Tag Archives: Logan

Logan

Logan Movie PosterIt seems like much of the recent success of comic book and superhero movies can be traced back to Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men films which laid the groundwork, not only for their own ongoing and expanded franchise, but the Avengers series, and most other films in that genre as well.

In 2016 this initial foundation was expanded (with mixed results) by Deadpool, adding an ‘R-rated’ flavour to the now Sony/Marvel X-Men universe, and now James Mangold’s Logan has grabbed that more adult notion by the throat and, well, driven three claws through its head.

Despite being the X-Men film series’ most compelling character the previous pair of standalone films based on Wolverine (X-Men Origins and The Wolverine) had, to a greater or lesser extent, not quite the hit mark; either for the character’s long time fans or more casual moviegoers. Here then it was refreshing that from the start this Wolverine, again played by Hugh Jackman, felt far more true to the essence of the character established but never really seen previously.

Hugh Jackman in Logan

Jackman as Logan/Howlett/Wolverine

Opening on a shot of an ageing Logan (aka Wolverine, aka James Howlett) waking up in the back seat of a limousine and then swiftly and brutally dealing with a gang of thugs trying to steal his hubcaps, it’s clear that Jackman, Mangold and co are using all of their R rating (15 in the UK) allowance of profanity and violence.

The story centres on the now somewhat less superpowered Logan and his efforts to care for a frail and elderly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a young mutant named Laura (aka X-23, played by Dafne Keen). While the film has its fair share of action, mostly in a close up more personal style than the now common city-destruction of other comic book movies, the majority of the film focuses on these three leads.

Jackman puts in not only his best performance as the character to date, but one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him, as he carries the weight of the film with a surprisingly nuanced delivery, capturing the essence of faded glory and un-graceful ageing excellently, while also delivering hugely in the action set pieces while keeping the now developed character intact.

Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman in Logan

Stewart as Xavier and Jackman

Stewart reveals new sides of Xavier, and seems to have a lot of infectious fun doing it, as he balances a streak of humour that clearly comes naturally to him with the emotional heft necessary for his position in the film and with the same weighty presence he’s always had in the role.

Keen meanwhile is a revelation as the intense Laura. Largely silent, her movements and facial expressions capture and transmit everything you need to know about this feral child and grow as the films goes on to a massively satisfying climax beyond I think anything seen elsewhere in the comic book movie canon. To be honest the same can be said of both Jackman and Stewart’s parts too and even Steven Merchant as Caliban puts in a good showing.

As well as tremendous acting, helped by a story and script rooted in more down to earth feelings, Logan comes with more of a sense of consequences than other superhero films.

Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23

Keen as Laura/X-23

Here you really feel like what is taking place matters and that there are real stakes for those involved, unlike the Avengers movies where we ultimately know the outcome from the start for a number of reasons.

So every action set piece, and there are a fair few, comes with a sense of genuinely not knowing what could happen – both Wolverine and Laura are vulnerable enough to not come across as instant winners in every fight and this is exploited in variously clever ways as the film goes on.

Rather than climaxing on a moment of light relief like comic book movies are wont to do, Logan cuts to black at an emotional peak leaving the audience satisfied and with the sense that this was a complete story but (crucially I guess for the studios) with avenues open for more to come, but in far less obvious ways than most other franchise films manage these days.

Hugh Jackman in Logan

Logan takes comic book action to the next level

In the end Logan may well not only have eclipsed X2 or Days of Future Past as the best of the X-Men series but taken its place at the top of the mainstream comic book movie pile by daring to be different in ways that almost remove it from that canon, if it weren’t for the super powered mutants leading the story.

And the Johnny Cash track that kicks off the credits is the cherry on top of an already exceedingly good cake.

And here’s that Johnny Cash song, just because…

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X-Men

x-men movie poster16 years ago, in the wake of Blade, the first bona-fide Marvel comics based blockbuster movie hit the screens in the form of director Bryan Singer’s version of X-Men. Since then the franchise has gone on to become a long series of sequels (some good; X-Men 2, First Class, Days of Future Past, Deadpool – some less so; X3: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine – some a bit average; The Wolverine), but what was its origin like?

The film traces the story of what seems to be the X-Men’s first clash with The Brotherhood of Mutants and their leader, Magneto (Ian McKellen), through the eyes of new recruit Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and young mutant Rogue (Anna Paquin). This structure cleverly offers an audience potentially unfamiliar with the comics an easy way into this already established world on two levels, though both with the sense of the outsider.

This outsider nature is one that Singer laces heavily throughout, making it into something of a motif from the opening prologue showing us the origin of Magneto in the Nazi concentration camps of the Second World War, to the introductions of Wolverine and Rogue to the whole notion of Xavier’s School for Gifted Children.

Anna Paquin as Rogue

Anna Paquin as Rogue

Echoing the comic books’ 1960s origins that, supposedly, dealt with issues surrounding the civil rights movement, Singer incorporates a broader version of this theme more suited to a millennial audience, showing the two sides of the divide on the argument of integration and isolation/hostility that is still relevant now.

At barely an hour and 40 minutes Singer doesn’t deeply explore these issues but they are evident, what he does do in that time though is create a fast paced action movie. Unfortunately the short run time (something of a blessing compared to some of the over long movies that now populate this genre) means the large number of characters are, for the most part, underdeveloped; Wolverine, Magneto and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) get a decent amount of time to become slightly more than 2D but really the rest of the pack are fairly weakly painted hero or villain types.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

A highlight scene comes early on that sets the ground for Magneto and Professor X as they attend a debate on mutant rights and meet afterwards outside the meeting hall. Here the chemistry between McKellen and Stewart that has become the stuff of legend sparks and they certainly provide the most convincing aspect of the film and are amazing to watch just talking – though McKellen does go on to ham it up a bit too much later.

The action across the movie feels like a hybrid of what had come before, with a particularly physical feel often in the vein of an 80s action movie (prior to these things becoming almost entirely computer generated spectacles) and what was to come later with hints of the CG smash-fests of more recent movies. This gives it a split feel that isn’t entirely effective, but serves its purpose and we get great signature moments from all the main heroes and villains even if these do feel a little gimmicky.

The film’s climax, based around the Statue of Liberty, lacks a certain weight within the story which is something that marks the whole of this first X-Men film giving it the feeling of being at best the start of something, at worst a hyper-extended trailer for the franchise. That said, its enjoyable enough on its own merits and certainly at the time was successful enough to warrant the superior sequel that really allowed the characters and story more room to breathe than they had here.

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The Wolverine (Unleashed Cut)

The Wolverine - posterHaving missed it in the cinema I thought I’d delve into The Wolverine by the extended ‘Unleashed’ cut of the movie that comes with the Blu-ray package. I’m not sure how much is different or added, but it seems the main gist of the changes is that Logan (Hugh Jackman) drops a few more ‘f-bombs’ and there’s a bit more graphic stuff in the fight scenes.

Anyway, The Wolverine tells us a new story about Logan and, thankfully, drops a lot of the over the top sci-fi comic book stuff of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and replaces with something that, at times, borders on feeling a bit James Bond as it takes Logan out of the world we’ve previously seen in the X-Men movies (though this is clearly still the same canon) as we go to Japan and find out about another part of the, essentially immortal, character’s story.

Hugh Jackman in The WolverineClearly inspired by the work of Frank Miller (the man who brought us 300 and Sin City) we are in a more serious world for The Wolverine, especially as we see Logan with his powers (sort of) removed for much of the film and, while it never quite reaches realistic territory, it does give Jackman something different to do with the character and attempts to introduce a bit more peril than there might otherwise have been.

Unfortunately, like most of the current crop of comic book movies, this sense of peril never quite gets to where we need it to. Much like Man of Steel or The Avengers, heading into this movie we already know the hero makes it through and, while it would be easy to assume that of any such movie, having the knowledge that a direct sequel was already in the works (and in the case here already being shot) does lose something in suspension of disbelief, so throughout there really is no feeling that Logan might not make it through no matter how dire the straits might appear.

Yukio in The WolverineFor a fair amount of the movie this is reasonably well dealt with as we get some pretty well executed action sequences that do some interesting things and so distract us, particularly earlier in the movie. A highlight of these is a sequence on the bullet train that mixes wirework with special effects to create something interesting and genuinely exciting.

These action scenes do have a slightly odd feel though as, while we may be used to Captain America or Iron Man knocking bad guys out before going on their way, Wolverine’s mutation of huge metal claws means he ends up inevitably killing a lot of the people he faces so the body count here is heading into Commando territory but without really paying it any notice. While in the era of Commando this was standard, in today’s style of action blockbuster it feels a bit strange as heroes killing people is generally frowned upon, though it does fit better with Logan than if he didn’t use the claws.

The Viper and LoganAs the film continues we get a bit more of Logan’s backstory, although emotionally speaking it doesn’t add much that we haven’t seen in any of the other X-Men films, and a bit more of the James Bond kind of feel, particularly reminiscent of You Only Live Twice, just without the hugely inappropriate make up work on the lead, this soon though gives way to more action, which again is well mounted with samurai swords vs claws being a major motif.

Unfortunately, for the films climactic scenes, we get back into the standard territory laid out in pretty much every Marvel movie of the recent run as a big robot-like thing turns up to have a fight with the lead and, while this does a much better job of it than Iron Man did with Iron Monger, it still doesn’t quite sit with the tone of the rest of the movie and feels very much like it had to be included to make it fit the ‘comic book movie’ style.

Silver Samurai and WolverineWhile Jackman clearly still loves playing Logan, and is excellent in the part, few other characters here stand a chance of being fully rounded leaving something of a lack of an emotional centre, despite the attempt to include a love interest storyline, everyone remains 2D, no matter what glasses you might be wearing.

While not a ‘bad’ film The Wolverine is also far from a particularly good one and, while far superior to X-Men Origins: Wolverine of X-Men: The Last Stand, it feels fairly imbalanced and is certainly over long at two and a bit hours, though waiting through it does lead to a ‘post’ credits scene that almost steals the show and sets up things to come in X-Men: Days of Future Past

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