There’s a moment in Logan, the latest installment of Fox's X-Men franchise, that makes clear it’s not your typical superhero movie. Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a desperate nurse (Elizabeth Rodriguez) explains to Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) why mutants seem to be going extinct. Transigen, the shady biotech firm she works for, has been carefully making sure that no new mutants are born in the general population while also breeding designer mutant children and raising them as soldiers at the behest of the U.S. government.
The children, Gabriela says, were created using genetic material from murdered mutants that was first cultivated into viable sperm cells. Those cells were then implanted in the wombs of women from Juarez, Mexico, who have been mysteriously disappearing for years. One of these children, a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), is Logan's daughter. If he wants her to survive, he'll have to help her cross the Mexican border on her way north to "Eden" where the world's few remaining mutants have sanctuary.
Initially, Logan has doubts about Gabriela’s story and takes time to mull it over. But just a few hours after he decides that she might be telling the truth, he discovers Gabriela has been murdered and Logan begins to focus in on the dark, timely message that lies beneath its surface.
Logan is every bit the epic swan song to Logan, a character that Jackman has been playing for the past 17 years. But Logan is also the first superhero movie to offer commentary about our immigration nightmare in Donald Trump's America. In a recent interview with MTV News, Logan director James Mangold and screenwriters Scott Frank and Michael Green explained that the movie's initial conflict on the Mexico/U.S. border was directly inspired by the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric Donald Trump campaigned with during the Republican primaries.
"This idea of running to the Canadian border for safety [after the election], which seemed like an interesting plot point at the time, suddenly became not only moving but also upsettingly real,” Green told MTV. "Here we are at a time where [immigration has] become demonized.”
While the movie spends a fair amount of time focusing on its titular character's mortality, it also uses the introduction of his daughter to talk about the future of marginalized communities (particularly Latinx immigrants) in a country that's growing increasingly hostile towards them. As Logan and Laura make their way north, they're pursued by the same biotech company that engineered Laura's birth because, in their view, she's a piece of property that belongs to them.
Within the film's cinematic narrative, Transigen's paramilitary strike force takes on the role of the necessary bad guy. But as an allegory for the challenges faced by undocumented people, these men also offer a terrifying glimpse into the future of both border patrol officers and ICE deportation agents.
Throughout the film, Transigen's soldiers act as the embodiment of a draconian stance on immigration, going so far as to literally drag children, beaten and bloody, back towards the border after separating them from their parents. Logan also presses heavily on the idea that Transigen still sees Laura and the other mutant children they created as potential sources of invaluable, thankless labor.
While there are no direct mentions of a Trump-like figure, Logan does paint a picture of America living with an underlying fear of mutants after one mutant accidentally killed a handful of people. While the specific details of the "Westchester Incident" are deliberately never explained in full, Logan establishes that it was an event that changed the way people viewed all mutants and paved the way for the U.S.'s disdain for them.
The Westchester Incident looms over Laura and Logan much in the same way that isolated incidents of crime committed by immigrants have been blown out of proportion by the current administration.
Last month, not only did President Trump make a point of inviting the family members of three people who were killed by immigrants to his first address to Congress, he made sure to seat them all next to First Lady Melania Trump. The optics alone spoke volumes about the Trump administration’s stance on undocumented people—that they pose a significant threat to the public’s safety—despite the fact that multiple studies across decades have shown that undocumented immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens.
By casting immigrants as “bad hombres," it becomes easier to dehumanize them and enact policy meant to rob them of any viable paths to legal citizenship and a shot at the American dream. Logan weaves this disturbing pattern into a movie that's being seen in thousands of theaters across the world and has already raked in an impressive $263 million globally.
Much has been written about how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby inadvertently created a parallel to the Civil Rights Movement when they first created the X-Men back in 1963. While Professor X and Magneto are imperfect symbols for MLK and Malcolm X, Logan lives up to the legacy of turning mutants into powerful metaphors for the misunderstood and the persecuted.