A Logan Review – Old Man Stabby

Logan, 2017, Hugh Jackman, posterTITLE: Logan
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
STUDIOS: 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Kinberg Genere, Hutch Parker Entertainment, The Donners’ Company
RATING: R
RUN-TIME: 137 min
RELEASED: 
March 3, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

If you’re a fan of the X-Men film series, Logan is in many ways a frustrating film. It’s very much the expressionistic, character-driven piece it sets out to be. But the Wolverine character is heavily defined by the world he’s in. A world filled with prejudice toward super-powered mutants. In Logan, that world has been heavily altered. While we all love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, what this movie really could have used was a little more world-building.

In the year 2029, mutantkind has been nearly eradicated. Logan, the man formerly known as Wolverine, is one of the last ones alive. In his care is a frail Charles Xavier, suffering from dementia and seizures. Logan isn’t exactly in great health himself. But danger once again finds our clawed hero, this time in the form of a young girl named Laura. Like Logan, she has adamantium claws, healing powers, and a deadly temper. She is hunted by Transigen, the group responsible for wiping out mutantkind. And if they have their way, Logan, Charles, and this mysterious girl are next.

Comic book fans know Logan is somewhat based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan book. That story features a gray-haired Logan in a world conquered by supervillains. The first lines in the very first panel are: “No one knows what happened on the night the heroes fell. All we know is that they disappeared and evil triumphed and the bad guys have been calling the shots ever since.”

logan-image-1-hugh-jackman-dafne-keenThere’s very little information like this in Logan. Information that helps us define the different world we see these familiar characters in. I’m not of the belief that absolutely everything needs to be spelled out for the audience. But the memory of the X-Men team is very much a part of this movie. It even implies that a new generation will pick up where Logan and the others left off. So wouldn’t it be helpful to tell us what happened to the X-Men? Were they all hunted down and killed by Transigen? Was there a big battle, like in Old Man Logan? We don’t have to comb through the roster one by one. But for instance, Logan loved Jean Grey. That could have been used to prompt a line or two about how she and some of the others died.

Instead, the film is chipped away at by these questions about how the established characters got to where they are, and who some of these new characters are. We do get allusions to a tragic event involving the widespread telepathic side-effects of one of Xavier’s seizes in Westchester, New York. To the uninitiated, Westchester was the home of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and home base to the X-Men. So it’s reasonable to assume that’s where many of them died. But casual moviegoers won’t know that. Hell, I’m fairly versed in X-Men lore and it took me awhile to put it together.

logan-image-2-hugh-jackman-dafne-keenHalf the potential of a story like this lies in exploring the dystopian future, and how we got there. Logan doesn’t do much of that, and the movie suffers for it.

Still, Logan is indeed the R-rated Wolverine flick many have waited for. The movie takes full advantage of its expanded parameters. We see severed limbs aplenty, gallons of spilled blood, claw shots through the face, and plenty of F-bombs. If this really is Hugh Jackman’s last go-around as Wolverine, he goes out in a blaze of bloody and cathartic glory.

Jackman’s claim that this is the last time he’ll pop the claws is a downer for sure. In 17 years, he’s played the character seven times. Nine if you count his brief uncredited appearances in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse. He’s left an indelible mark on the character and the X-Men franchise as a whole, bringing tremendous depth and likability in addition to the berserker rage that fans love. What’s more, I’m not ready to fully rule Jackman out of another appearance in the role. He’s publicly flirted with coming back for certain scenarios, and it’s not like he’s been typecast. He was Jean Valjean, for crying out loud. More importantly, he’s a proven and highly lucrative commodity in that role. It’s show business, folks. Anything is possible.

logan-hugh-jackman-patrick-stewartPerhaps less publicized is that Logan is perhaps Patrick Stewart’s last time playing Charles Xavier. Something else this movie has going for it is the novelty of ol’ Captain Picard dropping a few F-bombs. Why the hell not?

Dafne Keen makes her film debut here as Laura, a.k.a. X-23. Not a bad way to make your entrance, with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart at your side. She’s quite the find. Keen doesn’t speak for most of the movie, and has to convey a quiet rage beyond her years. She becomes the perfect mini-Wolverine.

There’s been a good amount of talk about Logan defying the genre of superhero movies. While I maintain this genre is more versatile than people give it credit for, Logan feels unlike most, if not any superhero movie you’ve ever seen. At one point, Xavier and Laura are watching Shane. That’s extremely fitting, given the movie’s clear influence on Logan. Mangold has also talked about The Cowboys starring John Wayne, and The Gauntlet with Clint Eastwood. Oddly enough, he’s also mentioned Little Miss Sunshine and The Wrestler.

logan-image-3-hugh-jackmanLogan is hardly the most satisfying installment in the X-Men franchise. But it’s absolutely the most unique. There’s an undeniable thrill and catharsis to seeing Jackman rage out as Wolverine, potentially for the last time. From a performance standpoint, he absolutely sticks the landing here. Though that should come as surprise to absolutely no one.

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Blatant Insubordination: Darwyn Cooke, Chloe Grace Moretz, X-Men in Space

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Darwyn Cooke, graphic ink cover1. Darwyn Cooke

A few days ago we lost the great Darwyn Cooke. Make no mistake about it, folks: He was great. Don’t take my word for it. Just take a look at his work. Type his name into Google Image, and you’ll see art from Batman: EgoCatwoman, The Spirit, Parker, some of his recent DC variant covers, Before Watchmen: Minutemen, and more. Seemingly everything this man drew looked iconic, timeless, and at certain points idyllic. He could do heartbreak and drama as well as anybody, but his characters also weren’t afraid to smile.

In the eyes of many (myself included), Cooke’s magnum opus was DC: The New Frontier, one of the projects he both wrote and drew. Set in the ’50s and ’60s, The New Frontier shows us a world driven to paranoia by the Cold War. The superheroes of the Golden Age have been driven into retirement. But a new generation rises to take the world into a new era, and combat a deadly extraterrestrial foe. In the process, we see the rise of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, the formation of the Justice League, Martian Manhunter learning about this strange new society, and much more. It’s a love letter to the era Cooke grew up in, and his passion is very much on display. The story was eventually made into an animated movie, and I’ve always remembered a moment from an interview Cooke gives for the DVD.  At one point he gets choked up when talking about that period in history, obviously waxing nostalgic for his childhood.

Before his work in the comic book industry, Cooke worked as a storyboard artist on both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. He even created the opening title sequence for Batman Beyond. He even created a Batman Beyond short film in celebration of The Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary. To say the least, it’s glorious.

It’s a crime that we lost one of the true greats in the industry to cancer. But what an incredible legacy Darwyn Cooke leaves behind. He was a true giant whose work will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

Chloe Grace Moretz, Captain Marvel, Glamour2. Chloe Grace Moretz as Captain Marvel

Like a lot of fans, I did a double take when I saw Chloe Grace Moritz wearing a very Captain Marvel-ish jacket on the cover of Glamour. Granted, I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything. At least not yet. She might be a little young, but she’s hardly the worst pick in the world to play Carol Danvers. I’ll say this much: She looks good in the Captain Marvel colors.

On the subject of Moretz, as I type this we’re a few days away from the release of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Moretz plays one of the sorority girls that moves in next to Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. I’m not a huge Seth Rogen fan, but Neighbors was his best movie in quite some time. The sequel, however, feels like a contrived excuse to remake it. My token bad sequel example is always Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. This seems like it’s cut from that same cloth.

Still, it’s getting decent reviews. So maybe they can pull it off…

3. X-Men

The reviews for X-Men: Apocalypse don’t look as great as one would hope. But it may not matter much, as apparently there are already plans for another X-Men film set in the ’90s. Director Bryan Singer says they may do something with an outer space element. Meh.

Now that the crew from First Class (Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, etc) are likely done, and Hugh Jackman is probably done after the third Wolverine flick, this seems like a good opportunity to give the X-Men franchise a new jumping on point. We’ve done some cool world-building in the last few years. But I’m itching to get back to a core team of X-Men. Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast, etc. If you have to recast everybody, then just rip the bandaid off and do it.

X-Men #1 (1991) cover, Jim Lee

Bleeding Cool ran a story yesterday on which X-Men comic book stories could inspire the next movie. With the space idea in mind, they pitched The Dark Phoenix Saga (they noted it might have a stench on it from X-Men: The Last Stand) and The Brood Saga. Personally, I’m in favor of a more back to basics approach. If the movie has to be inspired by a particular story, my pick is Mutant Genesis, the first story in the Chris Claremont/Jim Lee run from the ’90s. Magneto creates an asylum for mutants on an asteroid called Asteroid M, which naturally creates problems. That keeps it nice and simple, doesn’t it? The X-Men vs. Magneto. And they can keep the X-Men fairly tight knight. Xavier, the five heroes I mentioned above, and maybe Rogue? Or Gambit? Maybe Colossus? Either way that leaves us with seven X-Men total. That’s the same number of Avengers we had when that franchise started. And that satisfies this alleged desire to take the franchise into space.

I give Fox a lot of credit for not giving the franchise a hard reboot. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it a little more accessible.

Image 1 from nbcnews.com. Image 2 from newsarama.com. Image 3 from marvel.wiki.com.

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