Monday, March 13, 2017

Logan: My Feels Are NOT OKAY!


Two movies, two days, two movie reviews. Yesterday was an explosive funfest with Kong: Skull Island, and now I'm here to review Logan, the latest extension of the often quite tangled threads of the X-Men movie 'verse. Like last year's Deadpool, Logan is pretty damn different from all the other X-Men movies, to its benefit, and is not only among the best in the entire franchise, but also one of the best superhero movies of all. (Though you know it won't top either of the two Amazing Spider-Man movies for me, not those supremely underrated gems.) However, while Deadpool is a breath of fresh air and breezy summer sunshine in between all the gore and carpet cluster F-bombage and other adult content (not for nothing is Ryan Reynolds God's perfect idiot!), Logan is the moon to DP's sun, the night to its day. It's gritty, violent, and will make you cry buckets - and that's a promise.

For the final time, Hugh Jackman as the clawed wonder.

Every art form has its heyday, and that heyday has to eventually come to an end. Superhero movies, for instance, are all the rage now, much more so than they were ten years ago (though the real revolutionary game-changers like The Dark Knight and Iron Man had yet to come along in 2007.) One day, superhero movies will fade away, and some other filmmaking style will come into vogue. Logan proves that even in an increasingly grimdark world, this is not that day, even though this movie does get very, very dark and deadly as it explores themes of mortality, extinction, and uncertainty that the next generation will have anything worth inheriting.

Logan is set in a near-future (2029, to be precise) where mutants are starting to slowly die off, as it's said none have been born in 25 years, and those who are left are succumbing to the ravages of time. Professor Xavier, in his nineties, is afflicted with dementia, and suffers from seizures that cause devastating psychic explosions in a large radius around him. And as for our title character, played in one of Hugh Jackman's best performances ever, he's dying in spite of his virtual immortality from his healing factor - dying of adamantium poisoning, calling to mind shades of Iron Man 2 where the very thing that helped make Tony Stark a superhero was killing him. Unlike in IM2, however, there's no easy solution to Logan's illness - it's not a simple matter of upgrading his machinery, especially because those who have the expertise to do so most certainly cannot be trusted.

Such as those responsible for the creation of a new mutant, using Logan's DNA. (Ironically, the scenes in X-Men: Apocalypse focusing on Logan's imprisonment in Alkali Lake, which are most important for setting this movie up, were the most forgettable for me - completely unlike this movie.) Laura looks like a sweet, innocent little girl, but is really very dangerous, with top-notch martial arts skills and double claws, as well as spikes in her feet - all covered with adamantium too, so try not to think about how she'll eventually get poisoned to death by that metal unless she figures out a way to get her claws and spikes reinforced by some less harmful material.

Logan doesn't want to help her - he just wants to take himself and Xavier away from the world and live on a boat, which he's been wanting to buy from some guy down in Mexico. But because Laura is his daughter (even if she was basically test-tubed without his knowledge or consent), he reluctantly agrees to follow the suggestion of Gabriela, the nurse who set Laura free from a Transigen facility in Mexico (the descendant of Alkali Lake), and take Laura to a rumored safe haven for mutants in Canada, called Eden. Clues to Eden's location and existence are, unbelievably, hidden in vintage X-Men comics which Laura likes to read - a plot device that I'm frankly astonished the MCU didn't do first, and now if they so much as attempt to do so, they'll look like they're copycatting this movie instead.

As for copycatting (or, more accurately, homaging), Logan is pretty full of it too. Plot details in this movie borrow liberally from Real Steel (grim near-future featuring somewhat decayed tech from today, and of course Hugh Jackman's presence) and Mad Max (pretty much all the movies in this series, except perhaps The Road Warrior, but especially Fury Road with its extended mashup of road-movie and chase-movie story elements). I also noted some similarities to the early parts of Transformers: Age of Extinction (private army in big black gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs pursuing our heroes), the Divergent movies (particularly Insurgent with the scene where our heroes have to get past an oncoming train - and Logan, unbelievably, manages to weaponize that train beautifully), Maximum Ride (the lab full of genetically-engineered kids - and also Dark Angel with the near-future setting) and even 2012 (Logan's vehicle of choice in the early parts of the movie being a limo - which, incidentally, is a "'24 Chrysler" that looks like a bizarre mashup of a current 300 and a customized 70s sedan.)

There's a ton of action to go around, and also some flashes of humor (although most of this is saved for a Deadpool 2 teaser that plays right before the movie proper - get ready for Ryan Reynolds' bare ass plastered against a phone booth door!), but definitely a metric shit-ton of feels as well. That's because family is such an important part of this movie, and you're going to feel so much for the unconventional family of grandpa Xavier, daddy Logan, and daughter Laura. On some level, you'll relate to them all, or you'll have a family member of whom you'll be reminded by one of the above. Like Amazing Spider-Man, The Flash, or Big Hero 6, Logan is now my platinum standard for fictional feels - especially because the movie doesn't leave any breathing room in its conclusion. The ending is absolute devastation, with only the barest hint of a ray of sunlight at the end of the tunnel. You'll want to grasp that ray with all your might, and keep hold of all the tissues - you'll need them.

But don't worry - while the movie is powerfully sad and grim, remember that hope. Remember it when you think about how there's so much other grimdarkness in recent comic-book adaptations (think BvS, or The Walking Dead Season 7), but what sets Logan apart from those is its broad-spectrum emotional experience, rather than going for a bunch of nihilistic sound and fury signifying nothing.

And for me, I really loved this movie because of how much it must have influenced the Red Rain series even before I began writing those books. Looking back, I realize that Alex and Gabe, being produced from Elijah's stolen DNA, were made in a way not unlike Laura. And as for the future of the series...well, I've recently started work on Peppermint, the fifth novel, and thanks to this movie, I've managed to add a lot to my world-building for that book. For further details, stay tuned...but suffice it to say, the next chapter of Peppermint will include some of these Logan references, presented to my heroes - and my readers - in the mouth of a Hugh Jackman lookalike villain named Kristoff Scoville.

(Yes, I came up with the idea to name my villain after author Jay Kristoff while watching this movie. Judge me.)

Logan deservedly earns an A+ from me, and even against the more lighthearted likes of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, it's locked in as a shoo-in for this year's Pinecone Award film winners. It's that good, and that deserving of the $400+ million it's earned at the worldwide box office - so far.

Till next time, Pinecones...

Remember: Denis Leary is always watching. Always.


  1. Not really a superhero person, but once in a while, a movie comes around that I know I cannot miss - the Dark Knight series was one of them, and I feel like this might be another. I've heard nothing but fantastic things, but I guess my concern before watching it is whether I need to be familiar with the X-Men universe before I go watch this. Great review. :D

    1. It's a fairly standalone movie, with only a small handful of references to previous films, although those are more Easter eggs than anything else. It should still be very comprehensible to casual viewers. Hope you enjoy it! :)