Logan – A Movie Review

This is the Wolverine movie you’ve been waiting for.  Who knew all it took to bring us the real Logan was a little thing like being Rated-R?

I say that in jest, of course.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of super hero movies being Rated-R for the sake of being Rated-R, but with characters like Deadpool, Punisher, and Wolverine, it just makes sense.  I mean, the guy has three razor sharp claws coming out of each hand.  It would be awfully hard to use those things without slicing off body parts.

In Logan, the gloves are off.

But, of course, this is not a super hero movie.  Is Logan a hero?  Oh, for sure.  But this is not the stuff of gaudy costumes, cities being destroyed, or reverberating monologues.  This is about a man fulfilling responsibilities he really doesn’t want.  This is a broken down fighter looking to get away.  This is a man who knows he’s actually not a hero, but does his best impression of one anyway.

Logan succeeds because we get to see Logan’s bad attitude in all its glory.  Unlike Deadpool who wielded “F-bombs” like sparklers, Logan mutters the “f-word” under his breath or when highly irritated.  He says it like our own disgruntled grandfathers, not like our crazy frat-boy nephew.  The profanity in Logan feels organic, if that makes sense.  It’s not forced.

Another way in which Logan benefits from the R rating is because we see those claws doing all the nasty things of which we know they are capable.  Logan pierces skulls, slices off appendages, and pokes holes into people with abandon.  The movie does not shy away from this violence, but somehow doesn’t glorify it, either.  It’s a fine line, but Logan uses violence to establish characterization in this movie, not to impress the audience.  These are people who can do very bad things in very bad ways, and there’s no getting around that bloodshed is part of these characters’ lives.

In fact, characters proved vital to making this movie so interesting.  As I said, Hugh Jackman finally gave us a pissed off Logan who begrudgingly does what he knows he has to do.  Patrick Stewart breaks down Charles Xavier, makes him vulnerable, and in doing so establishes a bond with Logan we’ve never seen before.  Stewart and Jackman are wonderful together.  Their relationship is fun, but also very strained.  Logan is now responsible for taking care of a decrepit Charles, which neither man ever envisioned.  Logan makes a lousy nurse, but the love and respect he’s always shown Charles in the previous movies is all the more apparent in Logan.  I think it took a lot of guts to show the two key figures of the X-Men franchise near the end of their lives, weakened, and relying on each other to get through the day.  But, from a story standpoint, it worked incredibly well.  If you think super hero movies are already stale, Logan is out to prove you wrong.

That’s really what made Logan so engaging.  There were actual stakes.  Set in 2029, the movie quickly established that anything is possible, nothing is off limits, and no one creatively involved is afraid to do drastic things.  Like a Cormac McCarthy novel, no sentimentality tipped us off to certain characters being safe and secure.  It felt like anyone could suffer a horrible fate at any moment.

But the heart and soul of this movie absolutely belonged to Dafne Keen, or, as she’s known in the movie, “Laura.”  This eleven-year-old actress plays this character with such a charismatic mixture of savagery, innocence, and likability that she’s impossible to resist.  The young woman holds her own with Jackman and Stewart and brings out sides to both Xavier and Logan that the audience will love.  I don’t want to give away too much of the film, but we all know from the comic books that Logan is a softie for children.  You know from the trailers that he’s charged with protecting Laura, but the real fun of the movie comes when you are shown that Laura doesn’t need any protecting.  In fact, she saves Xavier and Logan in ways they never thought possible.

The movie is not perfect, though.  We fall into a lot of X-Men tropes in Logan.  For example, we have yet another bad scientist intent on harming mutant kind.  We have soldiers hunting down mutant children with lots of guns and military equipment.  We have yet another comic book movie cliche of copying the hero to try to make a [redacted].  The plot makes sense, but only if you don’t think about it too hard.  Besides, the real meat of the film occurs through character interaction.

The good far outweighs the bad.  Far, far, far outweighs the bad.  In fact, if you only saw one X-Men movie, I would make it Logan.  But that’s because, like I said, it’s really not an X-Men movie, or a super hero movie in the conventional sense.  It’s a story about family, loyalty, and character.  It’s got astounding visual effects, but nothing grandiose.  It feels like a small, personal movie.  Most of it takes place in the desert, fields, or among trees.

Are the fighting scenes amazing?  Yes, but again, they are not the stuff of wire work or CGI wizardry.  Even if computer created, it feels intimate and executed by a human doing things within the realm of possibility.

Hugh Jackman has said this is his last Wolverine movie, and if that’s true, I’m okay with it.  I don’t think he could top Logan.  It seems it’s the character’s pinnacle, and it may be best to leave him be.

In my opinion, if you’re not averse to violence, I think you should check out Logan.   It avoids most of the super hero ground you would expect and tells an interesting story using characters with whom you can invest.  Believe it or not, you will care about Charles, Logan, and Laura in ways you never expected.

 

Image result for logan movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – A Movie Review

Wolverine disappointed, and that’s even with already low expectations.

It started out well enough (but for a goofy child screaming in rage at the sky).  The opening credits were very cool, detailing James (Wolverine) and Victor’s participation in every major war since the late 1800s.  Then it progressively got worse.

Here’s the main problem: they tamed Wolverine.  In the X-Men movies, he was the wild card.  He was the animal, the one willing to go as far as needed.  In Wolverine, James/Logan is caged and made to be the one with the conscience among men far more bloodthirsty.  They took away the danger and unpredictability that makes Wolverine engaging.

I like Hugh Jackman.  He seems like a decent person who really cares about the fans and it saddens me that he failed to deliver a movie that I know he wanted us to like.  However, for Wolverine to have worked, it had to be darker than even The Dark Knight.  Instead, they tried to make James/Logan a good man with flashes of savagery (instead of a savage with flashes of goodness).  All this effectively did was transform Wolverine into the most boring character in his own movie who screams a lot.  And I do mean a lot.

Moreover, what really disappoints is that they had the recipe figured out well enough in the first two X-Men movies.  Wolverine wasn’t perfect in those, but he was far more accurate than what we got in this movie.  In the X-Men movies, he was snarky, hateful, and downright rude.  He might leave you in a fight to pursue his own goals.  Heck, he might even punch you if you made him mad enough.  In Wolverine, he’s the voice of reason among madmen, and that didn’t make one bit of sense to me.

Okay, I went off on a rant.  Let’s get back to the movie.  Some high points were Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson (Deadpool).  Though Reynolds’ scenes were brief, his perfectly delivered sarcasm and physicality stole the show.  I found myself far more interested in him than Wolverine.  Kevin Durand’s lovable and detestable turn as Fred Dukes (Blob) thoroughly entertained as well.  Finally, Liev Schreiber as Victor Creed (Sabretooth) delivered the only somewhat soulful performance in the film.  Schreiber’s character had a depth and charisma that James/Logan sorely lacked.  Keep in mind, it wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing, which was by-and-large what we got.

I’m afraid there were many low points.  The dialogue was just plain goofy and poorly delivered.  The clichés were numerous, including the walking away from the fire, walking into the sun, a motorcycle chase, and screaming into the sky (there was also a scene stolen almost exactly from First Blood).  For such an expensive film, the special effects looked rather cheap.  Furthermore, something about Wolverine’s claws didn’t seem right to me, and I later found out they were digital—go figure.  Also, Wolverine was far too slavish to the X-Men movies when concerning William Stryker.  He was fine as a plot tool in X:2, but I’d seen all I wanted of him in that film.  Connecting his dots in Wolverine became distracting and the time spent on him should have been spent rounding out James/Logan.  Finally, James/Logan was among the least interesting characters in the film.  They took away his edge and tried to make him a romantic lead, yet they didn’t bother explaining how he and Kayla fell in love nor did they develop that relationship on screen enough for me to believe James/Logan actually loved her beyond simple words.  This was a problem considering his “love” for Kayla was unbelievably his only motivation.

***SPOILER ALERT***

One last note about what didn’t work: I hated—HATED—their explanation for why Wolverine lost his memory.  Adamantium bullets to the brain?  Seriously?  This premise insults basic logic.  I’m supposed to buy that an adamantium bullet could pierce Wolverine’s adamantium skull?  Why?  Why wouldn’t they cancel each other out?  He clanged his adamantium claws together and they didn’t slice each other in half, so why should a bullet be able to puncture his skull?  Consequently, Stryker said the brain would heal, but his memories would not.  What?  What does that mean?  That makes no sense at all.  Also, we never saw the adamantium bullets pop out after the brain healed; are they still in there?  Does Wolverine have two bullet holes in his adamantium-laced skull now?  Even if the brain and the skull healed, the metal wouldn’t reform.  I’m sorry if I’m nitpicking, but the loss of Wolverine’s memory is integral to the character and they offered such an unreasonable account for it … it frankly angers me.  It’s just lazy writing and shows no respect for the audience.

***END SPOILER ALERT***

I understand they wanted to make a “popcorn” movie, but Wolverine tried to do so much with so many mutants and so little character development that it failed to entertain.  As with any story, the audience must care about the character before they can get lost in the movie, no matter how action-packed, and Wolverine failed to hunt down my interest.

X-Men: The Last Stand – A Movie Review

So the fanboys and the critics have been telling me that X-Men: The Last Stand is awful, yet the movie going audience has been flocking to this baby.  Like the responsible movie fan I am, I had to see for myself.  Read on for my spoilerific review of X-Men: The Last Stand… 

I have to tell you, when Bryan Singer, the director of the first two X-Films, left to direct Superman Returns, I was a little concerned about the fate of our favorite mutants.  I don’t have any antagonistic feelings toward the replacement director, Brett Ratner, like so many people seemingly do, but I believed the quality would drop just a hair because Singer was so loyal to the source material. 

Ratner, on the other hand, is loyal to making a summer blockbuster.

What I mean by that is that X3 is an entertaining, fast-paced, short, action-filled thrill ride.  What it is not is an in-depth story with well-rounded characters.  In fact, Ratner seemed to feel quite comfortable with breaking routine X-Convention, especially any foundation the first two films laid.

That is part of what made this film so fun, but also part of what made it so frustrating.  Let’s just get a big spoiler out of the way:  Ratner kills off some major, major characters in X3.  So many big characters that an X4 seems pretty unlikely.  The heart of the X-Men are gone, and they were gone pretty early into the film.  That being said, I knew then and there that all bets were off and no one was off-limits.  That certainly increased the tension and suspense for my movie going experience.

But, the deaths of the characters were so out of place, so out of character, they truly seemed forced and rushed.  And that is my ultimate summation of X3-forced and rushed.  It had great moments, some were actually genius, but overall the film had many, many holes.  The sheer number of heroes and villains required four hours of story to avoid any shortcomings, and as the film lasted only an hour and forty-five minutes, well, you can imagine how crammed things got.

However, what worked, and worked wonderfully, were the special effects.  If you want to see these mutants using their powers in all the glory of your wildest imaginings, you will not be disappointed in X3.  It truly felt like a comic book come to life.  You get to see the powers of Iceman, Beast, Phoenix, Colossus, Shadowcat, Pyro, Magneto, and Juggernaut in their full glory, just the way you want to see them.  The only problem is you just don’t get to see enough of them.

Would I recommend this film?  You bet I would.  The spectacle and special effects alone are worth it.  The acting of Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Kelsey Grammar, and Patrick Stewart are top-notch for those moments where they’re actually allowed to act.

I think if you are a hardcore X-Fan you will be very disappointed with the directions they took with some of the characters in X3, but if you look at it as just another summer action movie, you’ll be more than entertained.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest – A Book Review

I picked this book up because I heard that Christopher Nolan, director Batman Begins, was going to direct a film adaptation.  On top of that, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and David Bowie have all agreed to star in said film.  I figured if talent of such high caliber saw something redeeming in this novel, I would as well.  Thus, I picked it up at my local bookstore.

I was not too familiar with author Christopher Priest.  I knew he was primarily a fantasy writer who occasionally dabbled in the world of comic books.  I honestly wasn’t expecting much from The Prestige, but when I picked it up and saw that it had won a World Fantasy Award, well, it immediately seemed that Christopher Nolan and the previously mentioned actors knew exactly what they were doing.

The first three quarters of The Prestige are entertaining, but I would not necessarily say captivating.  In fact, at times, I was quite unsure what the allure of this novel was.  However, the last quarter of The Prestige was absolutely riveting and I could not put it down until I had finished.

The book is written from several different perspectives, mostly in a journal format.  It spans several generations dealing with a feud that began in the late nineteenth century between two rival stage magicians.  We’re not talking wizardry here-we’re talking good old craftsmen who were at the top of their profession of trickery and illusions through hard work and cunning. 

However, early on in their lives they developed a dislike for one another and it continued between the families, even to this day. 

What’s so interesting is getting both men’s perspective on why the feud began and why it continued for so long.  Of course, both think they’re in the right, and neither seemed especially nefarious when reading their own thoughts.

The title deals with a facet of one of the magician’s tricks called “In a Flash.”  He developed this trick after he saw his rival transport himself from one cabinet to another several feet apart within seconds.  His rival called this “The New Transported Man.”  Hoping to one up his competitor, he discovered means to transport himself even further with the aid of electricity. 

Oh, this plot is so full of so many aspects, far too many to convey in such a short review.  Let me just say that while this book seems utterly trivial for its first seventy-five percent, it all proves important in the last twenty-five.  It will leave you breathless and stunned, I promise.