This column will be unlike others I've written, at least in terms of subject. I'll explore a film that's been on my mind long after the credits rolled.
It wasn't some artsy, European odyssey of self-discovery, though it did evoke existential introspection. I'm talking about "Logan," the final installment in Marvel's "Wolverine" franchise. And no, I'm not kidding.
You must understand that in my childhood, comic books were a treasured escape -- as for many of my nerdy peers. And far from being an obscure fetish, Hollywood's capitalization on superheroes shows how integral a facet of our American popular psyche they've become.
Regrettable though it is, superheroes have in many ways supplanted the saints as our role models and objects of veneration. Their struggles and exploits consistently show how good must ultimately triumph over evil, though evil seems to prevail for a time. They also suggest we're each called to do extraordinary things to serve the common good.
The release of the first "X-Men" film while I was in college was the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy. I remember watching it with friends, as with subsequent installments. The franchise was a generational phenomenon.
But as sequels emerged and the original cast grew older, I wondered where this would go. Even superheroes (or the actors who play them) cannot escape age and mortality.
Which brings me back to "Logan."
I expected another action-packed presentation of "evil looks unstoppable, but good will triumph in the end." And though it worked out that way, there was still an incredible price.
Spoiler alert: Hugh Jackman's Wolverine is old, gray and walks with a limp. He still heals from wounds that'd kill any other mortal, but not like he used to. And his visible scars correspond to invisible ones within.
Living in obscurity, he cares for an elderly Professor Xavier (reprised by Patrick Stewart), and they've got one last mission in them.
"Logan" grapples with age, regret and legacy. What happens when superheroes get old and the unlimited promise of youth falls behind? For that matter, what happens when the same thing happens to us?
Jackman and Stewart both decided this would be their last time in their roles. And they decided to go out not in romanticized fashion, but in a way that would deconstruct the illusion of superhero invincibility.
There's still a great deal of violence (this isn't for youth groups), but the violence isn't glorified. The tone reminds one of Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" or John Wayne's "The Shootist" -- final installments of each actor's Western career that renounced the delusion of a violence without consequence.
Maybe it's a guy thing, but "Logan" left me humbled and sobered by the realization that for all of us (even superheroes) life in this world must end. Sitting through the credits as Johnny Cash sang about Judgment Day, a mindfulness of death summoned repentance.
Requiem aeternum, Wolverine. And thank you for the lessons.