Tagged: Charles Xavier

John Ostrander: Lost Vision

I don’t always get around to seeing movies that I want to see while they’re in the theaters. I prefer seeing movies first in the theater and preferably in IMAX. I love the big screen and I think that’s how they were meant to be seen. I don’t mind seeing it later on the small screen, especially if I still have the memory of seeing the large-scale version.

Sometimes, for one reason or another, I just don’t get around to getting to the movie theater in time to catch the feature. Logan was one of those films.

As you already probably know, Logan is the last film that Hugh Jackman will make playing Wolverine. It’s a part that made him a star and that he basically owns. This time it’s set in the not too distant future of 2029 and things have not gone well for the mutant population. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the film and want to, best stop reading now or you may learn more than you want to.) By inference, we learn that there are almost no mutants left and none have been born in the past 25 years. There was some kind of unspecified disaster around the school in Westchester NY several years back.

Logan is now keeping it on the down low near the Mexican border as a driver/bodyguard. He drinks a lot and he’s sick; his mutant healing factor is fading and the adamantium that laces his bones (and claws) is poisoning him. He’s also taking care of Professor X, Charles Xavier (played once again by Patrick Stewart, who has said this is also his last go-round with the X-Men), who is also ailing. The man with the most powerful brain in the world is losing control of it; every once in a while, he has seizures that wreak havoc on everyone near him.

Into Logan’s and Professor X’s life comes an 11-year-old girl named Laura who is a mutant, who may have been created in a lab where she was dubbed X-23. She also has retractable claws, rage issues, and a violent nature. Sound like anyone we know? She is Logan’s “daughter” in that his DNA was used to create her.

The movie is a road picture, one in which Logan, Laura, and Professor X are chased as they try to find their way to a possible haven. The film is very violent (having earned an R rating) and bleak. Very bleak.

Professor X founded the X-Men in the belief, the hope, that mutants and normal humans could find a way to live together. His frenemy, Magneto, didn’t think they could and his path was more violent. He saw humans and mutants as being at war.

Evidently, Magneto was right. That appears to be the premise of Logan – very few mutants are left and the ones that exist are being hunted. Xavier was wrong.

That’s also been the premise of more than a few X-Men comics that touch on the future. I don’t recall seeing one such future where Professor X’s vision came true. I will admit, I find that a bit depressing. It seems to me to undercut some of the basic premise of the X-Men – that there is hope that all these different types of people can live together. The X-Men have been stand-ins for so many different persecuted minorities. Xavier’s dream, his vision, has always held out hope to me that our differences can be overcome, however tough the battle.

That’s not what Logan seems to say.

I don’t know if I have the right to gripe. My career seems to be about anti-heroes and bleak characters and bad times; it’s how I make my living. I can certainly see the allure in taking that attitude in Logan; it feels closer to life as we see it these days. More and more so all the time. But maybe that’s why we need a little more hope.

This is not to say that Logan is a badly made film; far from it. It’s not simply violent; it’s intelligent and well written and has wonderful performances. In the blu-ray pack that I bought, I had a chance to experience it in black and white. They call it Logan Noir and it has the feel of noir films of old. I was very impressed.

I was also a little saddened. It’s hard to watch a dream die, especially one that was meant to give us hope. These days, I think we need all the hope we can get.

Marc Alan Fishman: What DC Could Learn from Logan

Having finally caught and absorbed James Mangold’s Logan, the finale to the OG X-films, I find myself hoping that the execs behind the soon-to-be-released Wonder Woman and Justice League movies were taking notes. A caveat: I’m going to attempt to keep my lens wide this week. While I don’t believe I’ll be spoiling anything more than people on your Facebook feed have blathered about, be nonetheless forewarned.

Before I get into my listicle (they’re what make articles click-baity, don’t-cha-know), let me quickly pontificate. Logan was one of the most powerful superhero films I’ve ever seen. Perhaps second only to The Dark Knight. It was a straight-forward small-scale road picture that kept a handle on a single-thread story, presented as an homage to the westerns it evoked throughout the picture. In spite of a heavy-handed two-hour run-time, the film itself moves at a steady pace. The performances are top-notch, with Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman taking astounding leaps above their initial performances of Charles Xavier and Wolverine circa 2000. Sweet Rao I feel old just typing that. But I digress. On with the listercizing!

  1. Things get dark, but never for the sake of needless angst.

The first thing DC should take note on… and perhaps highlight, circle, underline and install neon lights around… is that it’s perfectly acceptable to be maudlin if it’s earned. X-Men, X2, and to a much-much-much-much lesser extent any of the other X-films did much to pile on the action and gravitas towards the mutant life en masse. But Logan abstains from needless retreading. Instead, it delivers us heroes who are hurt inside and out. It gives them needs, wants, and desires that don’t coincide with some greater plot or McGuffin. And when a McGuffin lands in their lap, they pleasantly drape it in subtext (Charles Xavier, through his delusional state, would seek to mentally communicate with any over living mutants, wouldn’t he?) that earns the gravitas the film requires. And when a character screams to the heavens in a shrill cry of anger and sadness, it comes by way of two-hours of earned malaise and not because it looks cool.

  1. Show. Don’t tell.

During a lull between brutal set pieces, Professor X waxes poetic about the final days of his former academy. He doesn’t speak in pure exposition. He drifts in and out, dancing around nuanced and painful memories, and ultimately evokes the feeling of tragedy and regret deeply rooted in his psyche. We never hear the full details of what occurs. We never see some spiffy CG recreation. And we never need to.

In addition to Charles’ admission of guilt and shame and the slow reveal of X-23’s backstory, Logan elicits the show-don’t-tell ethos that DC needs to heed. While yes, we get the obligatory backstory tacked to her early on, it’s delivered without hanging a lampshade on it time-and-again. Laura is feral and untrusting. She’s lethal and raw. While we see her drop her guard eventually, it comes over the course of many scenes and instances where Dafne Keen shows us how powerful a performer she is. Logan never once feels the need to montage our way toward understanding a new norm.

  1. Keep the violence real, believable, and still other-worldly.

The biggest issues I’ve had with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad came solely in their fetish for destruction. Logan certainly was built for violence. But when it occurs, it’s not only earned by the stakes in the story, it comes layered with emotional and physical fallout. As Logan and others are forced to fight a youthful Wolverine clone (my one spoilery thing, I apologize…), suddenly fighting a savage killer with a healing factor feels like a true threat. It also stands to note that even in the climax of the film — with multiple combatants, gunfire, and viscera — there’s no death for the sake of spectacle. War is waged for hope, humanity, and vengeance. All that, and there’s nary a single beam-being-blasted-towards-the-sky. Natch.

  1. The story is fearless in the face of predictability

If nothing else could be counted on by DC after seeing Logan, it should be the safe admission that sometimes it’s OK to tee-up a predictable story. There’s nary a single twist to the picture if you pay clear attention. But, due to the patience of director Mangold, we get a film that never needed to rely on ham-fisted trickery to earn the 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The potency lies in the characterizations and believable escalation of antagonism. Villainy in Logan is no less super-villainous that Lex Luthor creating Doomsday, or Darkseid declaring war on Earth. But it’s the reactions of our heroes that carry us through to the end credits. Jokes occur naturally and not at the behest of breaking a tense and necessary silent moment for the sake of relieving the stress on the audience. Mangold lets the story unfold through deliberate character-driven motivations. We never see the puppet-strings of action-figure-merchandisers creating moments for future marketing. Honesty and artistry over bottom-dollar-profits. And because of it, the fans have carried a hard R-rated film to over 500 million dollars in ticket sales.

I know Justice League and Wonder Woman are being built to pitch out to a larger PG-13 audience. But the sincere hope remains that DC paid attention. Logan was amazing not because it used the word fuck a few hundred times, but because the story delivered earned every last fuck delivered.