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Tuesday, March 14, 2017
When few seconds into Logan I saw the character I've only seen in toned down, PG-13 scenes tear people apart in violent and bloody fashion, I knew I was in for something refreshing. When I was reminded of Fury Road during the sequence where Logan is trying to drive through the fence, I knew I was in for something great. But when during one sequence while I still haven't composed myself after I cried I suddenly started laughing, I knew I was witnessing something really special.
Let's just get it out of the way - Logan is simply an exceptionally well made film which stands alone and leaves the other flicks in the genre in the rear view mirror. It's a great, great movie that is also the most wonderful superhero movie out there. But let's not close it in the boundaries of CBM genre. It deserves so much more than that.
Yes, we all know I loved The Dark Knight Rises and frankly it's embarrassing to admit considering how that movie is received, not so much by critics but by fans. But I have to be objective here - nothing in The Dark Knight Rises comes close to the performances in Logan. And nothing in the The Dark Knight Rises had the benefit of 17 years of a relationship between the character and the audience like this film does. And don't talk to me about The Dark Knight. Take Ledger out and you're left with Bale's TB Batman, the sonar, embarrassing Two Face make up and my favorite - luckily reformed black convict who tosses that detonator out the window. It's still a very good movie but If that is what is considered to be the best CBM movie out there then the state of affairs isn't the best.
And it really isn't. Movies based on comic books or graphic novels are everywhere these days - on one hand we have DCEU trying to do something different and failing spectacularly. On another we have Marvel, a studio which found their winning formula years ago and keeps throwing entertaining but identical movies at the audience. And it's all the same, with end credits scenes, Stan Lee cameos and desperate attempts at world building. Same old PG-13 movie with talented actors, some funny jokes and forgettable big bad played by underutilized talent that is defeated in the end with our valiant heroes ready to fight evil again. And there's nothing wrong with these films (well Marvel ones, DCEU is another story). But I'm sure there are more people like me who feel some of those characters really deserve serious treatment. People who want to see real stakes in those stories. Even though it means our hearts are gonna be ripped out.
And Logan is different. This is a road movie with two characters from X Men being in it. I just adore the fact that during the war between DCEU and Marvel Fox came along and pull the rug from under them simply by respecting the audience's and the creators wishes. Give us R rated, serious Wolverine movie that really does him, the fans and Hugh Jackman justice. And they did.
The film is beautifully written. You really cannot say that about many movies lately, period, let alone in this genre. The way the characters talk to each other is how people talk in real life. There is one particular moment when Logan, Charles and Laura get new clothes and Charles puts on the hat. He takes another hat and tells Logan that one is for him and Logan says he'll put it on in a second. I'm not sure if I can express properly why but it felt like such a natural moment for me, like something an older father would say to his son. They just didn't feel like characters, they felt like people. Apparently a lot of the moments were improvised by the actors and the result is just lovely.
The film manages to strike an admirable balance between truly moving scenes and wonderful moments of levity. There is one scene in particular that really moved me and then it effortlessly made me laugh when Logan started trashing his car. Sometimes all that was needed was a really funny, simple line ("That's my dad...Chuck"). There are also so many smart instances of fan service here, like the adorable way in which plot justifies giving Logan his classic facial hair look (as much as I hated them for ruining that beautiful beard, I don't expect to see anything cuter this year than that tiny scissors moment) or the Wolverine toy being held by one of the kids, you know just in case you weren't drowning in your tears yet during that moment. In another films nods like that often times feel forced but here they didn't and genuinely made me smile.
That bit of fan service near the end actually ties to the story so beautifully - it's the kids, who read those comic books, giving Logan his classic look. Because of the substance he drinks near the end the plot finds the opportunity to feature him one last time as we all know him. And that's not all - to those kids, among them his own daughter - it's that hero they saw in comic books, who arrives to save them. It's how they saw him. How they remember him. and he is right there.
My God, how I wept during all of this.
There were only two things that I found to be a bit jarring - the CGI of X24 which I'm given to understand was Jackman with de-aging CGI. I don't know what was amiss, but something looked off to me. But it may as well be in my head - my brain rebels at them de-aging a man this fine (can we give me a round of applause for almost making it through 9 paragraphs without telling you how hot Hugh is in this? Take this man's razor away, please and thank you.)
The other thing was Marco Beltrami's score. Cliff Martinez was initially supposed to score this and it's such a shame he didn't because Beltrami is just not the same league as him. He occasionally does something truly special but here the lack of clear theme was a problem but even more so the jarring sounds he incorporated in action scene near the end. But that's it. These are literally the only two small complaints I have here.
The fact that we watched those characters for 17 years put this movie in a uniquely beneficial position. We already know Charles and Logan. We like them, we root for them, we want them to be happy. We care about what happens to them. And because of the passage of time it's not surprising they are older and weaker here. It makes everything feel ironically so real even if it's still a movie about a character with adamantium claws.
Charles was so frail in this movie and Stewart's performance was simply heartbreaking. We saw him in the superhero mode in previous films and to see him like that here was really saddening. We got to see that even those superheroes grow old and die. He was so exceptional in this movie and his 'I'm so sorry' to all those people who collapsed as the result of his tremors was just shattering. The monologue he gives about him not being worthy of living and where he implores Logan into taking a chance and finding happiness was an extraordinary scene.
The cast is all together really wonderful. There's Dafne Keen, in her debut, who did such a great job here. Between impressive action scenes - she did a lot of that herself - and her performance she was really wonderful and I look forward to whatever she does next. Her chemistry with Jackman was unbelievable. I wonder how many times they laughed when shooting that scene where she finally speaks to Logan and they both end up yelling at each other.
I see some complaints about the bad guys but honestly comparing to the bad guys in other CB movies these ones weren't as forgettable. Boyd Holbrook is slowly becoming so good in playing these shady as fuck guys and Richard E. Grant surprisingly brought both menace and few laughs (I also loved how unceremoniously Logan killed him). Stephen Merchant was really good as Caliban. My knowledge of X Men movies is incomplete and rusty, so I think we saw this character for the first time here. I really cared about him and the writers really didn't hold their punches.
But it's really Hugh Jackman's show. I don't think there is anyone in this world who doesn't like his work as Wolverine in those movies. I'm not a big fan of X Men franchise but Jackman has consistently brought charm and charisma to his work in those films. Unlike Ledger and Pfeiffer who gave what I until now (that's right I wrote it, you read it, that happened) considered best CBM performances Jackman leads here. He isn't someone who shows up on the background as a charismatic, cool character to steal the show. Jackman is that show. The reason why the story works, the action works and the emotional side of it works, is all him. The entire movie rests on his shoulders.
It's an exceptional thing he has managed. Think about that. Harrison Ford played Han Solo and Indiana Jones in 4 movies each (out of respect for him and the fans I ain't gonna count this Christmas special). Jackman appeared as this character in 9 movies, 7 of which weren't cameo roles. It's so much. It's 17 years. It's such an incredible commitment not just to the character but also to the fans and it's backed with such evident, genuine desire to get the character right for them.
But even if this was the first time we saw this character, it's just through and through a gorgeous, standalone performance. I saw grown men cry in the cinema when watching him - I think we all lost it when he said "it wasn't me" and then during the funeral scene. The emotional honesty of it all, and the fact he had so much to work with here all amounted to something so special. People keep saying that him and Stewart should be Oscar nominated. I disagree. It's only March but right now, if the year was over? They shouldn't just be nominated, they should win.
If these performances were in a movie that is not associated to comic book no one would be hesitant in calling them front runners to win. It's not just gonna be wrong if (when because I have no faith in the members of Academy doing the right thing) they omit this performance, it would frankly be disrespectful to the genre and to the actor who has played the part that gave people so much joy for nearly two decades.
The Academy should acknowledge that movies based on comic books are such a huge part of modern cinema. And no, they didn't do so when they give out technical nominations or when they awarded - ridiculously - Suicide Squad this year. Now they have the real chance to say 'we respect capable filmmakers and actors who give so many fans around the world those characters while also delivering such good work'. Jackman's work here - and Stewart's too - these are Oscar caliber performances. Appreciate them. The time and the opportunity is here.
Regardless, what matters here is the audience. The people behind this movie respect those watching it. It didn't feel like something that was made to make money, it felt like something they made because they wanted to tell this story. I haven't seen a movie I enjoyed this much since Fury Road and that was nearly 2 years ago.
I just cannot wait to see it again.
Logan (2017, USA, 127 min)
Plot: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.
Director: James Mangold
Writers: James Mangold, Scott Frank and Michael Green
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen