Where superheroes come to die
Alternate Universe 1
I am over 6 feet tall, eyes as blue as a summer’s sky and impossibly perfect. I can sit down to eat huge meals of fried pork with mounds of white rice and washed down with real coca-cola. I go to bed at 3am after having binge-watched my favourite shows, half-finished a book and wake up- clear eyed, head buzzing- at 6 and head out to the beach on my bike, for a swim. In the icy cold ocean, I swim with the ease of someone seemingly born in water. I head out further, deeper and let myself sink, face-up towards the surface. Reflexively, my chest pulses, the network of serrations open, letting the water in and I start to relax as the oxygen dissolves into my blood-stream and I can breathe. The glimmering surface starts to fade and my pupils adjust- the darkness around me is no longer empty. I take a last lingering look at the world above, at the twinkling double suns before swiftly pivoting, barreling downwards into the world below.
For someone who has no idea of its comic-book origins (I didn’t until the end of the movie), Logan is real life- in your face, wrinkly, ageing, coughing, saggy, sad, regretful, bitter real life. Something is physically wrong with Wolverine- he is working as a chaffeur in Texas and Professor Charles Xavier is suffering from neurodegenerative disease, confined to bed and taking bootleg meds to keep his massive telepathic powers from getting out of control. The other X-Men are nowhere to be found and no new mutants have been born in the last 25 years.
So when an 11 year old girl appears who later reveals herself to be a man-made, cloned version of Wolverine himself, it’s the beginning of the end; it’s the child seemingly usurping the parent.
And death is all over this film; gone is the PG-13 filter. Adamantium blades slash across throats, severe limbs, stab through heads underneath, on top. Professor Xavier’s regretful pining of something in the past is more personal. It’s not about the world, or abstract philosophical questions. It’s about personal redemption, and whether he gets it we can’t really tell as another clone of Logan- X-24, unleashed by the shadowy Transigen group catches up with them and stabs Xavier as he lies in bed in a medicated fugue.
But it's when Logan succumbs to a fatal wound that something catches in our throat. And it's not the sentimentality of the cloned little girl crying out 'daddy' that gets us, but the fact that mortality and death catch up with those that seem impervious to it- at least in this alternate universe, it does.