After Logan, audiences were left curious about the future of the X-Men franchise. Will we see a continuation of Laura’s story, and if so, will she still be played by Dafne Keen? Hints by Logan’s creators indicate that she might.
Logan has drawn positive reactions from fans and critics alike, with an incredible opening weekend and stellar reviews. Although this is in great part because of excellent storytelling and cinematography, and a gritty violence that none of its predecessors dared to depict, it’s clear that Keen’s excellent performance as Laura (X-23 in the comics) stole audiences’ hearts while simultaneously leaving them shocked at the brutality of such a small girl.
From the very beginning, Laura’s story took a unique angle towards the “child-soldier bred in captivity” trope, setting her childhood in Mexico, and having her created from Logan’s own DNA. The fact that she and the other children are rescued by Mexican women working at the facility, who were deemed “too ignorant” to understand what was really happening, already faces head-on the racism taking place on the Mexican border.
Laura’s escape through the United States, hunted by an organization that stops at nothing to get her back, hoping to find her friends still alive, is clearly a story inspired by the reality of many children in the world today. And Keen portrays this desperation and trauma with ease, even when her character hardly speaks any words out loud.
As Logan draws to an end, and Laura and Logan share a moment that, true to their nature, is sweet and poignant in the aftermath of an incredibly bloody scene, it becomes clear that Logan’s story has come to an end — but that Laura’s is just beginning.
Will new movies focus on Laura?
Praise for Keen’s talented performance has erupted since Logan first premiered, including from people within the film’s production. Director James Mangold was quick to tell We Got This Covered “I think Dafne is incredible in the film and I would love to see another film about that character and that’s certainly something I’d be involved in.”
It may seem strange to fill such a big role as Wolverine’s — who we’ve come to immediately associate with Hugh Jackman — with a young Spanish girl, but it’s not the first time X-Men has taken this approach. X-23, in the comics, after escaping her captives, is trained by Wolverine and eventually takes over his suit and name.
In fact, Bryan Singer, who has been writing for the X-Men movies since the very beginning and is currently working on X-Force, the upcoming film, seems to have had Laura in mind at least since early last year. There are certainly some complications involved if he does intend to bring her in for X-Force, since the movie will be set in the 90s, and Logan takes place in 2029, meaning that Laura hasn’t even been born yet. (Not that that’s necessarily an obstacle in the X-Men franchise, but it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to constantly bring in time travel as a solution.)
More than as another member of the X-Men team, though, we want to see Laura as a main character. Where does she go now, with the other young mutants? What do they do together? How does she come to reconcile the violence she has carried out with the values she has learned in Logan? How can she become a hero?
The case for a different title
Craig Kyle, the original creator of X-23 in the comics, seems to have mixed feelings about her taking over Wolverine’s role in publications after his. And while he also seems to have loved Logan’s portrayal of Laura, he shared with Hollywood Reporter his own thoughts on what he wanted for her:
“I never wanted her to put on Wolverine’s costume and take his name, because she’s not Wolverine. Wolverine is Wolverine and no one will ever be him. He is this extraordinary, beautiful, perfect thing. I don’t want to take away from him and I don’t want to strip her of her individuality. I love that she’s taken that role. I just wish she could do it in her own costume, that’s all.”
While he’s speaking about the comics and not necessarily about the movies, he raises some good points. Is it necessary for Laura to take up Logan’s mantle? Or would it actually be more empowering and meaningful for her to find her own way towards heroism — a new name, and a new style?
Although the comics seem to ascribe many of Logan’s character traits to Laura as well, that may not necessarily be the best angle for the movies. With Logan being so focused on the ways that Wolverine perceived that he had failed, and on the weaknesses that brought him to where he was, it seems counterproductive for Laura’s story to follow the same pattern. After all, if she truly learned from Logan, she will have a journey that is vastly different from his.
We don’t want an aged-up Laura
Kyle had more to say on the importance of Laura’s age, and of “the beauty and the tragedy” of it. He also hinted that X-23’s body, given the healing powers in the DNA, might take much longer to develop — although that seems like a difficult aspect to adapt to movies with a child star.
It would be a rare decision for a studio to bring in a child as the lead for a movie for adults, but Laura’s character seems to be in a unique position to do so. However, it’s also important to consider that there’s a possibility that she might be aged up if she were to have her own movie.
The reasons for this might range anywhere from practicality — an older actress is certainly easier to work with on many levels, and may be able to bring new things to the table that a child could not — to more twisted trends that we often see in Hollywood, when it comes to making an “appealing” female character.
Kyle agrees, even going so far as to describe his own struggles writing X-23 and trying to protect her from sexualization. In fact, in the comics, X-23 was aged up to 16, and later to 22, often with a storyline of prostitution and boob-jobs — clearly a ploy to make her sexually appealing to readers. In every aspect of entertainment, female leads are often sexualized for the male gaze in an attempt to bring in a greater viewership. Kyle puts it very eloquently:
“Some people are talking about how desperate we are for a good female hero. And man, am I with them. And someone who is not sexualized at all. On X-Men: Evolution, we did one last image that said our show is over. We did a montage of things to come. Sentinels and these dark times to show their journey is continuing. There is a shot of X-23 in the front of the team. Logan is missing, because we are implying he is no longer with the team. She steps into that role. When the costume design came in, it had a big midriff section left. I covered it up. Even back then, I just wanted her to be young and powerful and just rich in character. I wanted people to see what was so wonderful about her and have the sexuality really not be a part of it. With James doing what he’s done, he’s given us a chance to champion her story and love her… without making her a sexpot. I want a hero that my daughter, when she’s old enough to see heads be turned into bologna slices, can get behind of and proud of an excited by. And I think she has a real shot of filling a missing piece.”
“Young and powerful and just rich in character,” is exactly what we want to see in the future. It’s what made Laura so fascinating in the first place. We can only hope that the studio is willing to take the perceived risk and turn it into something new and refreshing, like they did with Logan.
Keen herself seems eager to continue exploring Laura’s journey. “She is an emotional bomb. She’s complicated — she tries to be so strong but she feels so kind of vulnerable at the same time. I really love her. I’d love to keep playing her.”