This piece discusses several plot points from “Logan.”
We really have to stop defining “dystopia” down. Consider, for instance, the use of the word to describe the setting of “Logan.”
“The Dark, Dystopian ‘Logan’ Is Epic in Its Brutality,” the headline of New York Magazine’s review informs us. The world of “Logan” is “a more insidious dystopia than the apocalyptic visions of ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ ” — a movie in which all human life on Earth is nearing extinction — according to the Daily Dot. The Wrap described the film as a “dystopian, neo-Western sendoff” to Wolvie; Vanity Fair claimed that it “opens on a dystopian 2029.”
It is perhaps understandable why the word “dystopia” is getting thrown around a bit. The setting for the first third or so of the film is the dusty Mexican desert, lending the proceedings a beige, wind-and-sand-swept setting. We spend most of our time with an aged Logan (Hugh Jackman) looking after an even-more-aged* Professor X (Patrick Stewart), and things aren’t so pleasant for our clawed hero.
But then, how pleasant can you really expect life to be for a murderous vagrant squatting in an abandoned industrial area who spends his time hopping back and forth across the border to illicitly acquire drugs for a demented telepath whose mental degradation caused some sort of horrible atrocity in the not-so-distant past?
We shouldn’t confuse the state of Logan’s life for the state of the world writ large. Frankly, from the glimpses we get, things don’t seem so bad. We see bachelor and bachelorette parties, suggesting that life goes on. As Logan, Professor X and their newfound ward, Laura (Dafne Keen), travel through the middle of the United States, we see farms and forests thriving. Casinos have proliferated, suggesting that there’s a thriving middle class for entertainment conglomerates to prey upon. Self-driving trucks populate the road, freeing humanity from deadening labor. There are bountiful harvests of genetically modified crops, suggesting that hunger isn’t much of a problem.
And no mutants have been born in 25 years.
This may be what people are seizing on when they describe “Logan” as dystopic, highlighting similarities to “Children of Men.” But it’s not a particularly apt comparison. For one thing, “Children of Men” posited an actual dystopia, where the world verged on collapse and chaos reigned as wars raged. The world was coming to an end thanks to simple math: No more babies meant no more people. And without people, it’s not much of a world, is it?
But the cause of the universal infertility central to Alfonso Cuarón’s film remained unknown; an act of God or an accident of humanity or something else entirely. The failure of mutant-kind to propagate in “Logan,” meanwhile, is quite clearly explicated: Via a feat of genetic engineering, mutant-kind was wiped out in the womb. No more mutants are born, because scientists willed it to be. In the end, Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) — the politician pushing for a mutant registry in the film that kicked off this series 17 years ago, warning of the danger mutants posed to humanity and hoping to control them — seems to have won.
Does this make the world of “Logan” a dystopia? Not as we understand the term at present.
It just makes it Denmark.
The people of Denmark have been extremely proactive in their efforts to eliminate those with Down syndrome from society. Renate Lindeman wrote in The Washington Post in 2015 that Denmark introduced routine screening for Down syndrome in 2006 and, according to the Copenhagen Post, boasts it “could be a country without a single citizen with Down syndrome in the not-too-distant future.” Denmark is only slightly ahead of the curve; as George F. Will noted in a touching 2012 essay about his son, who has Down syndrome, roughly 90 percent of parents who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome through prenatal testing choose to abort. Tim Stanley wrote last year in the Telegraph that those with Down syndrome are on the verge of extinction — a pursuit of “perfection” with some troubling parallels.
“It’s hard not to see of all this happening and think of the 1930s — when the Western world became hooked on the idea that it could create a cleaner, happier population with the application of medical cruelty,” Stanley argued. “This was barbarism disguised as reason.”
Indeed. So, you know, maybe “Logan” is a dystopia after all.
Maybe it’s one we’re currently living in.
*Well, technically, Logan is older than Charles Xavier. But, thanks to his healing factor, Logan looks half of the good professor’s age.