Logan Falls

logan2017.32: Logan (2017)

In the Special Features section of this disc, one of the film-makers behind Logan states that the goal was for the film to be the superhero equivalent of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. If so, it misses that target by some margin, but it’s clear that there is considerable ambition here for it not to be ‘just another super-hero flick’.

On the one hand, this must surely be applauded for a genre that seems to land another new film at the multiplex every other week. On the other hand, it all seems so 1980s, all this revisionist, oh-so-serious superhero-in-the-real-world stuff. I find myself missing the simple fun and innocence of stuff like Superman: The Movie.

Which does seem odd, considering how I embraced stuff like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns when they came out- but there’s the problem; they came out in the 1980s, decades ago. I don’t read super-hero comics anymore but I hope that they outgrew all that. How long can you agonise over the existential crises of superheroes in the Real World before it all gets all just a little bit… boring?

To be fair, I’ve never really been much of a fan of the X-Men films anyway. I quite liked the first, but thought the second one got away with ripping off Wrath of Khan way, way too easily and the third film was a franchise-killing shambles. I did enjoy First Class but the franchise promptly kicked any goodwill into touch with Days of Future Past, which to this day baffles me so much I still haven’t dared get around to the next title in the franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse.  My central issue with the films is all the allegorical musing, usually hammered at the audience with the subtlety of a brick in the face, of mutants and racism and inequality and prejudice blah blah. It’s ok. I got it with the first film. Don’t endlessly beat me with a stick over it. The fun-sucking seriousness of examining outsider superheroes in the ‘Real World’ is something that runs through all the X-Men films and just seems to bleed them dry. But the one thing that runs through the X-Men films and pretty much saves them is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, even if his solo spin-off films have pretty much oddly faltered. Which leaves us with Logan.

Logan at least distances itself some way from the other X-Men films by setting itself in the future- 2029 in fact, and a time when the other mutants are long gone. The multiple timelines of the X-Men films are mystifying to me but I guess they all got killed or imprisoned by the Government at last? At anyrate, it seems super-heroics are a thing of the past in 2029, and Logan is pretty much in hiding, protecting a heavily sedated Professor X who is suffering from dementia (“the most deadliest brain on the planet” as someone blithely offers at one point).

Er, didn’t I see Professor X get killed in another X-Men movie? Agh. I hate X-Men movies- so many timelines it’s like a Dr Who franchise run amok.

I came into the film rather expecting a downbeat, reflective piece as Logan and Charles Xavier deal with old age and the approaching end of their lives, while perhaps considering their past, lost friends, their successes and failures. Instead it actually appears to be something of a reboot, as a new generation of mutants, this time the products of mutant lab rats, appear on the scene needing protection from Logan and an inevitable passing of the baton. As a whole, it works very well, but the distraction of new kids on the block rather negates any powerful soul-searching that, say, a proper superhero Unforgiven might be blessed with.

That said, it is entertaining and Hugh Jackman is quite superb in his Wolverine swansong (even if the X-24 villain rather leaves the door depressingly open for a rebirth for the character should the salary offers prove tempting enough for Jackman). It is distinctly R-rated with lots of gritty violence that cements its real-world dynamic- if this had been released, say, before Deadpool, its impact would have been yet more substantial, but it gains greatly in what it lacks re: Deadpool‘s more comedic approach. It doesn’t quite feel like the daft nonsense it might otherwise. Here heroes can bleed and get drunk and swear, and, yes, die.

It just irritated me a little to discover it wasn’t the ending of an era but rather a reboot for another one. I think I would have preferred a ‘final chapter’ for superheroes in general, something akin to the end of all superheroes and an evaluation of where that would leave a world suddenly without them, which really would have been an Unforgiven-type film. As it is, its an entertaining and at times thoughtful diversion, but make no mistake, there’s plenty more X-Men action left and perhaps even a rebirth for Jackman’s Wolverine. The cynicism of the latter would be frankly horrible, so let’s hope this is truly the end for Jackman at least- as such, it’s the best X-Men movie yet, but might yet prove to be its most cynical worst. Time will tell.

The Wolverine (2013)

wolverineAnother week, another superhero caper. Well, perhaps not, but it sometimes feels that way. Truth to tell, this is one that slipped through the net, having been released last year and watched only now (after the awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine is it any wonder it was low on my watchlist?).

The Wolverine remains a hugely popular character, so even after the disappointing Origins it was perhaps inevitable that the Mutant hero would return in another movie, Marvel quite casual with its reboots (Hulk, Spider-Man etc). So anyway, here we go with  The Wolverine.

Well, first things first–  its a better film than Origins… how could it not be, I hear you ask. Indeed for the first half I was indeed very surprised; it has the makings of a great movie. Haunted by the events of a past X-Men movie in which Jean Grey died, Wolverine vows to live some kind of peaceful existence that doesn’t involve him ripping things apart with his adamantium claws (yeah, right, like that’d make a cool superhero movie), but events drag him back into reluctant action. A figure from his more distant past, a Japanese soldier that he saved during WW2, approaches him in the present with an offer- to return Wolverine to a normal mortal life in exchange for his mutant powers, with which the now-old Japanese business man will live forever to fulfil his own long-term destiny. Wolverine declines (oddly enough, reluctant superhero decides he likes his superpowers afterall) but is double-crossed and has his powers taken from him anyway.

Suddenly we have a Wolverine no longer indestructible, instantly increasing the drama with a sense of danger. It makes the film suddenly interesting. After all, ask any scriptwriter of a Superman movie how difficult it is to maintain any dramatic sense of peril for an indestructible hero.

Alas, it doesn’t last, the film slipping up in the last third with a rather tiresome fight with a bad guy in a giant robot suit, or something like that. Its a pity that we watch the film unravel before our eyes as it presses the magical reset button, restoring our hero’s powers to enable a big cgi action sequence which ironically feels rather anti-climatic without the emotional/dramatic involvement our weakened hero engendered. It’s not a bad movie, but that last third really undermines the good work up to that point.

Roll credits. Cue mid-credit teaser that promises a better movie than we’ve just seen. Hmmm.