in the film, it hit me.
Sin dehumanizes us. When we sin, we are not acting like the truest version of ourselves, we are operating out of a forced and enslaved sense of desire and morality. We are broken, twisted and skewed. Therefore, becoming a Christian, being redeemed by the blood of Christ, utterly demolishes whatever we were before and transforms us into our truest, purest version of ourself.
I once was dehumanized by my sin but now, because of Christ, I am more fully Ethan Renoe than I ever could have been before.
Logan depicts a similar cleansing by way of gore. His blood is most certainly shed in the film, with the most beautiful scene at the end, when his antithesis (a genetically modified clone of himself, trained to be evil) has him beaten down and shaking with weakness.
I was stunned to find that of all the ways the writers could have had Wolverine die, they chose to pin him to a tree while giving his life for the fellow mutant children. He restores their humanity and frees them from the dehumanizing forces who were after them. Logan, shredded and pinned to a tree, breathes his last breath to the children about freedom and life.
I choked up the way you shouldn’t in a superhero film.
Once the enemies had been defeated, the children bury Logan’s body beneath a cairn beneath the shadow of a twig cross. After the children walk away, his daughter lingers behind and reaches for the cross. I was curious to see what she would do with it, but she simply tilted it over so instead of resembling a ‘t’ it looked like an ‘x.’
Some Christians may call blasphemy on this adulteration of the chief symbol of our faith. But to the more observant, something else may become evident. That is, in Greek, X is the first letter of Christ’s Greek name, Christos. It rapidly became a shorthand representing His name (think ‘Xmas’). I even have a tattoo on my shoulder of the X laid over the P, which was the very symbol early Christians used to mark their graves. It represents Christ’s victory over the grave, over sin, and over satan.
And now Logan’s body rests in the shadow of the X. Because he gave his life so that others may live. He let his own battered body be pinned to a tree so the children could be free. He gave them their humanity by sacrificing his own, and after his legendary life, his grave was marked by the same symbol as Someone else who gave it all so others may live.
The chief difference (and I hate to break down a fantastic metaphor) is that our Christos lies no longer in His grave. His grave is not marked by an X because He burst forth from the ruptured ground. He suffered and was pinned to the tree in order that we may have life and life to the fullest. However, we do not follow His footsteps to the grave, never to emerge again; we enter our graves eagerly anticipating the day we too will walk out of them!
So if your stomach is strong, see Logan. Watch with your brain turned to Metaphor Mode and you will find it hard to miss the blatant similarities drawn between Logan and Jesus. Redemption, humanity, and blood spray abound and the result may just bring you to tears as you remember the One who was beaten mercilessly and pinned to a tree that all of us may have life, and life to the fullest.