Year 9, Day 118 - 4/28/17 - Movie #2,613 - viewed on 3/13/17
BEFORE: I didn't want to let this one slip through the cracks, like I did last year with "Doctor Strange". As I write this, it's March 13, I just ordered "Doctor Strange" on DVD, and I'll watch it in about 3 weeks. But I probably won't post this "Logan" review until late April, so by that point "Doctor Strange" will be in my rear-view, and the correct viewing/posting order for Marvel movies will be maintained.
But as I write this I'm on a bit of a break between Fred Astaire movies, waiting for TCM to run "The Barkleys of Broadway" so I can continue where I left off, and then hit St. Patrick's Day on the nose with "Finian's Rainbow". Once I came up with that bit of synchronicity, my next goal was to find a path to my three Easter movies (done) and then last night I went on a linking tear and figured out where I was probably going to slot "Logan" (since I can't link from "Doctor Strange", apparently...) and then I linked further, all the way to the expected date of "Guardians of the Galaxy 2", or more correctly, the Monday after its release, which is when I'll probably get to the theater. So I've programmed about two months in advance, and I anticipate my linking will last until May 10 before finally giving out. Sure, I can always switch over to documentaries for a bit, then start another chain, but let's cross that bridge when I come to it - I'm currently stumped for a Mother's Day tie-in, and by then it will be time to think about Memorial Day.
I've probably got about 20 films at the bottom of the list that just won't link to anything else, but that's not my concern right now. My bigger problem is deciding what I'm going to watch between May 10 and back-to-school films, but I imagine some more choices will come along. Tonight, Hugh Jackman carries over from "Chappie", if I've done this correctly.
THE PLOT: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X, somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.
AFTER: For starters, this is not your typical Marvel superhero film - where you know that the Avengers or X-Men or the Guardians of the Galaxy are going to put aside their differences, band together at the end and somehow defeat the evil power. There's also no cameo from Stan Lee, and no post-credits sequence teasing the next film in the series (though there's a pre-film built-in trailer for the next "Deadpool" film.). Oh, and the former Wolverine makes his living as an Uber driver with a Chrysler limousine.
Part of the disjointedness comes from the setting, which is in the future (2029) that's apparently not the future which was seen in "Days of Future Past" - but since Logan helped change the timeline in that film, perhaps it's the new future that follows many years after that divergence. But at the end of "X-Men: Apocalypse", we were teased with the promise of Mr. Sinister as the next X-Men villain, and he's nowhere to be seen here - though they may still use him in some future film, you'd think with all the genetic experimentation alluded to here, he'd be a natural fit.
Instead we get Zander Rice, Donald Pierce and the Reavers. The Reavers are probably the best villains that haven't appeared yet in the X-Men films, in the comics they're a mix of mercenaries and cyborgs, some of them are humans with tank treads or guns for arms, and their leader, Pierce, is mostly robotic, and therefore un-killable. Here the Reavers are mostly humans, but Pierce has a cyborg hand. Guess those tank tread effects were a little too difficult to pull off?
But I understand that the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't have to follow the comic book plots exactly - this film borrows a lot from the first "Old Man Logan" storyline (from "Wolverine" comics #66-72, not the comics titled "Old Man Logan", it's a bit confusing, I know) where Logan is old (duh), most of the other X-Men are dead, and the U.S. is mostly a dystopian desert, divided into territories controlled by the Hulk, Magneto, Red Skull and Doctor Doom. In this scenario, Logan was married with two kids and lived in Hulkland, but was engaged by an old and blind Hawkeye to drive him across the U.S. to deliver a package. Also in this storyline, it was revealed that Logan was tricked by an illusion from Spider-Man's enemy, Mysterio, into killing the rest of the X-Men.
Now, since there's conflict between Marvel/Disney and Fox, who has the rights to the X-Men for films, there's no way that Hawkeye or the Hulk's going to appear here, but they did cherry-pick some elements from the first "Old Man Logan" storyline to use here. Still, I wish we could have seen that U.S.-sized wasteland, and instead we get a future world where triple trailer trucks drive themselves down the highway, and giant harvester-bots reap fields of corn for beverages. Oh, and true freedom for the few mutants that are left exists in Canada, because if they hang around, they'll be deported to Mexico. Some of this is starting to sound all too familiar, right?
I'm kind of reminded of the last two Batman films, since both "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" managed to Franken-edit several well-known comic-book storylines together and come out with a coherent whole at the end. "Logan" incorporates bits of the first "Old Man Logan" run, along with a storyline a few years back where it was determined that long-term exposure to adamantium was messing with Wolverine's mutant healing power, and a third storyline that I can't directly reference for fear of spoilers. But when Logan and Professor X meet a young girl who needs to be kept safe, her first name alone is enough to inform any true comic fan about where this story is headed.
In addition to probably being the darkest Marvel comic movie so far, in tone and in cinematography, it's somehow one of the most grounded, accessible storylines. With Logan caring for an aging Professor X who often belittles him or can't even recognize him, that's a storyline that will probably ring true for anyone who's ever had to take care of an ill parent or grandparent. Similarly, anyone who ever became a parent unexpectedly, or late in their life, could see themselves reflected in Logan acting as a father figure to a young girl. So, in addition to fighting super-villains and dealing with his own failing health, and growing dependence on alcohol and drugs, Logan has to worry about whether he's capable of being a good son and father. Is this based on a comic book, or the Book of Job?
It might seem strange to some people that a plot point within a comic-book movie comes from comic books, but it does make some sense. Back in Marvel's early days, comic-book writers like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby often added themselves to the plot, reasoning that within the world where superheroes exist, there would also be stories written about those real heroes, and they'd probably also take the form of comic books. (Whereas in "Watchmen" comics, Alan Moore reasoned that in such a world, there would be no need for stories about super-heroes, and people would read pirate-based comics instead. You be the judge.)
Overall, I felt this had a real art-house feel to it, with a tone that I don't think would be out of place being shown at someplace like the Sundance Film Festival. I couldn't help but think of "Little Miss Sunshine" when Logan, Xavier and Laura went on their road-trip in a succession of beat-up vehicles, with Xavier in the cranky Alan Arkin role, and Logan acting as the overbearing parent. According to the IMDB, the director cited that indie film as an influence, along with "Paper Moon" and "The Wrestler". Along with this, the complicated issues of alcoholism, aging and drug dependency place this firmly as darker fare for the adults, not the kids.
In the sparsely-attended Monday night screening that I went to, I heard someone shout out, "That's a shitty ending!" Well, sure, if you don't understand that the true essence of a super-hero is sacrifice. Sure, fighting villains and saving people's lives, but really, it's all sacrifice when you get down to it. This is part of a trend in comic-book movies lately, but also in comic-books overall - Wolverine died in the comic books about 2 or 3 years ago, but then in the "Secret Wars" storyline of 2015, they messed with reality and found a way to bring Old Man Logan back, because comic books. One might think that if a younger Wolverine died then there would logically be no older Wolverine, and one would be wrong. Wolverine sells books, so the Old Logan from the alternate timeline was brought into the main timeline to fill the void.
But NITPICK POINT, it's very hard for me to believe that Logan's never acted as a parent before - according to his origin story, he's been around since some time after the Civil War, fought as a soldier in both World Wars, that's a long time to be alive. Plus his gametes probably are super-strong, and he's been in love dozens of times, so he's bound to have a lot of children somewhere. Or is he not the type to form long-term relationships, so he's always on the road before learning that he fathered a child?
Also starring Patrick Stewart (last heard in "Ted 2"), Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook (last seen in "A Walk Among the Tombstones"), Richard E. Grant (last seen in "Hudson Hawk"), Stephen Merchant, Eriq La Salle (last seen in "Jacob's Ladder"), Elise Neal, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jason Genao, with a cameo from Ryan Reynolds (in a pre-film sequence, and last seen in "Woman in Gold").
RATING: 8 out of 10 f-bombs