LilGripes.com Returns Confident and Celebrating X-23, Logan (no spoilers!)’s Tween Weapon
LilGripes.com is back, shedding our wintry writer’s block… and what better way to jumpstart our brand-new confidence, in a brand-new year replete with brand-new looks (see Lil’s Lookbook and Video), than by feting the first superhero event of 2017? Yes, we are talking Marvel/20th Century Fox’s Logan. More specifically, we are talking the li’l wunderkind at the heart of Logan: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)’s daughter-clone, “X-23″/Laura Kinney, portrayed prodigiously by brand-new face Dafne Keen.
Remember that name. In 10 years, this girl will be wearing the hottest designer dress of 2027 as she accepts her Oscar for Best Actress in a Motion Picture. To be frank, she should also be winning an Academy Award next year for her turn as the conflicted young mutant. An effectively mute character (scroll to bottom for X-23’s backstory), Laura’s personality is expressed through facial expressions and guttural noises for much of the film. What could have been a forgettable mini she-bot was imprinted on the big screen with feral doe-eyes and a simultaneously tender temperament.
When Keen does speak as Laura, she does so in English and Spanish, with lilts both sad and humorous in both languages. Not to mention, it is simply delightful to watch a 4’2″ girl do literal spins and acrobatic circles around baddies ten-fold her size while skewering them with metallic claws.
So… Who is this talented little woman of mystery?
1. Ella habla español: Dafne Keen, née Daphne Keen Fernández in Spain to Will Keen, a British actor, and María Fernández Ache, a Spanish actress/theater director, turns 12 this year. Keen split her upbringing between the UK and Madrid, her bilingual nature a huge relief to James Mangold, Logan‘s director, who requested an actress between 11-12 who not only could rattle off both Spanish and English vernacular fluently but also looked of ambiguous Hispanic origin.
2. She was born to tumble: She was a gifted gymnast at just 10 years old, when she sent in her audition tape to U.K. casting director Priscilla John. According to Vanity Fair, John watched the tape, enraptured as she watched this four-foot child scale a tall bookcase in her living room while casually picking up and fingering different objects around her. On her way down to the ground, she gracefully descended into a tumbling run. Needless to say, most of X-23’s violently acrobatic sequences did not require a double.
3. She’s a cute eater: The endearing Pringles scene in the extended trailer? It was indubitably based on another part of Keen’s own audition tape where she chomped down crackers without a word while her eyes darted wildly around her. “She was devouring everything in that room,” John recalls. “She had an innocence and a vulnerability, and I said, ‘People are going to fall in love with her.'”
4. She is a true novice: If you Google Dafne Keen, there is still very little public info on the rising star. Logan is her big-screen debut and her only other credited work was a role on The Refugees, a short-lived Spanish TV series on which she collaborated with her father (who was also on Netflix’s The Crown).
5. She can hold her own: Based on the audience’s and critics’ reception of X-23, Keen has already accrued a passionate fanbase, good tidings for a potential X-Men franchise mounted on her character. In what is famously Hugh Jackman’s and Sir Patrick Stewart’s last turns as Wolverine and Professor X respectively, Keen still sways the screen every frame in which she appears, her porcelain features either lighting up with animalistic rage or evoking the childlike innocence of a sheltered lab experiment.
That brings us to X-23/Laura Kinney’s long story sorta short:
X-23 is Weapon X‘s 23rd (but first successful) attempt at creating a human mutant with Wolverine’s powers. Created in a lab, birthed by a surrogate mother she will never know and raised in a military facility unsuitable for children, 11-year-old Laura and other mutant youngsters only managed to escape their makers with the help of their nurses when the program decided to terminate these “experiments.” Bleak stuff.
On the run with Logan and Professor X in this film, Laura learns the outside world while Logan learns fatherhood (she is created with his DNA, after all). Armed with two adamantium claws on each hand and one on each foot, as opposed to Wolverine’s three on each hand, she is just similar enough to her violent, volatile yet ultimately virtuous pops to honor his legacy amongst this new generation of mutants.
P.S. My brief spoiler-free Logan review (I wore yellow and black to rep Wolverine’s original costume):