Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.
Dafne Keen as Laura, Hugh Jackman as Logan, and Patrick Stewart as Professor X in Logan.
In the opening scene of Logan, a rusty, and bloodied middle-aged man, the X-Man formerly known as Wolverine, heaves over, covered in dust while a crew of men attempt to steal the hubcaps off his car. He ominously warns them to leave the car alone — and quietly gets angrier and angrier. Finally, reaching his boiling point, he lunges at the men with his gleaming blades in full force, and brutally cuts, stabs, and amputates the men attempting to mug him. The scene feels like it lasts an eternity (in a good way) — the scraping noise of his metal blades against raw flesh is enough to make even those with a stomach of steel squeal. It’s clear that the movie will continue in this trend of theatrical gore and fast-paced fight scenes, but if you thought the rest of the movie would be centered around the combat skills of Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine you would be so, SO wrong.
The most violent, shocking, and impressive stand-offs actually comes from the youngest actor on the screen: a pre-teen Gen Z X-Men (woman?) named Laura, played with incredible fierce Dafne Keen. (Be prepared to be obsessed with her — especially that gas station scene. You'll know it when you see it.) Young girls, now more than ever, are being placed at the center of action and super hero movies — not as the damsel, not as the quirky sidekick, and not as the reclusive loner — but as the straight-up hero. They're smart, they're cunning, and they're strong. They're exactly what little girls (not that actual little girls should necessarily watch this R-rated film) need to look up to when they get tired of having images of princesses shoved in their faces.
In Logan, Laura kicks the most ass, saves the most lives, and possesses the biggest heart. It's all about the unbridled force of good old-fashioned girl power. Mild spoilers ahead.
From the moment we first see Laura (ominously in a graveyard), it's clear that she will be the apex of the story. Her entire existence is genetically linked to Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Wolverine, who is still a hero of hers, much to Logan's bitter chagrin. He isn't interested in having to take care of a kid, much less a motherless girl who refuses to speak directly to him. But quickly Logan, and the rest of the audience, realizes that she is no ordinary girl. Laura was built by a team of scientists using DNA from, guess who? The Wolverine. Like Logan, she doesn't need to be taken care of — she just wants to form an alliance to reunite with her makeshift mutant family, and get to the Canadian to escape a tyrannical United States. (This feels a little pointed, doesn't it?) Like Logan she also has retractable blades, and even a little extra something that makes her even more of a skilled fighter. Veering away from the standard female superhero trope, she is the most ruthless, savage, and dangerous character in the film. And she's barely even in her teens. She has grit and gusto — she is a superhero for every kid.
Laura brings to mind a lot of other powerful female characters, all under the age of 20. Her character combines Stranger Things’ Eleven’s mysterious muteness and deep-rooted compassion, Deadpool’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s take-no-shit attitude and angsty moodiness, and Game of Thrones' Arya Stark's organized vengeance and dedication to her kin.
Without giving away major plot points of the film — which isn't a sequel to the X-Men series so much as a one-off to wrap up the Wolverine story after 17 years — it's also important to recognize that she has been through extreme trauma and suffered incredible loss. What could have made her hopeless made her steadfast. What could have scared her made her stronger. The end of the film also builds on that narrative, and leaves room for more movies centered around the brave Laura. Because who says big superheroes can't come in small packages?
Logan hits theaters everywhere March 3.
Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.