This post contains MASSIVE spoilers for Logan to go alongside this particular bit of thinking around the context of the movie. So if you have not yet seen the film….read at your own risk. In fact, the film is too good…go see it first and come back!
Seriously, I implore you, go see it, I'll be here.
Okay, so I guess you've all seen the film now?
Well, it is all to do with some of the heartbreaking sadness of what happened to the X-Men that left Logan (Hugh Jackman) so devastated and hopeless and Professor Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart) a broken mess.
In Logan, a number of years is meant to have passed since something happened to all the rest of the X-Men, leaving Xavier and Wolverine/Logan the last in the world (presumably). In an interesting twist on the original Old Man Logan comics by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, where Logan is tricked into slaughtering all of the X-Men by second-rate Spider-Man villain Mysterio (somehow), in the movie, it is implied that Professor Xavier killed them all, in one of, if not his very first, seizures that cause his significant mental powers to go dangerously out of control.
In the film, there are mentions of a Westchester Incident, which is meant to have occurred roughly five years prior. Furthermore, director James Mangold in the run up to the release of the movie suggested that Logan is in continuity with what we've seen previously, just further ahead than we've ever seen before.
Don't think @RealHughJackman said that exactly. Simple fact. We take place in 2029, 5 yrs past anything depicted in XMEN film.
— Mangold (@mang0ld) January 22, 2017
Five years after the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past, where Logan mentally went back in time to alter the path of a dark future where he and the X-Men were almost destroyed, the mutant race rounded up into pens and slaughterhouses. In that movie, he's successful and returns to a future, his present, where all his team mates are alive, including ones lost previously and who meant so much to him. The last thing we see is Professor Xavier telling Logan that he will get him up to speed on what has happened while his mind was 'away'.
Five years before Logan.
So what does this potentially add to Logan?
Well, given the time differences between Logan and Days of Future Past, the implied events in the prior movie, and the implication that these movies are very connected now what with the shady lab that has created mutant weapons in X-23 and X-24 from blood samples, which we saw being collected in the mid-credits sequence of X-Men: Apocalypse – given all these facts, wouldn't it be heartbreaking if the incident that killed the X-Men happened immediately after what we saw in Days of Future Past?
Maybe even literally straight after we left Logan and Xavier at the end of that movie, Xavier has his first major seizure and it wipes out the X-Men and all the mutant students at the school.
That Logan returns from a dystopian nightmare to a present filled with hope and all his loved ones…only for it to be almost immediately taken away again, by the capricious circumstance of Xavier's illness and failing control over his considerable powers. That for the briefest moment, Logan saw happiness and it was horrifically and fatally crushed in front of him.
That's why we have a Logan who is so broken and hopeless. One who believes there's no saving what's good in the world anymore, and that he himself is a death sentence to anyone he loves, because he can't even have that one moment of happiness before it all comes crashing down.
Logan in itself is a crushing film in how bleak it can be. But this wrinkle, if correct, adds an extra layer of weight to the broken character we find at the start of the film. It's one thing to imagine how devastating it was to see his friends all die…it's another to imagine it happening just after he got them all back.