Moments of Impact: Logan’s Shadow of Innocence

Moments of Impact: Logan's Shadow of Innocence

Note: This article will contain many spoilers if not divulge the entire contents of the film ‘Logan.’ If you have not yet seen it, what are you doing and hurry up already.

Logan‘s bare and dystopian setting in 2029 America fits the defeated and remorseful man at the center of the film: once the infamous Wolverine, now known as Logan. In the former movies, the conflict centered around the X-Men and enormous external obstacles. Logan is not bereft of sensationalism; it is soaked in blood and ripe with up-close and personal mutilated bodies. Although horrific, this does not match the horror of the grief eating away at Logan, now a holed-away alcoholic limo driver who will clearly meet his end soon. His healing powers are degenerating and valleys of age are carved in his face.

The movie’s central question is not which bad guy Logan has to take down, but instead: what is Logan reckoning with? What is the nature of his suffering?

Logan’s character arc overlaps with many aspects of Jungian psychology, namely the process of individuation and harmonizing our “shadow” selves with what we project to the world, our “persona.” In more fleshed out terms:

According to Jung, the “persona” constitutes the person that the individual projects to the social world. The “shadow” encompasses everything that the conscious represses, including all desires deemed different and rejected by the individual’s social standards. The individuation process starts with a person becoming aware of his/her shadow.

A “persona” is a mask, our superhero suit, our work clothes, that act as a display for others. A persona is “performance,” and a large percentage of it is made up of what we learned as “good” from society’s expectations of us. Our “shadow” is what’s cast behind this wall. It’s what repulses others (or what we think would repulse others) such as destructive, immoral, and shameful impulses, memories, and deeds. They lie waiting whether we know they are there or not.

At the beginning of the film, Logan is grappling with the persona that he’s created for the world and his destructive impulses. In the first scene, he is passed out drunk in the front of his luxury car with some gangsters outside prying the rims off. The confrontation escalates and ends with their heads and limbs on the ground, Logan standing alone in the dust, claws bare and soaked in blood. Even in his old and weary state, the world keeps drawing out the violent impulses he tries to keep inside; the ones he wishes were cast behind him. He ends the night with a bottle of vodka, staring at a poison-lined bullet, the only bullet that can kill him in one blow. He has succumb to drinking, isolation, contemplation of suicide, unaware of any other purpose than to be a killer.

A more troubling question crops up: while the rest of us project personas that are “good,” polite, funny, kind etc., Logan’s case is complicated by the the world demanding he be a violent, ruthless killer. Logan reverses Jung’s dynamic: his shadow is fronted and extracted from him, while any positive impulses to the contrary, unifying desires for human connection, goodness, and love, have been repressed. The point of his life that Logan begins with represents an atomic neutralization between his running away from his shadowy persona and his complete inability to be anything else. He can’t be a force for good. He has no family or friends left So he is forced to be an observer of his life, doing his best to be nothing.

This changes when Laura is introduced, who turns out to be his biological daughter with identical powers as his. Laura is one of the many mutant children soldiers recently created by Transigen. The experiment failed as the children rebelled, either killing themselves or trying to escape, some successful, others exterminated. One of the nurses manages to bring Laura to Logan in hopes that he might transport her safely to a sanctuary called “Eden,” located on the border of Canada, where the other children mutants are supposed to meet.

Although Laura is feral and tainted by her traumatic beginnings, she is, in a language of metaphor, Logan’s “promise:” in Jungian terms, the “child,” the familial archetype that represent “beginnings, promise, and salvation.” She has the potential to bring out the qualities Logan has long repressed: kindness and empathy. Throughout the entire film, Logan resists against this. Initially, he doesn’t acknowledge Laura is his daughter, saving Professor Xavier from Transigen agents and abandoning her with her bowl of cereal to fend for herself. Yet when he decides to save her and bring her to Eden, he shows tempered affections, buying her new things and giving her careful, almost fatherly, instructions. But he can’t let any love come to the surface.

Logan showing paternal discipline
Logan showing some paternal discipline to Laura, who’s just assaulted a gas station cashier!

This is made glaringly clear at the climax of the film. While Logan, Laura, and Professor Xavier make their arduous journey towards Eden, they run into a loving family, the Munsons, that gets stuck on the side of the road. They’re invited in for dinner and to stay the night, which is one of the most heart-warming scenes of the film as you catch a glimpse at what these mutant superheroes would be like if they had a regular, calm life together.

Logan, Professor Xavier, and Laura stop for the night at the Munsons and have a warm family dinner.
Logan, Professor Xavier, and Laura stop for the night at the Munsons and have a warm family dinner.

Transigen catches up with them and unleashes X-24, a malicious and violent clone of Wolverine, who looks exactly like Logan. X-24 is all of Logan’s violence and rage condensed into one dastardly efficient killing machine. It is all of the evil that Transigen wished to instill in Logan’s heart, the persona that Logan has tried to shed, and the reason why he could never embrace Laura with open arms. And it should come to no surprise that X-24 kills the Munsons in a heartbeat. X-24 then captures Laura.
At the beginning of the film, Logan was all too ready to give up on Laura, his “promise.” Now, he saves Laura at the risk of his own life.

Had Logan and his newfound daughter escaped and found a sanctuary for themselves, he may have completed the process of “individuation,” a term coined by Jung. According to Jung, individuation is the most important part of our lives; it’s when we’ve reconciled our shadow selves with our personas. Maybe in a different world, Logan and Laura could salvage some kind of relationship. Maybe in this world, Logan could discover an innocence, purity, and kindness that he has been forced to cast behind him because it was too threatening. Maybe, he could finally negotiate between his life full of bloodshed and a kinder, more loving self that was waiting for him all along. But in a world where an insidious, powerful corporation wants him dead, no such sanctuary really exists. Not for him.

At the end of the film, Logan fights X-24 with very little strength left in him. He’s trying to stave it off from the army of children mutant soldiers and save Laura’s life. Laura watches hopelessly, searching for any way to save him. She remembers the bullet with the special poison, the one Logan had almost used on himself that she stole from him in secret, finds a gun, and shoots X-24—but not before it puts Logan on the stake of a fallen tree.

For the last moments of his life, Logan witnesses the death of his darkness, and the promise of the future triumph. Logan warns Laura to break away from what the world wants to make her. And for the first time, he admits he knows what love truly feels like as he holds on to her hand and passes quietly.

Laura wanders forward with her fellow mutants. She runs towards the falling light of day, into the mountains and over the border, confused, but having seen a potential future for herself, one full of remorse and ambiguity. Only at his death, and really, the death of X-24, was Logan able to know love. Maybe Laura will not let this fall with the sun. Maybe, it will survive the darkness of the night and into the new day.

Logan's Grave
Logan’s Grave

Melanie Falconer is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles, California. Her writing mainly concerns philosophy, personal experiences, cultural commentary, and her love of the visual and performing arts. If you’d like to reach out to her, you can do so here.