Sunday, 12 March 2017

“DON'T BE WHAT THEY'VE MADE YOU...”

Logan (Logan).

Isn't this how most Gillette adverts start?

I mentioned I had a few gripes with Logan as well as feeling it had a few plot problems. Don't read if you're sensitive to spoilers....


SPOLIERS! SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!

1. Laura is one of many mutants grown in a laboratory and designed as weapons, this being an extension of the Weapon-X Program that first created Wolverine. Laura and some of the other children were smuggled out of this lab by a sympathetic nurse, after Dr Rice decided to have the children murdered (choosing instead to work on the mysterious 'third villain')... With that in mind, why do the villains during the climax of the film only try to apprehend the remaining mutant children instead of killing them? Worst of all, it's a needless mishap! If the script had simply stated that Dr Rice still intended to weaponize the children you could argue they'd want to take them alive. You can still show how ruthless the villains are by having them exterminating any children who refuse to act subserviently.

2. In fact, come to mention it, the battle in the climax lacks the intensity and much of the explicitness of the earlier skirmishes (in particular the stand-out opening car-jack), instead opting for the fast editing of more traditional superhero films- save for a few notably gory moments. After all the prior “realism” it feels like the film finally backs down in the final moments because, well, you know, you can't go round gunning-down children (although we are treated to security footage of Pierce dragging around a dead child). Consider what you're witnessing- Logan running through the forest slashing his way through the Reapers, all the while under heavy gunfire, yet when he pauses to catch his breath his injuries are pretty insubstantial; a few cuts and a bloodied vest. Then Logan finally confronts his clone and the two go hammer-and-nail at each other with razor sharp claws for several minutes. Both Wolverines should have been criss-crossed in gaping splits, but both were still in pretty good shape come the ending (before the impaling, that is).

3. During the close of Act 1 Pierce confronts Logan at is desert hideaway, making a final demand that he hands over Laura. Low and behold, Laura strikes from the shadows and clubs Pierce round the back of the head with a lead pipe. This never struck me as odd at the time (although Logan's decision to have Caliban dump his body in the desert did seem bizarre when you consider he was bound to wake up again at some point), but it soon becomes clear this little mutant thinks nothing of slicing and dicing trough her enemies, including innocent shop keepers, so why the Hell did she not gut Pierce given this chance? After all, this was the man responsible for killing many of her friends back in the labs, as well as the nurse who helped get them to safety! And, given just how dangerous the girl is, a near indestructible killing machine in the Wolverine-mould of clawed mutants, why did he think it such a wise idea to confront Logan alone in the first place?

4. Final issue. So the film takes great pains to stress that mutants simply aren't being born anymore. That's fine, I was happy to accept that, I wasn't sitting there in the audience thinking “well, I better get a damn good explanation for this!”. I was aware Logan wasn't a story about world-changing events, the lens was much more intimate, the scale smaller... So imagine my surprise when during the climax Dr Rice casually drops the explanation; he'd perfected a formula to suppress the mutant gene during pregnancy and had secretly administered this to the world at large through foods and drinks. I have 2 issues with this. First- what the Hell happened to my small-scale story? The ramifications of this are huge! It barely gets any explanation at all, just a passing comparison to the Polio vaccine. Why even bother, the story didn't demand it? Secondly, how does an illegal and comparatively small operation on the Mexican border manage to somehow go about secretly administrating this 'mutant antidote' to the world's entire population? Even America alone would defy any belief. How- somebody tell me!?!? A blunt and self-defeating blunder...

Nag over.

Friday, 3 March 2017

LOGAN; Full-Tilt Review

"Logan, you still have time."
Charles Xavier 


While it may be true that "the apple never falls too far from the tree", heads can role pretty far.


Synopsis:
Logan, formally the hero known as Wolverine, is now pushing 60, struggling with his eyesight and working a dead-end job as a limo driver, hoping one day to afford a boat so he can escape from a society from which he feels detached- a world where the X-Men are no more and mutants are no longer being born . But that's the least of his worries. His healing factor is now ebbing away, and his now pain-wracked body is slowly being poisoned by the rare metal grafted to his bones (see earlier films). He's also now the retainer to Professor Charles Xavier, himself once the proud and dignified leader of the X-men, but his once powerful mind is now blighted with dementia and his psychic powers rage unchecked... However, Logan's life, such as it is, will be turned upside down with the arrival of a mute young girl pursued by a shadowy organisation from his own past.

 
Script: 1/2
A solid and well-told story marred by two serious plot flaws and some clumsy moments.

Pace: 2/2
At a modest (for superhero films) 2 hours, Logan is an exercise in lean storytelling.

Acting: 2/2
Possibly the most believably raw performances of any so-called 'superhero' film.

Aesthetic: 2/2
The sets and costumes are suitably grungy, the landscapes are beautify framed, and the effects are both sparingly used and brutally unglamorous.

Intention: 2/2
A superhero film devoid of the usual world-saving CGI-laden plots, where character is at the heart of action. Logan's time has truly come.

Final Word: 9/10
Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his career here as the disgruntled and reluctant title character. While the notion of him scowling and limping his way through the film might sound corny (an authentic limp is actually a very hard thing to fake) it's actually truly heartbreaking to behold- he behaves like he is in very real pain, both inside and out. Jackman's performance is that of a man literally breaking under the weight of his tragic past (everyone he has ever loved has met a violent death) and his obligation to his last remaining companion, Charles Xavier- an obligation that comes at a terrible price, seeing how Charles' dementia not only causes the old man to swing between utter confusion and cantankerous bitterness, but also means his powers could run dangerously wild at any moment. As an audience, you will completely understand Logan's resentment and reluctance, even when he's at his most scathingly blunt to the ones closest to him. To be very clear, Logan isn't a likeable character, but we cannot hold this against him. What we do know though is that underneath all that angst and thunderous rage, Logan will always step-up and be counted, he is never beyond redemption. However, if you're expecting him to suddenly have that 'ta-da' moment where the grumpy old cynic suddenly 'grows' as a person, you may be in for a shock; the film continually sucker-punches you by setting up these cues but instead turning them on their head, with Logan continually spurning any such connection in truly frank style... Admittedly, that moment does arrive, but it's later in the day than you'd think, and all the more bitter-sweet for it. Whether Jackman holds true to this being his final portrayal as the character of Wolverine, this will certainly be his defining moment.
It also comes as no surprise that Patrick Stewart has also decided to step away from the X-Men franchise, using this film as his character's swan-song. Apparently he came to realise that there could be no better film to go out on than this, and in all likelihood, the X-men being the patchy collection of films that it is, he's most likely right on the money. He too also brings new depth to a well loved character, by turns tragic and humorous, Charles Xavier's role in the story is a complex one; he is Logan's father-figure and his conscience, but he's also Logan's encumbrance, and while it's clear the two need, and indeed love one and other, they begrudge their dependency on the other and often lash out. As someone who's spent almost 15 years caring for people suffering with similar conditions, I admire the honesty of this relationship- no punches are pulled here, people in these situations do turn against each other, and it's heartbreaking.
First timer Dafne Keen, as the hunted girl who falls under Logan's protection, who most people by now have realised is the comic character X-23 (a clone of Logan's DNA) is amazingly able to hold her own in the presence of Jackman and Stewart. More over, she even manages to steal a few scenes, and while she's by turns precocious and unhinged (there are no Saints in this world), she's not without empathy: like a feral cat that's been kicked around once too often and has now decided to scratch back. I have no doubt she will fast become a fan-favourite, although what with her only existing in the future I'm unsure on just how, if at all, future X-Men films will best utilise her- a spin-off perhaps?
Oh, and (the curiously cast) Stephen Merchant makes for a very likeable Calaban- a put-upon mutant living with Logan on the Mexican boarder, helping to care for the ailing Professor- although allusions to his past with the film's villains, the Reavers, is both confusing and unnecessary.

And so, on that note, we now turn to the villains of the film- an area where most superhero films fall flat. The X-men films in particular have always suffered from dull villains, always overshadowed by the inclusion of the charismatic Magneto. Even the Marvel Cinematic Universe has wrestled with producing worthwhile protagonists. It seems only Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy has totally succeeded in providing us with truly memorable opponents. However, that said, Boyd Holbrook comes pretty damn close to giving us a truly hate-worthy foe in Pierce; an obnoxious, leering and vicious little bastard. He's at the head of a cyborg posse of bounty hunters tasked with hunting down Laura. It's a shame that all that stood between this scum and glorious infamy was his limited screen time, Pierce has to share the screen with less inspiring villains, among them Richard E Grant's 'stock mad scientist' Dr Rice. It's not that Grant can't deliver the goods when given the chance (like Stewart, Grant is a capable thesp), but how does one make such a clich├ęd character memorable or unique when his dialogue is mostly exposition? He's probably only on the screen for a total time of approximately four minutes, which hardly helps. The film may have been better served cutting him entirely and concentrating on Pierce, but "C'est la vie". In fact, Dr Rice's presence, and that of the mysterious 'third villain' are possibly the film's only concession to the format of superhero films: the hero needs to beat the lead villain, Rice in this instance (a henchman simply won't cut it) and your also needs to have a spectacular battle with a 'superior enemy', and for a character like Wolverine, who can really give him a run for his money? I'm reluctant to say more than this at this point, although I felt that particular void could have been filled by other means- but that's a personal preference and not necessarily a flaw of the film.
Another inspired, if risky, decision of the film is it's total disregard to staying 'true' to the tangled web of characters and plot situations set up in previous films. In fact, in one rather sly scene (whereby the characters are discussing an X-Men comic) Logan even casts doubt on the authenticity of these previous films, as though they could have been overblown stories told within the world we're now watching- it's not for nothing that these exploits go unmentioned, save for a passing comment to the Statue of Liberty. Free of the mythology and the constraints of setting up new stories, or of cramming-in unnecessary characters, the film Logan is able to concentrate on its own narrative. It's that freedom and disregard to prior commitments that allows this story to really flourish.
Logan is a film intentionally rough-edged. There is no polish, no glamour, no poetry in its violence. Its less an 'action film' and more of a thriller. While many reviews by now have been quick to point out the use of western troupes (the film itself even directly references the movie Shane), comparisons to films such as Children of Men and A History of Violence are also justifiable, and indeed it has more in common with these than anything from the actual X-Men cannon. Just as certainly as the villains will eventually meet a bloody demise, terrible things also happen to decent people. While there's a certain guilty satisfaction to be had when Logan rages against his enemies (and believe me, the guy really lets rip), the film also possibly makes for the most coherent and heartbreaking case for the Mutant Registration Act of the previous films; when powers such as these are uncontrolled they can only be a danger to all those close by. Ironically, one such incident may have even led to the death of the X-Men, those most responsible for ensuring the act never succeeded... It's a film that poses difficult questions and answers very few, but that was always the intention- there are no 'neat endings'. While Logan may not be a 'fun' film, it's certainly a well made one; brutal and bleak, but also by turns surprisingly tender and restrained. It's certain to change the face of the superhero genre forever more, and the Wolverine couldn't have asked for a better send-off.
Extra kudos for that incredible closing shot...


Saturday, 21 January 2017

ROUGE ONE, A STAR WARS STORY; Full-Tilt Review

“Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director...”
Darth Vader

Possibly the most ethnically diverse crew ever assembled in a Star wars film.


Well, this will make a change- 
I'm reviewing a film that's actually still out at the cinema! 
Check me out.
 
Synopsis:
Felicity Jones stars as Jyn; a renegade haunted by the murder of her mother and the abduction of her father during her childhood. Having become disenchanted with the rebellion, they come seeking her help on their latest mission. Jyn's reluctance fades however when she discovers the nature of their task- to find Galen Erso, the architect of the Empires newest weapon, who also happens to by her father.

 
Script: 1/2
An inspired idea let down by insipid storytelling. 

Pace: 1/2

After a jarringly disjointed start it moves along nicely.


Acting: 1/2

Mostly good, although some of the cast are taking things more seriously than others.


Aesthetic: 2/2

The distinctive retro aesthetics of the classic trilogy remain, bolstered by some cutting-edge effects, although some of the CGI characters never quite convince.


Intention: 1/2

A bold if flawed entry into the Star Wars cannon.



Final Word: 6/10
Jyn, Rouge One's heroine, heads up a team comprising of; Diego Luna's conflicted rebel assassin Cassian, martial arts legend Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang as two Force-worshipping priests (the later having lost his faith while the other is still very much a devout believer) Chrrut and Baze, Riz Ahmed's reformed Empire pilot, and Alan Tudyk's K-2SO, a droid with a good line in dead-pan wise-cracks, a sort of C3P0 meets John McClain. With the exception of Felicity Jones, every one of the above plays their roles brilliantly, and their approach is pitched perfectly, offering character and drama while never at the cost of light entertainment (this is Star Wars after all, not Citizen Cain). Special recognition for Donnie Yen who, despite his impressive real-world bulk and history of playing phenomenal arse-kickers, here plays a surprisingly charming and gentle character. They're a dynamic group, these principal heroes, it just feels like such a shame that the film takes up about half it's run-time bringing them together (especially how, even after all that time, I'm still not entirely sure why they all stick together when the chance comes up for them to part ways). Forest Whitaker also chews the scenery playing unhinged rebel leader Saw Gerrera.

Sadly, Felicity Jones never quite convinces as Rouge One's lead. Her attempts to pull off ‘icy and hardened’ come across as impertinent, and while a flawed character is all well and good, Jones is a total vacuum; no presence, no charisma, and despite her rough orphan-esque upbringing Jyn somehow retains the prim English accent usually reserved for the upper ranks of the Empire (a point that never sits right in the ear). But the biggest stumbling block with Jyn is not so much Jones herself, although she hardly helps matters, but rather how the character of Jyn is written; the latest in a now long line of 'Mary Sue' characters to plague mainstream action cinema. She can brawl like the monk, she can shoot and sneak like the rebel assassin, and she can hack computers like the droid, and despite being 'a nobody' (not even really a rebel for that matter) she attends the high-ranking rebel meeting to discuss the most important decision of the war, and as if that's not enough, the rebel leaders actually hear her out! This contrivance undermines all those around her, their talents no longer so unique or necessary. Why not allow Cassian be the gunfighter and the spokesman at the rebel meetings (he is a Captain after all), let the blind monk be the close-combat specialist, let the droid do his thing- don't take that away from them! But that's a post for another day... Jyn's only real ‘flaw’ is an easily forgotten reluctance to join the rebellion, and that's it. Oh, and we never see her fly a ship, although I assume she's a fucking ace at that as well.

Mads Mikkelsen shoulders the bulk of the drama in Rouge One as the tortured engineer Galen Erso, Jyn's father and the architect of the first Death Star, but as you'd expect from someone of his caliber he convinces utterly and commands every scene he's in. Aside from Felicity Jones, who really isn't up to the task of sharing screen time with Mikkelsen (although she hardly convinces anywhere) the unenviable task of 'thesbing-off' against Mikkelsen falls on Ben Mendelsohn, here playing the villain Krennic. However, Mendelshon holds his own while pomping and sneering his way convincingly, bringing a surprising depth to a rather one-note villain. In fact, the relationship between Galen and Krennic is one of the more intriguing; while no longer fiends, there's still something present that suggests more than the simple hostage / captor scenario. It's not written, but that's just how the characters are played; while the majority of the cast of Rouge One are playing 'parts', here Mikkelsen and Mendelshom are playing 'characters', and while that's commendable and demonstrates considerable talent, here it seems, well, somehow amiss.

And on that note, it's here, among the shades of grey, the compromised characters and the blurred lines that Rouge One somehow becomes more, and so much less, than a Star Wars film. Cassian is a rebel who thinks nothing of shooting an unarmed ally in the back so he cannot be captured, while Gerrara's methods are so extreme they include the torture of prisoners (who have yet to be proved guilty). Galen may have quit building the Deathstar, but that doesn't change the fact he was initially on the side of the Empire of his own free will before a moral crisis, and Bodhi is yet another reformed storm-trooper, which begs the question “how many other poor people in the employ of the Empire are being killed out there, who are probably decent enough people caught up on the wrong side of a war?”. Moral ambiguity doesn’t sit well in the Star wars universe. The first Star Wars trilogy, and I feel this was always part of the charm, was a fairy tale. Good meant good and bad meant bad, and that’s as complicated as it got. Even smuggling rouges like Han Solo and the underhand Lando, while self-serving, were still clearly “good”. That's probably one of the reasons the inclusion of Commander Tarkin worked so well here; Krennic may have been ruthless but his behavior was born of ambition, not evil. Tarkin, however, was cruel, calculating and an utter bastard, and he shines more greatly here than he ever had a chance to in A New Hope. He was bad through and through, no ambiguity there. Elsewhere in Rouge One, the rebel alliance have seemingly got serious, and are as fractal and dangerously unhinged as any Middle Eastern uprising; 'the cause’ is all that matters. It’s easy to see why many have deemed the film as ‘political’. I came to watch Star Wars; if I’d wanted to see a rabble of religious desert fighters defending their holy lands from an invading military force bent on plundering their natural resources I’d have stayed at home and switched on the news. It’s a very uncomfortable comparison, especially seeing how my instinctive reaction is to cheer for al-Qaida, sorry, no, the rebellion (my mistake- I definitely mean the rebellion) and one that seems bizarrely intentional. I mean, narratively speaking, these scenes could have played out anywhere, and in a film series already heavily populated with desert locations, it would seem odd to favour such a well used troupe rather than go for something new (a snow-town could have been a nice addition?). Instead, the film-makers have gone full-on desert and turban chic. When you invoke a sense of realism you also invite (encourage) a greater critical thought. For this reason your story, if you’re going for realism (all be it a realism in the established ‘world’) needs to hold up under close scrutiny. Broad strokes and plot holes are far more noticeable here than when encountered in something more innocent like, say, a fairy tale...


Final, final word:
And that single sentiment comes to the core of how I feel about Rouge One; it may look like a Star Wars film, and sound like a Star Wars film, but it doesn’t feel like a Star Wars film. Guillermo del Toro astutely observed that, if you want to reinvent a fairy tale, you can only askew the characters OR the story, not both, or what you're left with is not a fairy tale. Rouge One, for better or worse, is not a fairy tale. It’s an interesting experiment, bringing maturity and politics to a child-like universe, but I hope that’s all it is- an experiment. A one time thing. I’d hate to see subsequent Star Wars films following the same suit. Present fashion seems to favor ‘dark and brooding’ (even the new bloody Power Rangers film is trying laughably for ‘edgy’); Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy certainly has a lot to answer for! While it would be easy (and probably correct) to call the theory of 'A Star Wars Story' a shameless cash-in, kudos for at least trying something different, ditching the Jedis and the Skywalker legacy to tell what is essentially The Dirty Doezen in space. Would it be anywhere near as enjoyable if you stripped away the Star Wars setting? Most likely not, but hey, it is what it is; certainly not the worst Star Wars film, but still a crushing disappointment given how all the right ingredients were present for a true classic. However, the explanation of  a plot-hole that has long been a point of contention in the original Star Wars film (why build a space base with such an obvious flaw) is finally laid to rest in what has to be Rouge One's defining and most inspired achievement.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

"I WANTED TO PORTRAY VERY, VERY DARK SUBJECT MATTER..."

I wanted to portray very, very dark subject matter and a deceptively complex story in the brightest colours and simplest lines possible to leave the readers reeling.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mark_millar.html
Cont'd "...and a deceptively complex story in the brightest colors and simplest 
lines possible to leave the readers reeling"
Mark Milar
I wanted to portray very, very dark subject matter and a deceptively complex story in the brightest colours and simplest lines possible to leave the readers reeling. Mark Millar
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/markmillar248660.html
I wanted to portray very, very dark subject matter and a deceptively complex story in the brightest colours and simplest lines possible to leave the readers reeling.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/markmillar248660.html
I wanted to portray very, very dark subject matter and a deceptively complex story in the brightest colours and simplest lines possible to leave the readers reeling.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mark_millar.html

I wanted to portray very, very dark subject matter and a deceptively complex story in the brightest colours and simplest lines possible to leave the readers reeling. Mark Millar
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/markmillar248660.html
Again, I'm hardly on the cutting edge of culture, but since when as that ever stopped me having my say?

Don't worry, this is only a short article.

The man himself, Mark Millar.

Recently, off the back of us talking about the Captain America film of the same name, a good friend lent me the Marvel Civil War graphic novel. I read it, and as much as I enjoyed it (and I did enjoy it) something about it I found troubling. Not that it cost me any sleep, but in some way that's hard to explain I felt like there was something unpleasant starting me in the face. It got me to thinking about the book's writer, Mark Millar, whose work has had astounding influence over the modern comic industry, and whose works have inspired a number of blockbuster superhero films- including the soon to be released Logan, Kickass, Kingsman, and Wanted.

So here's the thing. While many writers and artists may have had a hand in bringing realistic sensibilities into mainstream comics (and I stress the distinction of mainstream), including the divisive Frank Miller and Alan Moore, it is Millar whose bought in the unease of contemporary American politics. That in itself isn't a problem, but unlike his peers, Millar seems less interested in exploring the issues he pulls into frame, or offering any sort of insight, than he is simply dredging some serious real-world issues, simply for the thrill of bringing his characters into conflict. 


I hear the make-up sex is fantastic.


Take Civil War as the prime example; it's a story born from the still glowing ashes of 9/11, yet it offers no real condemnation, it simply acts as a means for bringing heroes against heroes. It feels wrong to invoke something real like 9/11 simply as a plot device, and on top of that it paints it's major cast (with perhaps the exception of Spiderman) as pretty unsympathetic- everybody makes their own personal 'deal with the devil'. And, if indeed that was the point Millar was making, which I doubt, at best it's nihilistic and at its worse, ignorant. Hell, it's saying pretty much the same thing as Team America, except without anywhere near the satire or self-awareness.
I won't deny Millar has his finger on the pulse of what sells comics, and there can be no denying his writing is solid, but he reminds me of Quentin Tarantino's more recent output, in as much as I feel like he's simply serving up the darker underbelly of the world simply for the sake of giving it a damn good leer, rather than to expose any uncomfortable truths (watching the Hateful Eight is akin to watching a bucket filled with scorpions, waiting to see which order they sting each other in- there may be death, but you won't learn anything from it). Compare that to, say, Paul Verhovan, whose work is often hideously violent, but while Verhovan flirts with the notions of evil, and our society's obsession with sex and violence, you feel like he's always making a valid point. Tarantino (and Millar in same fashion) feel less like flirting with the insidious, and much more like a back street blowjob with it; and by way of that analogy, it left me feeling sordid. Sure, I'd had my fun reading Civil War, but afterwards I felt hollow, and after it was done I realised how much simply wasn't there; cheap thrills had taken the place of anything deeper or more rewarding.


Grisly, but is it more than its surface brutality?

There's an argument to be made that, if I'd followed the entire Civil War arc and spin-off comics, then perhaps I'd have been rewarded with some epiphany, that the greater subtext would make itself apparent, but I doubt it. I've read Kickass, and that was similarly grimy, while Kickass 2 was so leery and spiteful I sold both that and Kickass because I'd done with it. Sure, Maillar's bang-on with his dissection of a warped media-obsessed society, and the malicious under-culture of desensitized modern youths, but ever rape and child murder felt like a Daily Mail headline that offered no reward beyond the grim details, and it sat very jarringly with what I guessed was an attempt at humour. Conversely, both the Kickass and Civil War films offered far more than their comic source material. And, as if to solidify my every point, when asked if Mark Millar enjoyed Kickass on it's release, he answered flippantly “yeah, but they turned my comic into a chick-flick”.

In short; I'm glad Millar is out there somewhere writing comics. Without him, better writers would be less inspired. Millar's influential legacy will, in the fullness of time, be far greater than his own work, because what started with him will be taken on by people with far more to say about the world around them, than those who simply thrive on it's unpleasantness like crows on the dung heap.

Because that's what every comedic story needs; a rape scene.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

“THE WORLD IS NOT THE SAME AS IT WAS, CHARLES...”

...Mutants... they're gone now.”
Logan  


Maybe you've heard (ha!) but there seems to be a new Wolverine film coming out... 
Or is there?

 
I'm guessing that vest's not the result of a messy hotdog-eating contest.

Enigmatically named 'Logan', the film seemingly follows in the footsteps of other single-name franchise-finishers by changing tact and reaching for something a little more serious. You have only to see the moody black-and-white photography of the press releases, or catch the first few sombre chords of Johnny Cash's 'Hurt' in the trailer, to know that Logan is aspiring to be a different beast entirely. Just how different remains to be seen, because we all know that looks can be deceiving (Prometheus- I'm talking to you!), but what we do know is Fox have finally allowed Jackman's feral character to push past the constraints of the usual 12a superhero fodder. A higher age rating alone is nothing to be particularly excited about, gore and violence won't necessarily make for a better film. However, of all the superhero films in an over-saturated market, it's the character of the Wolverine who feels like he could truly shine in a more mature film; whose always felt like he's holding something back for the family-audience. Wolverine is, after all, when push comes to shove, a berserk and unstoppable killer, complete with razor-sharp claws.

Let's take a look at what we know about Logan. As you're probably aware, I'm not much into speculation, so the following is based on facts alone.


The Setting:

Any link with the image below? You tell me...
Set in a bleak dystopian future where mutants are seemingly now on the verge of extinction, the films sees the remaining mutants persecuted by a highly militarised global corporation led by Nathaniel Essex. It appears that most of the X-Men have already perished, with only Logan and Charles Xavier leftover, living an impoverished existence while in hiding. Logan himself is no longer the near-invincible Wolverine of previous adventures, his body now ravaged with age and insurmountable wounds, while Xavier is now a frail old man attempting to cope with his dilapidating Alzheimer's. So far, so dark.

Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long.”
Logan


In The Making:
 
Armed or unarmed?
This will be the character's third solo film after 'X-Men Origins' and 'The Wolverine', and Hugh Jackman's final portrayal after having played this part for seventeen years (Christ, finding that out that made me feel old). James Mangold, the director of 'The Wolverine', one of the more highly regarded of the X-men cannon, returns to direct this final installment, itself only a "loose continuation" of the previous two films- seeing how it's set in an alternative timeline established by 'Days Of Future Past' and 'Apocalypse' (which still allows the studio to take the remaining X-men films in yet a different direction to the dead-end presented in this setting).

Logan's failing health finally means we, as an audience, don't have to keep overlooking this (strikingly handsome) man is no longer as young as he once was. Stewart will also finally be playing the part much closer to his own age, and it's worth noting a prosthetic needed to be used to make the sprietly-looking Stewart look “believably” haggard (nobody would ever believe he's actually 76).

While in no small part 'Logan' takes it's inspiration from Mark Millar's 'Old Man Logan' comic run, the project has it's roots in a more innocuous and innocent observation made by Hugh Jackman himself, who, when asked what his next Wolverine film would be about, light heatedly referred to the character being a grumpy old man, a self referential swipe at his own age. Little did Jackman know that Old Man Logan was actually 'a thing' and the nerdier corners of the internet went into melt-down. And much to his credit, Jackman is a man who listens to his fans.

Comic Mythos:

Not your average pensioner.
Mark Millar's 'Old Man Logan' series sees the titular character, now decrepit and defeated, rising to the task of one final, bloody adventure in a post-apocalyptic future. Although the source material has been thankfully toned-down from the garish grotesqueness of Millar's imaginings (including but not exclusive to gigantic dinosaur carcasses, a world carved up between super-villains, and incestuous hill-billy Hulks), the overall conceit remains unchanged: Logan is now a shell of his old self, and the world around him has turned bad...
In all likelihood Laura, the girl protected by Logan during the film, is the cinematic incarnation of the comic character X-23, a female clone of Wolverine. Judging by the trailer, Laura is pursued by the military, including the Essex corporations' relentless head of security Pierce.

She's like you... she's very much like you...”
Charles Xavier 


Scowling villain? Check.
 
Pierce is also a character ripped straight from the pages of the comics, although his portrayal here is obviously a little more gritty. In the comics he was a mutant-hating cyborg, and among his affiliations were the Reavers, a group dedicated to the destruction of mutants (a match forged in Hell). In the film 'Logan', both the Reavers and Pierce seem to be the muscle for the 'sinister' Essex Corporation.

Nathaniel Essex in the world of the X-Men is the alias of one of the most dangerous of their enemies, Mister Sinister- himself a powerful mutant with a penchant for genetic experimentation. The comics draw him as a sort of cyber-goth Eddie Izzard, yet how he translates to film, and who will go on to play him (assuming he makes an actual appearance) remains to be confirmed. Some believe  English thesp Richard E. Grant will play the role.

Liev Schriber expressed an interest in returning to the role of Victor Creed, aka Sabourtooth. Creed is Logan's half-brother and fellow mutant, a role Liev first portrayed in Wolverine Origins. Liev was a stand-out highlight in what was otherwise a mess of a film, although how (if at all) his portrayal links with the Sabourtooth seen in the first X-men film has never been made clear. It would be nice to see Liev bring the character back so the Logan/Creed relationship/rivalry can finally be bought to a (likely bloody) ending.
To add to the growing list of confusing cast changes and character reboots within the X-Men movie-universe, Stephen Merchent will be portraying the underground-dwelling mutant Caliban, who has previously been played by someone else. Again, what relation the two portrayals have to do with each other has not yet been made clear, and could well be another case of “don't think too hard on this and move along”. In the new film, Caliban appears to be, at least in some way, helping Logan and Xavier keep a low profile.


This does not look like it's going to end well...


So, with the rest of you, I now wait with bated breath for the release date of 'Logan' in March, and for the first time in over ten years I'm actually pretty excited for an X-men film, if this still qualifies as such? Let's hope Jackman, Mangold and company don't disappoint.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

“YOU CAN'T BUY LOVE, BUT YOU CAN RENT IT FOR THREE MINUTES!”

Strip Club DJ (Deadpool)

Has to be said, I lead a fairly busy life. When I'm not actually AT work I feel like I'm simply commuting between home and the office. It's a long old bus ride, believe me. And when I'm not having 'fun' pressed against strangers on the bus (in a sardine fashion, not a chikan type thing) I'm spending time with my family. It doesn't leave a whole lot of 'me' time. As a result, I rarelyt get to watch many new films. I can't complain though, I'm a lucky man and I wouldn't change a thing, save for maybe the length of my commute, but c'est la vie.
I'd been meaning to watch Deadpool for a number of months, before an exasperated friend lent it to me on a firestick. Now, to those who don't know me better, I don't have much tech in my life; the TV couldn't support the firestick, and neither would my portable DVD player. The only way I was going to see that film play was on my laptop. So, after having the firestick sitting on my writing table for about 5 weeks, I finally decided I better watch it. Now, my better-half may be many things, but tolerant of action films? No, least of all action films of the superhero variety: In short, Deadpool was unlikely to be a film we watched together. My son is only 4, which ruled him out (although I confess I did consider it). So, when was I meant to actually sit and watch this bloody film? I considered my options and hit upon what, at the time, felt like a clever use of my time...
I took my laptop with me to work, booted it up on the bus and plugged in my headphones, and I watched Deadpool...


A deceptively innocent smile, believe me...

So I was aware of the violence and the profanity, but people (you all know who you are) neglected to mention the rather explicit sex scenes in Act 1. There I was, shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of school and college kids, desperately trying to tilt my (hugely bulky) laptop away from anyone who might see it, desperately trying to skip forward to another scene, all while making damn sure people could see both my hands. Needless to say, it was pretty embarrassing...
Did I learn from my mistakes? Clearly I didn't because I watched the second half on the bus ride home. And low-and-behold, a strip club scene! And again, I twisted and sweated while trying to move the laptop from sight, and just when I thought I'd managed to do just that, I realised the reflection of the laptop screen was enlarged onto the darkness of the window over my shoulder; projected  to more than double size, my very own little cinema of perversity. So there I was, for all the world looking like the village pervert on a packed bus. And I'd like to think of these people as strangers, and they sort of are, but I still see these fucking people 5 days a week!
Learn from my example, it's too late for me but save yourselves: be careful what you watch in public. Expect to see my face in the newspaper any day now.

“Look away! LOOK AWAY CHILD!”

Wade Wilson (Deadpool)

On a different note, one slight and final criticism of the film; I don't think Wade was disfigured enough by his torture- considering as Deadpool Wade is intended to be so disgusting to behold (and as such this is often the subject of some of the jokes) yet he STILL looks like friggin' Ryan Reynolds. I know it can't be down to the 15 certificate, because The Dark Knight's Harvey Dent was far more disfigured, and that's a 12a. But considering one of the major plot points is concerning how ugly Wade is supposed to be, to the extent he feels like he can't even approach his love interest, these scenes never convince; the startled crowds and the cruel jibes ring hollow. The most honest response comes after the films climax where Vanessa finally sees his face and decides it will simply take “an adjustment period”. I had worse acne in high school, and far less sex.