2017, Action Movies, Based on Comic Book, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Damaged People, Evil Twins, Fugitives, Killers, Marvel Comics, Mutants!, Super Powers, Superheroes, X-Men 0
Cinema Knife Fight Presents:
Review by L.L. Soares & Michael Arruda
(THE SCENE: A bar in the middle of the desert. The big neon sign reads OASIS. L.L. SOARES is at the bar, tossing back shots, when MICHAEL ARRUDA comes in and sits next to him)
LS: You made it. I thought you wouldn’t show.
MA: So why did you have me drive all the way over here just to review a movie?
LS: Why not? (To Bartender) More tequila. Hell, bring the whole bottle, and a glass for my friend.
MA: Maybe we should wait until we’re done.
LS: Nonsense! Want me to begin?
LS: This week’s movie is none other than LOGAN (2017), the third solo movie featuring Hugh Jackman as the X-Man Wolverine, and easily the best of the bunch. That’s pretty easy, actually since his first solo outing, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009), was one of the worst X-Men related movies of all time. Directed by Gavin Hood, it told Wolverine’s origin story, naturally. You could tell it was going to be awful when the character of Deadpool is rendered mute early on (and, surprisingly, he was played by Ryan Reynolds back then, too!). Deadpool without the gift of speech? That’s a sign of supreme idiocy right there. But yeah, it was awful from beginning to end. One of the few good things about it was that it had Liev Schreiber as Wolverine’s arch-enemy Sabretooth in it. (to MA) Would have been nice to see ol’ Sabretooth in this one.
MA: And I’m one of the few people who actually enjoyed X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.
LS: That doesn’t surprise me! Your taste is deplorable.
MA: I thought it was entertaining, and unlike fans of the comics, I wasn’t miffed that certain things were changed in this movie from the comics. That being said, I do agree with you that LOGAN is the best of the three solo Wolverine movies.
LS: The first sequel, THE WOLVERINE (2013), had director James Mangold taking over the series and took place in Japan, to tell the story of Logan’s romance with Mariko (Tao Okamoto). It had its flaws, the most obvious of which was a boring villain (a common occurrence in Marvel movies for some reason), but it was a huge step up from ORIGINS.
Mangold takes the helm again in LOGAN, but there are a few differences this time. First off, the movie is rated R for violence and language, which is a big deal. Why? Because Logan/Wolverine was a hardcore killer earlier in his life before he became a “superhero,” and his weapon of choice is razor-sharp adamantium claws. PG-13 language and bloodless deaths just don’t “cut” it. Whether or not LOGAN was originally going to go for a PG-13 rating, too (producer Simon Kinberg said in an interview that it was going to be R all along), the R-rated superhero movie DEADPOOL (2016) proved you could do an R-rated superhero flick and still make money. So I’m sure that helped.
MA: Yes, I would think so. I mean, I bet if DEADPOOL hadn’t been a hit, we wouldn’t see this version LOGAN.
There’s a lot of language here, as well as more graphic violence.
LS: As well it should be. Claws tearing through human flesh is never pretty. (Thinks about it). Actually, it kinda is pretty.
(IRON MAN enters the bar and sits at the other end)
IRON MAN (to bartender): I’ll have a quart of oil. Premium.
BARTENDER: You’re going to drink that?
IRON MAN: No silly, I need to oil my joints. Getting a little stiff in this metal suit. And bring me a bottle of your best Scotch. I’ve got a drinking problem I’ve got to attend to.
MA: Hey, Iron Man, how are you doing?
LS: Yeah, how’s it hangin’?
IRON MAN: Great, great. Now can you two jerks leave me alone and let me drink in peace?
(BARTENDER brings a bottle, a glass, a straw).
LS: That’s guy’s kinda rude. Maybe we should teach him some manners.
MA: We should? You must be drunk. He’s Iron Man. We’re a couple of movie critics. He’d mop the floor with us.
LS: Yeah, I guess so.
MA: Then again, we are Cinema Knife Fighters.
LS: Damn straight we are!
(IRON MAN glares at them.)
MA: —Who love reviewing movies, so let’s get back to doing that which we enjoy so much.
(LS tosses back another shot.)
MA: I was talking about the review.
LS: Sure. Let’s get back to the review.
The storyline for this one was inspired by the Mark Millar storyline OLD MAN LOGAN from the comics, where an older Wolverine lives in a future where his mutant healing power (like Deadpool, he was able to heal from wounds almost immediately, of course) has weakened and he’s covered in scars (even popping his claws out of the backs of his hands causes wounds that don’t heal well). He’s also aged. The thought being in the movie that the metal, adamantium, that encases his bones has also been poisoning him for years.
MA: I enjoyed this plot point.
LS: Yeah, it adds some pathos to the story. He’s not the old invulnerable Wolverine we know and love. He’s fallen on hard times.
I wish the movie had stuck closer to the OLD MAN LOGAN storyline, but it involves some characters that are owned by Marvel (Hawkeye and the Hulk, to name just two) and the X-Men and Wolverine movies are still being made by Twentieth Century Fox. So, aside from the old and weakened Wolverine, the story is different, but still pretty interesting.
It’s 2024, and Logan is one of the few mutants left on earth. Most of them have been wiped out. He makes a living as a chauffeur and has to deal with a lot of rich morons, but it pays the bills. And he’s taking care of ol’ Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, great in everything from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, 1987 – 1994, to several of the X-MEN movies, to stuff like GREEN ROOM, 2015) in an abandoned building on the other side of the Mexican border. I didn’t see any sign of Donald Trump’s wall, by the way. Poor Xavier is going senile and has seizures. And when you have the most powerful telepathic/telekinetic mind on the planet, those seizures can cause some real damage.
Also around to help take care of the Professor is the mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant, co-creator of the British version of THE OFFICE, 2001 – 2003, and an actor in stuff like the HBO shows EXTRAS, 2005 – 2007, and HELLO LADIES, 2013 – 2014). Caliban is an albino and formerly belonged to a group of underground-living outcasts called the Morlocks, and he can sense other mutants, which becomes important later.
They live a pretty crappy life, but it’s all they’ve got, since they have to stay under the radar of people who might come after them.
Cue a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen)—also known as mutant X-23—who’s running away from some bad guys led by a dude named Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who has a cybernetic (bionic?) hand, and his gang of thugs called the Reavers.
When the girl shows up at the place where Logan and Professor X live, they have to protect her from the bad guys, and that’s pretty much the story. It leads to a road trip, to take Laura to a safe place, with the villains in pursuit.
Oh, and did I mention that Laura, like Wolverine, can pop out metal claws and fights like wildcat?
MA: Or a wolverine!
(THE HULK enters the bar, and sits next to IRON MAN)
IRON MAN: You had to come and ruin my alone time? What is it? Avengers business?
HULK: No, Hulk doesn’t like puny metal man. Hulk will smash.
IRON MAN: You came all the way here to tell me that?
(HULK wallops IRON MAN and sends him flying across the room, smashing a wall)
IRON MAN (gets up): Ohh, now you’re going to get it.
BARTENDER (waving a bat): You two asshole get out of here! How dare you smash up the joint!
IRON MAN: I’m sorry, mister. This hooligan followed me in here.
HULK: Hulk sorry.
IRON MAN: Let’s take this outside.
(IRON MAN’s boot rockets fire up and he grabs HULK and flies him outside, smashing another wall)
BARTENDER: Look at this mess! How can I afford to fix all this? AARGH! (Exits)
LS: I have to admit, I loved this movie from the first scene. Once Professor X is added to the equation, it just gets better. The chemistry between Jackman and Stewart is pretty terrific, and I loved their banter. I also really liked the idea that Professor X’s mind was failing him, and that Wolverine was losing his edge (physically, at least). And I liked that it was rated R and they could talk freely, naturally, without being censored. The first times these characters use the eff word just felt like a breath of fresh air.
MA: I agree.
This one drew me in right away with its opening scene of Wolverine dealing with a gang of thugs. In that very first sequence we are introduced to an aged Wolverine. In previous movies, Wolverine would have made short work of these men, but here, it’s a major struggle for him. It’s a cool scene, a neat way to open the film.
And I agree with you about the chemistry between Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. That was probably my favorite part of the movie, their banter. Stewart and Jackman are both terrific actors, and they really work well together.
The other thing that really works here is the age factor. It’s a bit sad, but definitely a lot more interesting, to watch these two characters, especially Professor X, nearing the end of their lives. And while, like the rest of the world, I’ve always enjoyed Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, his performance here is a step above his usual work, mostly because of the added element of the age factor.
LS: And the violence. There are lots of claws ripping through skin, popping through skulls, etc. And it’s wonderful.
MA: I wouldn’t call it wonderful—.
LS: I would!
MA: I know. You just did. But it is effective and fits in with the story being told here. I also thought it looked a bit more real here than in other R-rated action movies. Often the R rating means nothing more than the ability to show blood, and in this day and age, the blood is CGI -created and very fake looking. I thought the claws slicing through various body parts looked rather real here. I was impressed.
LS: James Mangold does a great job directing. This one totally makes up for the awful X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (that he didn’t direct) and the flawed THE WOLVERINE (which he did).
MA: I agree. I liked the way Mangold directed this one. There was a seriousness to it that set it apart from a lot of the other Marvel superhero flicks.
LS: Jackman is terrific, as he always is. He truly is the gold standard for casting superhero characters in the movies. Unfortunately, he and his character Wolverine have been in some pretty bad movies. This time, we get something much better. It’s been made clear that this is Jackman’s last time in the role, and while that’s depressing, it’s nice to see him get such a sweet-ass swan song.
MA: I wouldn’t call him the gold standard for superhero characters. I still prefer Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. And even Chris Evans as Captain America continually impresses me. I like Jackman as Wolverine, but he’s not the best.
(IRON MAN peers through a window.)
IRON MAN: Yes, I would say that I am the gold standard for superheroes.
(HULK pounds IRON MAN and sends him hurling away from window.)
HULK: Hulk smash gold standard!
LS: Stewart is note-perfect as Professor X, as well. We haven’t seen as much of him since the X-Men went younger in X-MEN FIRST CLASS (2011), and James McAvoy took over the role, and it was nice to have him back.
These are two really talented guys, and they make this movie a joy.
MA: I completely agree on this point. Stewart and Jackman are the best parts of LOGAN. And I agree that it was a lot of fun to see Patrick Stewart playing Professor X again. Speaking of gold standards, the character of Professor X has struck gold in these movies, as he is portrayed by two top-notch actors, Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy. You can’t go wrong with either portrayal.
LS: Dafne Keen as X-23/Laura is pretty terrific, too. It’s always risky when you have a major character played by a kid in these kinds of movies, but Keen plays Laura as a feral child, much like a young Logan would have been like. She reminded me of another child actor, Millie Bobby Brown, who was so great in last year’s Netflix series STRANGER THINGS. Both of them have a seriousness and world-weariness far beyond their years. Keen is pretty much perfect in the role as a kid who has the powers of an adult, and I liked her a lot here. Her only other role was on a Spanish TV series called THE REFUGEES (2015). It’s kind of ironic that the first R-rated Wolverine movie has such a strong focus on a child character (although Keen works). I can’t say as much for some of her other fellow lab rats.
MA: I agree with your comparison to Millie Bobby Brown in STRANGER THINGS, except that I enjoyed Brown’s performance as Eleven in STRANGER THINGS much better than Keen’s performance here. While I liked Keen, she didn’t blow me away. Part of it is the writing of the character. She doesn’t say a whole lot, and a bulk of her scenes are strictly action scenes where she’s helped out by some CGI effects. In terms of dialogue, Laura just isn’t all that interesting. Compared to a character like Eleven or even Hit Girl in the KICK-ASS movies, Laura is a bit less compelling.
LS: The supporting cast is good, too. I liked Stephen Merchant as Caliban. Boyd Holbrook is really good as Pierce. He was previously in the History Channel series HATFIELDS & MCCOYS (2012), and movies like OUT OF THE FURNACE (2013), GONE GIRL (2014), and A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (2014). He seemed to be channeling Tom Hardy or Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character from Tom Ford’s excellent NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (2016), and I liked him a lot. Holbrook is menacing and has real presence, but in the end, his character is just a glorified henchman.
MA: This is where I would disagree. The supporting cast didn’t impress me all that much. I thought Stephen Merchant was pretty blah as Caliban.
I liked Boyd Holbrook as Pierce, but ultimately, as you just said, he just becomes a glorified henchman. As the movie goes on, there’s less and less for him to do.
I remember Holbrook in OUT OF THE FURNACE, GONE GIRL, and A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, and he was very good in each of these movies. He’s good again here in LOGAN, but at the end of the day, his role as Pierce is pretty thankless.
LS: Pierce’s boss, who I guess is the real villain of the piece, is Dr. Rice, played by Richard E. Grant. And it’s another case of a totally lame-ass villain making a movie a lot weaker than it should have been.
As much as I enjoy the Marvel movies, you can pretty much bank on it that the villain in the film is going to be sub-par, which I find really puzzling. You’d think more effort would go into creating memorable villains in these movies, and as you have so often pointed out, there are a lot of cool villains from the Marvel comics that these movies just haven’t used. Weird.
LS: Don’t get me wrong, I like Richard E. Grant a lot, and he’s been in some great movies over the years, like WITHNAIL & I (1987), HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING (1989), HENRY & JUNE (1990), but his Dr. Rice is a complete letdown in the bad guy department. Why couldn’t a formidable Marvel villain have been behind it all?
MA: Again, I agree with you, although it sounds like you liked Richard E. Grant more than I did. His Dr. Rice pretty much put me to sleep.
LS: I like the actor, but not the role. He was boring. But I still liked this movie a lot, despite the weak bad guy. Until we got to the end, that is.
MA: Yeah, interesting that you should say that, because the ending was another part of this movie that I wasn’t crazy about. So, you didn’t like the ending either?
LS: Not the ending, per se. I loved the movie up until the last half hour or so, when everything great about it kind of came to a stop, and it became just another mediocre story.
MA: Yup. Agreed. It’s the last half hour, as opposed to the very ending of the movie.
LS: It’s like the movie runs out of gas and forgets to give us anything else new and exciting. It’s like a souped-up engine that is in perfect shape, and then it conks out toward the end. Which wouldn’t be as annoying if the first 90 minutes weren’t so damned good. So the script, by James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green has some pretty big highs, and some annoying lows.
So let’s see. It starts off great, gets even better, and then has a weak final act. The villain is lame (although his henchman rocks), and a surprise weapon later on left me kind of underwhelmed. I wanted to give this movie four knives, and there are whole chunks of it that totally deserve that rating, but because of those flaws, I have to give it three and a half knives, because it just doesn’t earn four by the time the end credits roll.
Oh, and by the way, don’t be a dummy like me and stay until the end of all the credits, waiting for an Easter egg scene like Marvel usually does. Because this isn’t a Marvel Studios film, and there’s no extra scene. So go home!
What did you think of it, Michael?
MA: I think I’m a dummy like you, because I stayed until the end of the credits as well, as did a lot of other people in the theater. Oh well.
Anyway, I enjoyed LOGAN as well, but liked it a little less than you.
For me, the high point of the story comes when Logan, Professor X, and Laura befriend a farming family and spend the night at their farmhouse. The ensuing action sequence is probably the most intense sequence of the movie. Up until that point, I’m with you, in that this film is firing on all cylinders. And then it just fizzles out.
The final act in terms of storytelling is a letdown, and nowhere near as compelling as first two-thirds of the movie. And this is where not having a formidable villain really hurts, because you don’t have that to fall back on. If you have a memorable villain, then you are locked in until the end because you are waiting for that final confrontation. Without the villain, you’re not really waiting for anything, other than for the movie to be over.
LOGAN runs for two hours and seventeen minutes, and it could have easily been about 20 minutes shorter. And for me, this was a big deal. LOGAN is flying along at high speeds and proving to be a very enjoyable experience, and then it just stops, and the final act pales in comparison to what came before it.
As such, I’m giving this one three knives.
LS: Yeah, it is too long. They could have cut out some of the lame parts.
That wraps things up. Let’s head on over to the next bar.
MA: Now that we’re done with our review, I don’t mind if I do.
(As they exit, IRON MAN & THE HULK crash through the wall of the bar and wrestle onto the floor.)
HULK: Hulk smash Iron Man!
IRON MAN: Iron Man is smashed, but not by the Hulk. Get off me, you green giant! I’ve got a party to go to!
© Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares & Michael Arruda
L.L. Soares gives LOGAN ~ three and a half knives!
Michael Arruda gives LOGAN ~ three knives.