Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Logan Is Both a Fitting Farewell for Hugh Jackman and a Pale Copy of Old Man Logan

First, if you haven't read the Old Man Logan comic, visit Arion's blog for a great summary of it.  It certainly helped me to remember what happened before I saw the movie.

As I said to Arion on that blog entry, Logan the movie basically only uses part of the title and the core concept of the comic book.  As kind of an FU to comic book writer Mark Millar, director James Mangold is the only one credited with the story.  Really James Mangold?  You came up with that all by yourself?  Are you sure you didn't get a little help somewhere?  Hmmm?

The core concept is that it's 2029 and Logan, aka Wolverine, and Charles Xavier, formerly the head of a school for mutants, are the only mutants left.  The rest were killed in "The Westchester Incident" that is never shown or really explained in detail.  Apparently that was going to be the first scene initially but then it was cut, probably for time and budget.  Xavier is in his 90s and suffers from dementia that he has to treat with pills or else he can send out psychic shockwaves that not only nearly kill people, but could also alert authorities to where they are.

Logan's planning to get enough money to buy a boat in Mexico and sail away with Professor X.  To do this he's driving a limo that in the first scene is nearly jacked until he slaughters some of the thieves.  Until Logan gets enough money, he and Xavier are living in secret by the Mexican border along with a former mutant tracker named Caliban, played by Stephen Marchant who I recently watched in Extras.  There is some indication that "the wall" has been built by this time.  But things start to go sour when Logan is contacted by a Mexican woman who wants him to drive her and a little girl to North Dakota so they can cross to Canada.

If Canada is a safe haven for mutants, why isn't Logan already there?  In the comics at least Wolverine is Canadian.  Xavier is British so you'd think he could get to Canada or back to England, right?

Anyway, bad guys track Logan down and so he, Xavier, and the girl hit the road to go to North Dakota.  It soon becomes clear the girl named Laura is a clone of Wolverine.  In the comics X-23 is a full grown woman but in this she's just a child.  She only has two claws on her hands instead of three like her daddy but to compensate she has a claw in each foot as well.  Xavier compares her to a lion because female lions use their front claws to attack and back to defend.  OK, sure, whatever.

They go to Oklahoma City to change cars and clothes and such, but the bad guys are soon on their tail again.  Eventually they come to the aid of a farmer (ER's Eriq la Salle--remember him?) and his family.  Of course the bad guys follow them there too.

All through this Logan is slowly dying because the adamantium that makes him so indestructible is also poisoning him and his healing factor can no longer compensate enough.  But as you might expect, he has enough left in the tank (with the help of some steroids) for one final showdown in North Dakota.  Unlike Christian Bale's Batman, Logan doesn't get to jet off to Italy with Anne Hathaway.  And it's a fitting way for him to go since he was always supposed to be like Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name and aging gunfighters usually go out in a blaze of glory, right?

As far as X-Men movies go it's one of the best.  It's not nearly so stupid as the recent big ones and has an actual point to it, unlike The Wolverine.  The R rating allows it to have a more appropriate amount of blood and gore and also lets Patrick Stewart curse hilariously; this is probably his best performance of the X-Men movies, probably because he does more than use Cerebro and chat with Magneto.  He gets to have a little more range, and less so does Hugh Jackman.

I remember the late Roger Ebert criticizing Kick-Ass for 12-year-old Hit Girl beating people up and getting beat up in turn.  He'd probably be mortified with the body count Laura generates and the times she's beaten up and even harpooned through the chest once.

Anyway, on its own it's a decent movie.  But it really is a pale imitation of the Old Man Logan comic.  For one thing, since it was a comic book they could use the whole stable of Marvel characters, something rights issues between Disney and Fox would obviously prevent here.

The setup for the story is a lot different.  50 years after all the heroes have died or gone into hiding, Wolverine owns a farm and has a wife and kids.  His landlord is the Hulk and his creepy redneck sons, who insist Logan pay them rent or some bad shit's going to happen.

Then along comes Hawkeye, formerly of the Avengers, who's old and blind yet still able to drive the Spider-Mobile across the country.  He wants Logan's help to deliver something to "the resistance" to maybe save the world or something.  Logan has taken a vow against violence to the point he hasn't "popped his claws" in 50 years but he agrees to go so he can make money to save the family farm.

In the movie Xavier is the stand-in for both the family and Hawkeye.  In a way it makes sense as who else from Fox's roster would they get:  Mystique?  Jean Grey?  Cyclops?  Rogue?  Storm?  Actually I was thinking a great choice, though it would have altered the tone dramatically, would have been Deadpool.  He's got a healing factor like Wolverine and obviously kicks a lot of ass too.  But I guess then instead of a sort of Western it would have ended up as a more of a buddy comedy.  If they had cast Cable sooner he would have been a good choice too as it would then give him a reason to go back in time and hook up with Deadpool.

Anyway, in the comics they go through a few places where heroes died like "Hammer Falls" where Thor's hammer lies and "Pym Falls" where Giant-Man's skeleton lies.  They ultimately go to Washington DC, where the Red Skull has taken up residence in the White House and has superhero artifacts on display like Captain America's shield and Iron Man's armor.  By contrast going to an Oklahoma casino and a farm and North Dakota don't seem nearly so epic.

The problem is thanks to licensing and budgets and such this can't be as universe-spanning as the comic book.  But I think they lost something by Logan not having a family and not taking a vow to not kill because that really made it more important when he did finally decide to kill.  But then there wouldn't have been nearly the body count, right?

It's not quite as disappointing as watching "Flashpoint" on CW's The Flash and comparing it to the Flashpoint comic.  That barely managed to retain the core concept; it was such a pale imitation it couldn't see its own reflection in a mirror.  This does a better job but still leaves you longing if you've read the comics, which I'd recommend.

This whole thing gave me an idea for a more epic Logan movie that I'll share (and no one will read) on Friday.

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