Monday, February 13, 2017

Logan








I'm not a big fan of FOX's X-film franchise anymore. I say anymore, because there was a time when X2 was the greatest comic book film ever made. It was the biggest and best and truest example of the genre, and watching it on the big screen back then was pure joy.

But that was fourteen years ago.

Or perhaps more accurately, that was four years before the first Iron Man movie was released, and four years before Marvel Studios changed the way comic book films were made, showing the world what it really meant to be the biggest, best, and truest example of the genre. In the years since, time has not been kind to the FOX X-films, with almost each new addition tot he franchise turning out steadily worse than the last.

Looking back now, the films are revealed to be poorly written, poorly directed, and terribly put together. They look cheap. They are the cinematic equivalent of the Macbeth quote, nothing but sound and fury. Worst of all, their seemingly arbitrary decisions to ignore random pieces of the source material now seems not only weirdly wrong-headed, but sometimes seems not even thought out at all, and the alternatives choices they decide to go with instead just look out-dated and silly. The whole franchise seems like they're stuck in a 1990's design hell of some Matrix meets Hot Topic idea of cool, even when they're supposed to be set in the 80s. If X2 was once the best example of the genre, it is now only the best example of how not to make a comic book movie. Now, whenever they announce a new X-film, I barely pay attention, like Star Wars and Batman, they've practically beaten the fan out of me. The last two X-films I didn't even bother to see in the theatres, and when I did finally catch up on them, I was satisfied that it was the right decision.

Succinctly put... they're just bad movies.

So, when I heard they were going to do one last Wolverine movie called LOGAN, and base it off the "Old Man Logan" story from the comics, I was torn. One one hand... Good. No more Wolverine movies, because so far those ones in particular have consistently been the worst of the X-films. But on the other hand... oh, shit, there couldn't be a worse story for FOX studios to choose.

Because they are going to fuck it up so badly.

Old Man Logan is a Wolverine story that takes places in one of Marvel's myriad "possible" futures. It could be described as "Mad Max meets Unforgiven, but with Superheroes". It's set 50 years after all of the super-villains teamed up and took on the superheroes in a surprise coordinated attack. The villains won, most of the heroes were killed, and the victors divided up the country into their own personal playground of vice, villainy, and hopeless ruin.






On that night, so long ago, Wolverine was tricked into massacring the X-Men, and once he discovered this, broken by guilt and despair, he wandered off into the wilderness to die. He didn't, of course, because that would be a short and disappointing story, so 50 years later, he is now living quietly as a farmer, a husband, and a father, haunted by his past, and trying to eke a meager living out of the land. He's no longer a hero, a warrior, or a killer of man, machine, and monsters. He's peaceful now. He hasn't popped his claws in decades. He doesn't even acknowledge the name Wolverine. His children don't even know who he once used to be.

Unfortunately, his landlord is Bruce Banner, better known as the Hulk, once a hero, now driven insane from gamma radiation. Bruce controls the whole area. He has a gang of evil, Hulked-out children, and they are an ugly and cruel bunch, as mean as they are green. So as our story starts, one day, the Banner Kids show up to collect the rent early, but times are rough all over, and Logan doesn't have the money. The Hulk Gang beats him, and they give him a week to pay, threatening to kill him and his whole family if he doesn't.

A classic set-up...



Luckily, the archer and former Avenger known as Hawkeye, blinded years ago in the super villain attack, shows up in an aging Spider-mobile. He's looking for Logan's help to courier a case full of super soldier serum across the now ruined America, in order for the Resistance to use it against President Red Skull. It's a dangerous world, and a dangerous trip, and Hawkeye says he needs the Wolverine for back-up. For Hawkeye, this trip means a chance to maybe right some old wrongs. For Logan, it's a chance to make some desperately needed money quickly, and save his family, so he agrees, all the while assuring Hawkeye that he's no longer the man he once was.



You can probably guess where this is heading...


So, yeah, that's the long and the short of the story. It's a fun what-if... for the most part. However, right away there's two big reasons why FOX could really make something awful here. 

1. This is a Marvel Universe story. Not only do huge parts of the story involve characters that FOX does not have the rights too, so they couldn't use, but it also relies heavily on relationships and history that doesn't exist in either the X-films universe, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This history is one of the reasons Captain America: Civil War worked, and conversely, it's one of the many reasons that Batman vs. Superman did not. Not having access to the greater cast of characters, and not having the history and context that exists between the comic versions of these characters removes all of the narrative weight from their conflicts and loss. The X-films just can't pick up that slack on their own, they don't have a large enough stable of established characters, and they don't have the shared history.

2. Old Man Logan is a Mark Millar story. I've talked about why this guy can be really problematic before now. This is one of the stories that has some of these issues, not as much as some, of course, but it still definitely does, and they're a major sour note. And if there's one thing I think we can rely on, it's that the one studio that would be capable of hitting all of the wrong notes, in exactly the worst way possible, would be FOX, especially when they're making an X-film.

And so, to make a long story short... when this project was announced, I wasn't interested.

But then I started to see pictures, and I started to hear some interesting news, and sure, while the posters were all pretty much terrible, everything else actually looked kind of interesting. I couldn't help but be reminded of my recent experience with the Deadpool movie, where I wasn't a fan of the character, but the film turned out to be great.

Could I have the same experience here?

Here's the synopsis: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.

Check it out...


So, maybe the most hopeful thing here is the realization that they're not even going to attempt to adapt the actual Old Man Logan story. Instead, it seems like they're aiming to use its tone and themes. I approve of this.

I approve because, like I was saying above, doing an actual adaptation is basically impossible, impossible to do accurately, and impossible to do using stand-ins for the characters that FOX doesn't have the rights to with the ones that they do, so the only outcome possible is a weak version. I also approve because, simply and obviously put, movies and comics are different story telling mediums, and what may work in one, may not work in another. If you want to make a good adaptation, then you have to realize that there will be changes, that there has to be changes. Some things have to be cut, regardless of cool factor. Others things need to be added, because most of the audience will not have the ability to assume context, simply due to not being familiar with the source material. You want to retain the core of the source material, but not shackle yourself to the minutiae.

It's not an easy line to walk, but it looks like the movie might be doing just that.

One thing that does worry me, is the implied isolation. Logan seems to be alone in this film, and that is a limiting decision. You really have to have a strong story to justify the one lone superhero sans costume move. A big part of the fun of this genre is the big brash look and the wider universe. Batman is good, but Batman with sidekicks and a big villain and a few smaller villains is better, y'know? With the full acknowledgment that there's a fine line between "just right" and "Way too bloated and over-stuffed", it's pretty evident at this point that these types of films are usually just better when there's more comic book characters involved, just look at the MCU. Granted, I really like that kind of shit, but it really would be cool to see a few more washed up, back-end of a bad history type of dystopian versions of heroes and villains appearing.

But that's not to dismiss the characters that are appearing, of course...

Old, kind-of-senile Professor X is a fantastic choice. All those guys with the cybernetic limbs and big guns? Those are the Reavers. They're a band of mercenary cyborg soldiers, classic Wolverine foils that are always fun to watch get sliced up. I love seeing them included in the film. And best of all? That little girl? That's X-23, sometimes known as Laura Howlett, sometimes known as Laura Kinney, she's a clone of Wolverine. It's awesome they included her, but a bigger question is, is she the future of the franchise? Is that the plan now that Hugh Jackman is hanging up the claws? I hope so, I'd be interested in that. We shall see, I guess.


So... I like it.

I like the look. I like the tone. I like the "one last ride" feel they're giving Wolverine as a character. I like how it looks different from the usual comic book superhero film. And, of course, I love the seemingly run-down, soft-apocalyptic feel of the setting. The whole thing looks like it will be right up my alley. Which is unusual for me, as I said, because I think most of the X-franchise is a waste of time. Or at least, they were, and then Deadpool came along, and now this? I guess we'll see...

So, yeah, that's where I'm at. Despite the franchise's history of flaws and failings, I'm interested. I'm going to give it a chance.

LOGAN opens on March 3rd, 2017. Also, I posted the only good poster below.

Snikt,
Jon


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