By Jacob Wampfler
*Spoilers for Logan below
I am a Christian. I am a pastor. I am also an avid lover of film. Since I was a child, movies have spoken to me in ways that no other medium can touch. I have often hesitated on this blog and on our podcast to reference my faith in relation to film. I would hate for my worldview to be a hindrance or stumbling block to others when it comes to the very sacred art of filmmaking. But there are times when my faith in Jesus and my love of film so perfectly eclipse one another that I simply cannot be silent. Last month, I saw a film called Logan. Today is Good Friday, a somber day of reflection and pain for Christ followers around the world. I’d like to take a reflective moment of my own and share with you how Logan helps me see Jesus.
From the outset, Logan is dripping with religious imagery. Themes of atonement, death, fatherhood, disease, exile, and suffering all populate one of the darkest superhero films ever made. In Logan, the Wolverine himself, we see a marred Christ figure. His enhanced skeleton and body are failing. His healing power is slowly disappearing. He drowns himself in booze every day and when he dons a pair of spectacles, he squints and we see the creases on his worn, aging face. Logan is an old, dying, broken man, and the film conveys his pain with gut-wrenching veracity. In Logan, we can see little parts of ourselves…and it hurts.
Logan stands as a Christ figure in the film mainly in relation to Laura, the young mutant known as X-23. She was created with Logan’s DNA – she is Logan’s biological daughter. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that only Logan can save Laura from those who hunt her. She and countless other children were only known as numbers, failed experiments; but Logan sees her as an innocent child. He knows that he will die in order that she might live. He makes the ultimate sacrifice for her, and before his death experiences a fleeting moment of happiness. Laura holds his hand as he lay dying against a tree. He says, “So, this is what it feels like,” and he breathes his last.
The hero dies. Perhaps the most troubling part of this film, for me, are the circumstances of Logan’s death. He dies with his body ripped apart, weeping for a life he never had, holding his daughter’s hand who he will never see grow up. He is buried in the woods where no one will ever visit his final resting place. A crude wooden cross is placed at the head of his grave, tipped on it’s side by Laura to resemble an “X”. Logan, the tormented and immortal mutant, was finally laid to rest. His pain is ended, and he will only be truly remembered by the children he saved.
Logan does something I don’t think I have ever seen in my life. Similar to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” that played over the first trailer for the film, Logan weaves together the suffering of both the savior and the saved. I found myself brutalized by the way the camera lingered on Logan’s brokenness. In agonizing detail, director James Mangold hits the viewer over and over again with images that make our hearts yearn for Logan to find happiness and reprieve from his suffering. In one image aptly noted by another reviewer, a cross sits in the shadows at the moment of the film when Logan seems happiest, “surrounded by keepsakes of a life he will never have….” Logan is the flawed savior for whom happiness and family were pieces of an ever-elusive dream. Through Laura, he experienced a glimpse of that which escaped him. Through saving her, he passed on life and hope to those who would have otherwise been captured and eventually killed, doomed to live lives exactly the way Logan had lived.
Amidst the bleak, dour narrative of Logan, there is a glimpse of hope for us that Logan saw in Laura. Logan experienced new life and resurrection in Laura, who carried a part of him with her. As his daughter, she was freed from the cycle of violence and slavery that continually plagued Logan’s life. Laura and the other children – refugees, experiments, and former slaves – were free to grow up and live in peace. I like to imagine that Laura would tell stories of the old, broken man who saved her life. And amidst tears, she would recount that because of him she was given a chance to be different, to preserve life rather than take it.
This is how Logan helps me see Jesus. A former professor of mine once said that we can see Jesus anywhere, if we only open our eyes to see him. I see the ancient narrative of Jesus and his passion in Logan, especially this Good Friday, because I realize my need to see the Gospel everywhere. I need to be reminded every day of my own brokenness and thirst for redemption. I need to be reminded every day of my propensity towards harming even (and especially) those who are closest to me. I need to be reminded every day that no one is too far gone to experience the love and sacrifice of a Savior. And I especially need to be reminded in the words of Logan “So, this is what it feels like” – love and hope are mine because of what was accomplished at the cross. Logan is a film for Good Friday and every day…and this film lover will be forever grateful for it’s beauty and truth.