Monday, March 13, 2017

RockOtaku Reviews: Logan (2017)

Hello degenerates, heathens, weirdos, deviants, rebels, and defected Imperial officers.  I am the Rock Otaku, and I’m here to show you worlds such as hard rock, metal, punk, alternative rock, movies, TV, anime, video games, and anything that makes us scream, shout, and go into Berserker Rage.

Today, I review a movie that I’ve recently seen that both fits my interests alongside my standards of high-octane, high-caliber blockbusters: Logan (2017)

Before I get to my thoughts on the movie including a few spoilers, let me state my thoughts on the X-Men movie franchise as a whole.  While it has been there throughout most of my live, from 2000’s X-Men to today’s movie, I really wasn’t a devout follower until I decided to check out The Wolverine in theaters, the one where Logan aka. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is being haunted by the death of Jean Grey and goes to Japan because he saved a soldier, who’d live to become rich and powerful in the present, during the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.  While I thought that was okay, and better if you have a deep understanding of the series and what happened beforehand, it wasn’t until X-Men: Days of Future Past that I became a fan.  Yes, the movie where the first trilogy’s characters interact with their First Class counterparts, including a scene where young Charles Xavier (James MacAvoy) interacts with his older counterpart (Patrick Stewart) though Wolverine’s Shadowcat-based time traveling (and yes, that’s Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde), is where I became a fan.  And I did check out First Class sometime afterwards as well as the all-mighty X2: X-Men United before I saw X-Men Apocalypse in theaters (as well as a certain movie about a certain red-wearing, katana-wielding, gun-toting, Ryan Reynolds-portrayed merc with a mouth), which I found to be alright (despite a funny line by Jubilee about how the third movie is always the worst, which applies to The Last Stand and probably this one).  And before you ask, the reason for the delayed X-Men fandom is because I was more of a Spider-Man kid when it came to Marvel Movies (until they barely used Venom then rebooted the entire series TWICE), and that was before the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But here’s the multi-million dollar question: Do I want to see Fox return the rights to the Marvel characters back to Disney so we can see the X-Men and Fantastic Four series represented in the same universe as the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Kamar-Taj, and even Spider-Man?  Yes and no.  Yes for Fantastic Four because Fox really doesn’t know how to use that property, and there’s a lot of material there to ensure that the MCU doesn’t lose steam, such as Latveria and its ruler, Doctor Doom, as well as everything from the powers cosmic to seeing a true movie version of Galactus.  Also because some of the X-Men and their ideas might work alongside Iron Man, Captain America, and other heroes.  But no because I’m sure Disney would commit seppuku before releasing R-rated movies under the Marvel brand due to their tendencies to cling to their safe, clean, PC image (even more so for the latter, thanks to recent news and events).  Because Fox has the rights to two characters who work better and are more interesting, engaging, and true to character when their films have the dreaded R-rating: Deadpool and Wolverine.  And the latter just has his go round with today’s movie: Logan.

Logan follows the titular character in a timeline (that may or may not be the First Class or original timelines) where mutants are almost extinct, his healing factor is no longer as effective, so he’s aging and definitely past his prime, and the only mutants alongside him left are Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart again) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and he’s taking care of the former.  Plus the year is 2029, and it looks like modern day.  Despite this, due to unforeseen circumstances, he’s entrusted with the care of a little girl name Laura (Dafne Keen) who’s revealed to be a lot like him, from being a mutant to the use of Adamantium claws similar to his own.  And her goal is to get to a place north of the U.S./Mexico border (in a time-period where Trump’s plan for a wall may have failed) that could get her on her path with fellow young genetically-engineered new mutants to Canada away from a corporation bent on using them for war.  Now he’s on the run and trying to take care of not just the ailing Professor X, who may have…
…killed all the X-Men around the same time the corporation behind Laura’s existence, being a sperm donated daughter of Wolverine himself and X-23 from the comics, was also behind for the extinction of mutants by having the mutant gene used in commercial products and food, normalizing it, and is developing a clone of Wolverine, codenamed X-24, that would be the perfect killing machine.  And Wolverine and Laura develop a father-daughter relationship along the way.  And before I go into any other spoilers, let’s get to some of the good and bad (if there is any) of this movie.

First, the acting is superb, from Hugh Jackman’s arguably last round as Logan/Wolverine to newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23.  Both are fantastic, the experience is seen in Jackman, playing his iconic character as embittered, weary, and almost dying, with a sense of anger and loss that clouds his judgement, emotions, and thought process, with a moment where someone close to him dies, he’s on the verge of tears, and he is so caught up in emotion that he outright destroys the car he’s using.  The latter is also amazing, from her expressions, actions, stunts when in berserker mode, and the fact that she’s playing this little girl who only know strife and conflict for most of her life and is starting to learn to live a normal life alongside her peers, who were also made to kill when they didn’t want to.  And the fact that she’s acting this great alongside Jackman AND Patrick Stewart, who arguably has the most tragic performance here due to how low Xavier has become, is nothing short of triumphant.  And the rest of the cast here is great, with Boyd Holbrook as Pierce, a mercenary with a robotic hand, Stephen Merchant as Caliban, who can sniff out mutants but cannot be out in the sun, and Richard E. Grant as Dr. Rice being the right mix of despicable and classy, with his desires to overcome and control mutants.  And while the villains aren’t as strong as Magneto, Mystique, or even Bolivar Trask, they get the job done extremely well and set the stage for probably the greatest strength about this movie.

It’s violent.  Really, really violent.  And the opening fight scene, where punks are messing with Logan’s limousine before he starts to turn them into corpses with missing body parts and gushing blood and gore (blood in gore in a WOLVERINE movie is a reason to check this out), despite receiving some damage that takes a while to heal, proves that.  It’s also loaded with a lot of vulgar language, so if the s and f-words are offensive to you and you don’t let your kids hear them, you may not want to let them see this.  All of this setting up a bleak, hostile, and anyone-can-die scenario the characters live in, with a heightened sense of realism to boot versus the other X-Men movies (despite having mutants, cyborgs, and advanced genetic engineering existing in this universe).  Hell, I’d compare this, despite the swearing and blood, to The Dark Knight, as they both feel like high-quality action-drama movies featuring nuanced acting, heavy themes, strong depth, and dark scenarios that just happen to star and feature comic book characters and elements.  And the violence and swearing don’t stop with Logan, Laura cuts through adult men like butter, having a high kill count here, and Charles tends to say “F*** off, Logan” at points.  Also, the film is both critical of the more optimistic view of the world that’s in comic books (with X-Men comics actually existing in this timeline, which Logan dismisses throughout the film despite having heroic qualities that shine at the end) and a great character study of a comic book character with less-than-admirable qualities being past his prime, living in a harsher environment, and losing the people he loved both before and during his journey.

But to ensure strong action, there’s a lot of fast-paced action in this movie.  All of this including several showcases of Logan’s and Laura’s mutant abilities (the ones that work) such as his claws and how they can be used to stab people, make them lost limbs, and what would happen if one got cut up multiple times and even a tense scene where Charles has a seizure and causes immense pain for the mutants still alive and everyone else to stand still completely in the movie, with the aftermath being feelings of paralysis or death in the victims.  And there’s also a scene where the mutant kids get to show their powers and cause even more mayhem and really cool shots and moments.

Plus the visual effects are good, with some CG blood but the claws on both Logan and Laura are extremely well done, looking as if they’re a part of them rather than CG enhancements (like in several shots of that crappy X-Men Origins movie).  That also adds to the action, where the hits feel real, visceral, and outright disturbing at points, with body parts flying off, decapitations, and several other bloody moments.  And the robotic arm on Pierce wasn’t too bad.

But if there’s one aspect that gives this movie teeth rather than the blood and swearing, it’s the tone and the movie’s ability to pull your heartstrings.  It’s all due to the setup: Logan is alone, among the last of his kind, both as a mutant (maybe) and a member of the X-Men (definitely).  His only connection left is Charles, and the once-powerful Professor X is now an old man who’s losing it, from his seizures to his loss of grace and dignity (living in a collapsed water tower at first, speaking nonsense at first, and swearing.  And then this girl comes into Logan’s life, turns out to be the equivalent to his daughter, and is now trying to help her get to safety, away from a sinister corporation and its hired guns wanting her to go down the path of her father before he became a hero.  And during this trip, nothing seems to give him hope, optimism, or a sense that things will go their way.  Things get worse, a family that helped them out after he helps them are wiped out by a new threat created by the villains, and people die, including certain characters.  And it becomes depressing when you realize that you have grown up with these characters, they have been around since the very beginning, and now we’re seeing them in their final days.  And yes, I did tear up when certain moments, especially at the end after a fight scene that was both awesome and brutal, and I when I think about it, I’m on the verge of crying.  It’s that sad, since the connection to these characters, especially for most of you reading, as you’ll consider the actors that have played these characters, and the versions of the characters resulting from that, to be your definitive versions of them, is very strong, even after you grow to love the new characters here.  This is one heartbreaking movie, and the end is probably a reason to bring a Kleenex box and a Haagen-Dazs carton to the movies when you see it.  If not, then that’s your loss if you start seeing your fellow moviegoers bawling like a teenage girl after she broke up with her boyfriend and you don’t know why.

And all of this makes me question why James Mangold was underused as a director on his first go with Wolverine.  Why?  Because this is one of his best efforts as a director I’ve seen (and since it was just The Wolverine and this flick, it’s that strong), and he’s probably a great director to handle an R-rated character drama with bloody action.  The story is well told, with intense moments driven by what we know and learn about the characters, the circumstances, and has moments where the movie slows down and focuses on the characters themselves rather than delve into high-school philosophy like a certain movie franchise that’s trying to compete with Marvel and serve as the dark and gritty alternative when it’s mostly joyless.  This is how you do dark and gritty: FOCUS ON THE CHARACTERS!  The Dark Knight may have speeches on philosophy and human understanding, but it was used as a way of showing character rather than what the director and hack writer thinks. 

Sorry about the DC-shredding tangent, I also feel that the movie is also well done.  The music doesn’t have many amazing lines, but Marco Beltrami doesn’t make it suck or disappear into the background.  Also you’re never going to top this:
You just can’t, it’s been proven because the music to these movies have been serviceable at best.  They just won’t hire composers that’ll top this piece of superhero-music mastery.  The editing is also great, the cinematography adds to the raw power, and the sound work is fantastic, emphasizing every single punch, kick, gunshot, slice, and kill.

In short, Logan is a superhero classic that deserves to be seen by probably everyone.  This has been confirmed to be the last ride for Hugh Jackman as his iconic character and Patrick Stewart at Professor X, and that’s a reason to see this.  You’ll get your last ride with these two iconic characters before Fox focuses all their efforts on Deadpool and whatever version of the X-Men they have for the next film.  And this also feels like a final story for the veteran characters as well, giving them a strong way to end on.  And the fact that for his final run, we get probably the Wolverine movie we’ve been waiting for, bloody, violent, vulgar, and brutal, and it’s going to be the one that will bring out our tears makes it better for us as a fandom.  And I also have to give this film kudos for being its own thing in a Hollywood run on creating cinematic universes in the wake of trying a staple of comic book storytelling, interconnected continuity, on the big screen to success.  It’s rare to have genre films do this in these days.  And finally, it’s definitely a sign that Dafne Keen is bound to become a star.  I give this movie my highest of recommendations regardless of any nitpicks on the strength of the main narrative alone.

Final Score: 10/10 (A must see for Wolverine fans).

Until next time, this is the Rock Otaku.  Live Loud, Play Hard, and thanks for the action, Logan.

All used references are done under the rules of fair use and are owned by their original creators. 

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