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This whole article will include SPOILERS for James Mangold's Logan! Stop reading now if you haven't seen it yet. Come back later after you have seen it, for a lively conversation.
The final shot of James Mangold's Logan is, in my opinion, perfect. Our hero has sacrificed himself to save Laura (Dafne Keen) and a small band of young mutants. He knows his body is failing. He wants to confront Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and Rice (Richard E. Grant). But he knows that doing so will kill him. And it does. Laura, quoting from the classic Western Shane, stands over Logan's grave. As the band of mutants leaves, she tilts the makeshift cross they have fashioned so that it's leaning on its side. It forms the shape of an "X."
I recently had the opportunity to speak to James Mangold about this profound and emotional final shot for Logan, and he explained to me that it's rooted in X-Men history, specifically, the cover shot of The Uncanny X-Men #251. Mangold explained:
It occurred to me one day in my office. There's a cover of an X-men comic with Logan kinda strapped to an X, almost Christ-like. It's a very famous cover, and yet, it's tipped sideways. But you kind of can't help thinking of the X as both a crucifix and an X with the way he's kind of pinned to it. But it just occurred to me that what a profound thing that was for her to do.
My Dad is also a minimalist painter and had made a whole series of paintings in the '80s called The Plus Series and The X Series. And he was always getting hit with these questions about Christ meanings and all the seeping and just kind of the simplicity. You're always looking, when you're making a movie that emulates westerns, to find gestures that even in the modern context will somehow play with the simplicity and elegance that the drama played out in great American westerns.
Here's the cover. It, too, is mesmerizing.
And with that, Wolverine has left us. And yet, as we know, no one leaves the X-Men universe for very long. The cinematic franchise has found ways to boot and reboot itself time and again, with even Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier dying on screen multiple times. Wolverine may be back, even if Hugh Jackman isn't the one playing him. And now we know where the inspiration for that final shot comes from.
Logan is currently in theaters as we speak.