Wednesday, March 8, 2017

LOGAN -- A review.

20th Century Fox

So I ventured out into the cold and windy afternoon (that turned into a cold, windy, and snowy night!) to catch a screening of LOGAN, Hugh Jackman's swan song as the titular character (otherwise known as Wolverine.)

Jackman took over the part, starting in 2000's X-MEN, from Dougray Scott -- getting to the movie after production had started...

...And he's shown up in every X-Men film since (if you include his non-appearance in Deadpool) and starred in three solo Wolverine films.

Jackman's made this part his own over 17 years, and this is the way he chose to say goodbye.

I'd heard so many wonderful things about it (including the typical spoilers) before I got a chance to see it, so I may have watched for things to be critical about.

And what did I think? I admit, my thoughts here may be a bit of a meandering journey... but I think that could be appropriate here...

I enjoyed it.

I enjoyed it a lot. There's some spoiler and spoiler adjacent stuff in here.

There were flaws -- quite a few flaws -- in the story, but the power of this movie was in the performances. They created moments that moved above the story (which wanted to be "Shane" in the most unsubtle of ways.)

Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen all turned in solid performances. (And you've no doubt heard that a bunch.) Surprising to me was Boyd Holbrook as one of the villains; he chewed the hell out of the scenery and made more of the part than I think was actually there.

It's the near future. The X-Men are dead. Professor Xavier is going through what amounts to dementia (and this is portrayed in more real of a way than I'd expected. Heartbreaking to see the vital character Stewart built broken down in such a way.)

Wolverine's healing powers are failing him, and he's dying too -- and they're pushing that he wants to be done with it. Only taking care of Xavier seems to be keeping him going. He's earning money as a limo driver to keep Charles in medication, and to try and buy a boat for them to retire on.

That's where we start.

Well, we start with Logan stopping some thugs from stealing from his car; as far as where he's supposed to be in the film, he should've just taken a beating... that would've been truer to where they wanted the character, but the plot dominoes needed to fall...

Logan crosses paths with Laura (aka X-23), a young girl cloned from Logan with claws of her own. His daughter, for all intents and purposes. She needs to get to North Dakota, Logan and Xavier are gonna bring her there.

They're chased by cyborgs. (And also an evil, younger clone of Logan; X-24.)

You can get all the rest of the spoilers from Wikipedia, so let me move on to straight thoughts, yeah?

The story was short and sweet. "Two guys at the end of their time need to do a thing." And that worked. Less characters needing spotlight for super powers.

But you know, the story's just not the important thing. It's there to allow the actors to give performances that were unexpectedly moving.

Patrick Stewart playing Xavier as the strong man he was, broken by dementia. A man whose mind could go anywhere, crippled again.

Hugh Jackman playing Logan in chronic pain, trying to dull that pain, thinking of ways to end it.

These things may sound trite, but they resulted in some very moving scenes.

Xavier's murder -- right after realizing it was his seizures that killed the X-Men.

Wolverine reaching Xavier too late to save him (from X-24, no less) telling his dying friend that " wasn't me..." and breaking down when trying to deliver a post-burial eulogy.

But the biggest gut punch was Wolverine's final conversation with his daughter, the little girl cloned from his DNA. As he slips away, he connects with her as family, and she cries, calls him daddy, begs him to stay.

Yes it was mirrored from an earlier viewing of Shane, and yes, Shane is quoted for Logan's eulogy. (It's not inappropriate, but maybe a little silly.)

Still -- it worked for me. I welled up. And it wasn't the words, it was how they were executed.

The R-rating didn't affect my opinion in the ways it did others. The violence and language didn't feel out of place, but it also didn't feel like a "super hero movie" (quotes intentional) where such things maybe would.

I keep thinking about the performances. The line deliveries.

The stuff that wrecked me.

I slept on it, and chatted with friends literally all over the world about it. (I love that ability, internet.)

The story faded, but the moments stuck. The tragic end of an idealist - Xavier - and the realization that when Logan died, he was given a moment of peace.

It's a downbeat finale, but as I and others have said, the performances gifted the audience with some great moments. Would these moments work with different actors? No.

We've known Jackman and Stewart in these roles for the better part of two decades. That history and chemistry adds poignancy to moments that may not otherwise be there.

Would this work if it were a standalone movie? I'm not sure it would be as strong. But then, this was built from those actors and that history to tie a bow on things, so it's really a silly hypothetical.

I can see why folks would dislike it (for my part, there were some scenes I wish ran a little shorter, and some scenes where the score deflated the mood for me. And it's not how I would've ended things. But it wasn't my story to tell, so I can't hold any of that against the film.)

It's a rare thing, to close the book in this way. Especially when you know Fox is not done with X-Men movies, or, likely, with Wolverine. But, for the movies that started in 2000, it's a hell of a bookend.

(Thought if you prefer a happier ending to the works, I suggest choosing "Days of Future Past" as the swan song and accepting Logan as a lucid nightmare the hero had after a bender... right before waking up to a fully functioning Xavier School.)

Coming back around again to the beginning, I really did enjoy the film -- but that's because it actually made me feel in a movie where I wasn't really expecting to.

Hugh Jackman managed to do something extraordinary over the course of the X-Men movies; he showed us a character's complete life, highs and lows, beginning to end, and (excepting a child actor in the Origins flashback) he played it all himself.

That's a rare thing in movies. Actors typically move on from franchises long before 20 years is in sight. And franchises don't tend to give this kind of closure to their most popular characters, even if they're sure to reboot. It's just not the norm.

But for once, for now, we got something else. And Jackman deserves the credit. He invested in the character, he let him grow, and he fought for things like a caretaker should.

Not much more to add to that except, well... "Good job, bub."