It’s really hard to believe, but as Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart pointed out on their appearance on the Graham Norton show, it’s been 17 years since the first X Men movie, 17 years!!! People talk about franchises that they grew up with, but I really have been growing up with the X Men films, they have been the films of my adolescence into the time where I am approaching my third decade, and yes, they have been pretty good films for the most part. Granted the X Men franchise has had its ups and downs and I probably talked about that when I reviewed the somewhat disappointing X Men The Apocalypse last year, which probably was the most disappointing film I saw in 2016. It was just not as good as I wanted it to be and I was disappointed, it felt like it strayed too far away from what had been really good in X Men First Class and especially Days of Future Past, it didn’t have much overall charm and fun. The X Men films have always been rather more serious comic films. But the thing is, I didn’t really talk that much about the Wolverine films. The Wolverine films came about because, of course, the more Hugh Jackman played the character, the more popular they got, so as a result, they wanted to capitalise on it. This started with Gavin Hood directing the abysmal X Men Origins Wolverine, a film so awful, it nearly sank the X Men franchise and forced 20th Century Fox, who produces all these films, to hiring Matthew Vaughan to re-boot the franchise in X Men First Class. We then got the Wolverine, while a decent film and a decent adaptation of the Japan saga, it really wasn’t a film that did much to wow its fan base, especially for the awful CGI for the Silver Samurai.
Now, as I mentioned in my X Men Apocalypse review, there was an entire middle portion of the film given over to promoting the next Wolverine film, having seen the Origins of Wolverine in this re-booted timeline. Which, as I mentioned before, could have easily been taken out and was only in to promote the next Wolverine film. However, when the first trailers hit, this was not exactly what I was expecting and 20th Century Fox were quick to announce that this was going to be an adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline and before anyone asks, I may be the comic guy around Axia, but I haven’t really been reading much of Old Man Logan. I read The Tie In for Secret Wars and I read a couple of issues of the series with Marvel now 2.0, but it just didn’t really capture my attention and I found the art work was way too abstract, so I couldn’t get a grip on the book. But in all honesty though, I liked this change of pace. The one thing the Wolverine films and the X Men films in general have been afraid to do, is to give Wolverine some real grit and have his individual films be an exploration piece for him as a sort of character study.
The writing team returns from the Wolverine to make this film, along with director James Mangold, who also helped develop the story. He also directed the Johnny Cash film ‘I Walk the Line’. Now I was actually excited to see this film because of the buzz it got from the critics, that, unlike myself, managed to get in press screenings and the way the film has been talked about in interviews. It made the whole thing feel more like a passion project than just another entry in the X Men franchise and with it being announced that this will be the last outing in the franchise for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, I was hoping that this would be the best send-off they could have. So, how did it turn out.
Logan is the latest film in the franchise and as a result takes place at the very end of the timeline, taking place in the year 2029 which means this movie won’t be dated for at least another 12 years. The story takes place several years after the events of, I assume, X Men 2, although given how much the continuity has been screwed around with in the X Men Universe, who the hell knows!! All mutants have gone and there hasn’t been a natural mutant born for over a decade. The last 2 standing are Logan (played by Hugh Jackman) and Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart). With Xavier in poor health and requiring constant medication, Logan travels from job to job in order to pay for medication and eventually wishes to get a boat to leave the mainland. However, he is contacted by Gabriela (played by Elizabeth Rodriguez) with an offer to take her daughter Laura (played by Dafne Keen) across the border to a place called Eden, which is a safe haven for the new mutants. They are being pursued by a pharmaceutical company led by Dr Rice (played by Richard E Grant) and his righthand man Pierce (played by Boyd Holbrook). Logan is essentially, what I like to refer to as, the equivalent of Metal Gear Solid 4 for the X Men films. It’s very much a ‘the last days of a broken soldier’. The big difference between the two is that Metal Gear Solid 4 was more the protagonists doing the mission because they felt it was their duty, without any sort of personal stake in it. Logan’s feel more like he has a personal stake, but his personal stake is more selfish on the surface.
The real joy of this film, however, is the fact that it is R rated. The R rating is very much to the films benefit because it means, for once, the film makers can go all out. This is a very, very brutal film, even by the standards of the X Men films to date and what’s more, it’s really damn gritty. There’s tons of very brutal deaths and these range from claws to the eyes to beheadings, to even having your arm frozen and then punched to smithereens. Yes, if your kids are in to the X Men films, you might want to wait a few years before you take them to this one. It’s got a 15 rating for a reason!! That being said, however, it fits the Wolverine character perfectly. This really feels like a Wolverine comic and a Wolverine storyline. The other Wolverine films felt more he was being more forced into an X-men scenario, this one very much centres around him. Now obviously there have been a few changes from the comics. The major one being that Laura Linney aka X23 who is the current Wolverine in the Marvel comics at this point in time because Wolverine is dead in the comics (don’t worry, it’s not going to stick. I guarantee in about a year and a half he is going to be alive again and no, Old Man Logan being in the main Marvel Universe doesn’t count). The main change with her is that when the character was first introduced she was a teenager, I think she is now in her mid 20’s at this point in the comics, for the film she has actually had her age reduced to 11. This is rather weird considering that Hollywood usually ups the age of their protagonists so they don’t have to hire child actors to play the parts, for example, the Percy Jackson films (remember those disasters, of course you don’t) upped the age of their characters from 12 to 16, so to see a film where they reduce the age and get a child actor in, really works. The age reduction works really well in a narrative sense and Dafne Keen does a really good job playing this part, she can act very brutally and performs the stunts very well. She makes an excellent Laura.
The downside, if there is any, is the fact that it is technically a change and I think some fans might be disappointed that it’s not a teenager in this part and there is also a partial change to her origin. Without giving too much away in spoilers, the comic went for a more literal sense of Wolverine being a father figure to her compared to the comics. Other than that they keep her relatively the same, whereas Wolverine has 3 claws in his hand, she has 2 claws and an extra claw in both of her feet, which I was rather disappointed they only took advantage of once in the entire film to my knowledge. There are also references to the X Men comics considering that Laura actually reads X Men comics in one of the most meta references in a Marvel film. Even Deadpool would be saying there’s way too much breaking of the fourth wall. I’m not sure if some of these comics are real comics as one of them becomes a plot point later on down the line and I’m expecting it to turn up in my Loot Crate next month as a result. I will keep you informed if it does turn up!!
The thing that makes the whole thing is the supporting cast works out really well. You have got Charles Xavier who is probably the most heart breaking part of the film, to see his vision for mutant kind go down the drain and a man slowly losing his mental faculties, is really heart breaking if you have been following the franchise for as long as I have, and his story arc is also brilliant. We also get Caliban joining the fray this time as a nurse for Charles Xavier, he is a man with albinism that cannot go into the light, otherwise he burns, and also has the powers to track other mutants and he is played brilliantly by Stephen Merchant and you might have to do a double take before you recognise him, considering he has shaved his head for the role. There is a problem though, and that is the villains. The villains suffer from being rather bland and they feel like the fit into the whole class of ‘people trying to control mutant kind villains’. We have seen these villains in the X Men films and done better before! Also, of course, they have created Laura to be a replacement for Wolverine that they can control and they have all these child mutants. These are the exact same villains as in X Men 2 except instead of trying to kill mutants they are trying to control them. In fact, Richard E Grant’s Dr Rice feels very much like Brian Cox’s Striker in X Men 2 and the fact that it’s both British actors in the roles, is not helping my Déjà vu. Plus Piers, despite the fact that he was hyped up as being a big villain in this, barely does anything throughout the entire film. He doesn’t take part in many fight scenes, in fact, him and Wolverine never fight each other once, in fact Wolverine spends most of the film fighting nameless goons. I always knew we were going to get these sort of villains, in the film, the trailers did their thing, but I was expecting a little bit more especially considering that as a character drama, Logan is fantastic, it’s a brilliant character piece for its main character.
It really feels like we have come full circle with Wolverine at this point. We are seeing a man with virtually nothing left to live for simply trying to keep going to either find a purpose or die trying and he would much prefer the latter option. In fact, he even carries around an admantium (fiction super strong metal in the marvel universe that wolverine’s skeleton is made from) bullet in case he wants to end it all, which I am fairly certain doesn’t actually work, even by the weird science that the Marvel Universe is based on. Then again, the Marvel Universe changes how it works every year, I’d hardly be surprised if they changed it to this now. That being said though, it doesn’t really break much continuity, the story is basically a road trip movie as well as running from the law film, but it does both of these pretty dam well. Honestly I thought that it did a really good job. It’s a dark film at times and it’s not too much light relief, though the light relief is pretty good. I also liked how they portrayed Laura trying to discover the outside world for herself. You can feel the interaction going on. There is some excellent chemistry between her, Charles and Logan. I really like this plot, I think it fits in with the X Men films pretty well and I think it offers something to the X Men fans that they haven’t seen yet.
As for the performances, they are all pretty dam good. Hugh Jackman gives one of the best performances of his career in this film and that is saying a lot as he has now been playing the character for the last 17 years, kind of weird to believe that this all started from a role that his wife said would probably end his career. That is saying a lot considering half of what he has to do in this film. Patrick Stewart does an excellent job playing Charles Xavier once again and shows a side to Charles that I don’t think we have seen. We are all used to the calm stoic father figure, so to see that slowly deteriorating, feels rather heart breaking. Dafne Keen does an excellent job as a child actor especially given the fact that she has not got that many lines till really late into the film and has to do all of her acting through her expressions. Stephen Merchant is on top form in this film and really throws himself into the part, which means he can now finally say to Ricky Gervais that at least between them, he has been in a good movie. No, Night at the Museum does not count, that’s not a good movie!! Elizabeth Rodriguez does a good job even though she is not in it that much. Richard E Grant is alright, but as I said, he is basically playing Brian Cox’s part in X Men 2 and he is not really adding much to it. He is doing his job and is doing it well, but I think a lot of people will go away not thinking much of it, especially considering he will probably be outshone by Boyd Holbrook who is doing a pretty decent job of playing the other main villain. Other than that the other parts are alright. The only one to really mention is Eriq La Salle who does a pretty good job playing a minor supporting role later on down the line. Honestly, I thought the cast as a whole, was a really damn good cast. Though don’t expect that many X Men cameos, in fact there is not even a Stan Lee cameo in this film, though, considering the dark tone of the film I’m not sure a Stan Lee cameo would have been appropriate.
Now as for the action, well, ok I will say one thing, it’s not as good as John Wick Chapter 2 if I am going by recent action films as a standard, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s good. The action scenes are shot well, the cinematography suits it well, we can tell what is going on and they are all well choreographed. They are not all perfect, in fact a couple of them kind of fall flat at times but as a whole they are pretty dam good and they are certainly some of the best the X Men films have had, because with the limited amount of mutants in this film it means that the powers are rather restricted rather than common place and as a result there is less computer effects in the film. That’s not to say there are no computer effects in the film, in fact they are good when they are being used. The great thing is they never feel that fake, in fact the practical effects are also pretty good. The make-up department really deserves an Oscar nomination for the work they have done on this one. They have done one hell of a good job. Without giving too much away, there are also some effects used for particular fight scenes that are very good and allow for some excellent fight scenes as a result. The major thing about the make-up and the costume designs is the fact that it means none of the actors look glamorous in any way, shape of form and that’s the tone of the film. It doesn’t have the slick and futuristic look that most of the X Men films have, this is dark and down to earth. In fact it suits the whole film style and as a result the whole film feels and looks like a Johnny Cash song. Not surprising considering that Johnny Cash contributed two songs to the soundtrack, ‘When a Man Comes Around’ and ‘Hurt’. Again, rather unsurprising considering that the director also directed ‘I Walk the Line’.
Is there an issue with Logan?
Logan is one brilliant film, it’s an excellent send off to the characters and does a decent job, really bringing finality to the franchise. If 20th Century Fox wants to keep going with the X Men franchise, I think they should just do a total re-boo because this one really should be the last film. It’s well acted, the action scenes are really good and the plot line, while dark and gritty also works very well and the rumours are not true, there is no Deadpool cameo in the film, thank god, because that would have destroyed the tone. It’s not fun and it’s not glamorous, but that does not change the fact that it is readly good. I would really recommend seeing this one, especially if you followed the X Men films, though, be aware, it is a very gory film and it very much deserves its R rating. Don’t stick around for the end credits as there is no post-credit scene.
Mini review time. Despite the fact that I had quite a bit of time to do this, I still didn’t get to the cinema much so I only have 2. The Space Between Us and The Great Wall.
The Space Between Us: Well, this is probably the film that I have the least amount of opinion on. This was such a passive viewing experience. It’s basically a love story between a kid born on Mars and a girl back on Earth and he goes back to Earth to meet her and then he is chased by the government because he needs a new heart in order to survive on earth since he has never actually been on the planet. Yes, that plot line doesn’t sound very original or creative at all and that’s basically how the film turned out. You have got Gary Oldman doing his usual shtick, which is getting a bit tired at this point, but I hate saying that because I do like Gary Oldman as an actor. When he is good, he is really good. But this film is very much the same, bland, young adult novels that I have seen time and time again. I may not be the target demographic, but I would have thought by now, at least one of them would have got my attention. At this point in time Hunger Games is the only one I have even remotely gotten in to and even then I just thought they were ok films, I didn’t think they were great. The Space Between Us is really bland. Acer Butterfield is playing the exact same character and is giving the same performance that he did in Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. The difference is, in that film he had a good script so it made up for the bland performance. This film doesn’t have a good script, so as a result, you really feel the bland nature of his performance. It’s not one I would recommend, I would say skip this one.
So, that’s all my thoughts. If you have any thoughts on any of these films, please leave a comment in the comments section.
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