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Logan is the Rare Superhero Film that Deals with Finality

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*Warning: This article contains full spoilers for the film Logan*

There is a famous line in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen that could be used to describe the world of superhero comics as well as the Disney golden goose/juggernaut that is “Nothing ever ends.” As long as the books are selling, the TV shows are getting decent ratings, and the movies make back their budgets, there will always be stories about Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, whatever mediocre white male Marvel Studios decides to make a movie about, and yes, the X-Men. But whether it’s due to Hugh Jackman or Patrick Stewart’s contracts, a burst of creativity on the part of writers Scott Frank, Michael Green, and co-writer/director James MangoldLogan decides to end the character of Wolverine on its own terms with no reboot or recasting in sight.

In its plot, influences, and setting, Logan is a departure from X-Men and superhero films. The story follows Logan, who reluctantly agrees to drive Charles Xavier and a new mutant Laura aka X-23 (Dafne Keen) to Eden, a place in North Dakota where the last mutants are supposedly hiding out. Logan is skeptical about this land’s existence. In a bit of a family twist, it’s revealed that Laura was created from Logan’s DNA and has his claws, healing factor, and rage. Logan is a dystopian western/road trip movie as Logan a beautiful combination of Cormac McCarthy’s novels The Road and No Country for Old Men if Sheriff Bell (Played by Tommy Lee Jones in the Coen Bros film adaptation.) was the one taking the road trip with a child that he had a strained relationship with. And the Reavers definitely fall into the Anton Chigurh school of villainy driven on by relentless evil and a desire to hinder Logan at every turn even when he’s just minding his own business and being a chauffeur.

From its tense cold open where Logan fights some Latino men on the Texas/Mexico border, Mangold, Jackman, and cinematographer John Mathieson give us a front seat to his mortality. There are the hacks and slashes that are his signature, but it comes after he gets his ass kicked a few times and takes some wounds to his chest. Logan is still a skilled fighter, but you can see him wince in pain as he takes shotgun shells to the chest, and throughout the film, it’s obvious that he’s trying to avoid getting shot using throws and holds instead of just charging at his foes berserker style. (Although, Logan does give into his animal nature several times in the film, especially when fighting his conscience-less clone X-24.)

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Unlike The Wolverine where Logan losing his healing factor was a plot device to be reset at the end so he could go on more adventures with the X-Men, it’s a terminal condition as the adamantium on his bones is beginning to poison him. Jackman’s body is a canvas of pain and suffering, and there are many shots of him turning to whiskey, pills, and later a kind of superhuman steroids to get his deteriorating body to function. He, Charles Xavier, and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are living in the physical equivalent of death’s door in an old smelting plant in Mexico where Logan works as basically Uber driver and hauls around hard partying, jingoistic young people to have enough money to get pills to suppress Xavier’s telepathy. As it’s revealed later in the film,  the former Professor X has a degenerative brain disorder that leads to seizures and can kill both humans and mutants. Logan doesn’t want him to hurt anyone else so he has him in isolation, and a very honest Xavier remarks that he’s just waiting for him to die. The dream is dead, there are no X-Men or superheroes, and he and Logan are just trying to save enough of money so they can float away on a boat and be free. They are the living dead and only spoken of in hushed tones like urban myths, or in the colorful, nostalgic pages of in-universe X-Men comics.

Yes, Logan is the cinematic equivalent of staring into the abyss for two and a half hours as Mangold comes to terms with the lives that Logan has taken and mirrors his violence and savagery in the young girl Laura. Laura’s big introduction is when she takes out a group of Reavers, who have attacked Logan and Xavier’s compound. Most of the action takes place off camera and is signified by her walking out carrying a man’s head before a whip quick pan shows her launching an attack on the remaining Reavers. Unlike Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, this and countless other instances of violence involving Laura aren’t played for dark humor, but for tragedy.

One thing that I particularly enjoyed about Logan compared to a lot of superhero films was that it gave its characters a chance to breathe, emote, and interact instead of rushing through the equivalent of trailers for other films or using big gestures like kisses or near death experiences to “develop” characters. So, its best sequence isn’t an epic desert/barb wire fence car chase that is even cooler than the one in Batman Begins, but Xavier, Laura, and Logan sharing a family meal with the Munsons, a family that they helped out on their way to Eden. Xavier confesses to X-24 (Who he thinks is Logan) that this is the best night he’s had in a while and a vision of what a normal family life is like before he is brutally gutted by a man, who he thought was his friend. There have been scenes where Xavier is trying to acclimate Laura to because this is an incredibly depressing film.

Instead of bringing back Sabretooth, William Stryker, or another villain from the Wolverine comics, Mangold has Logan fight himself (Or technically his soulless clone) in the film. Evil clones are kind of a gimmick, but through the sheer brutality of the combat and Jackman’s unhinged performance as X-24, their fights come across as a world-weary man trying to exorcise demons, murder the savage part of himself, and find some peace before he dies. Logan truly goes through some Passion of the Christ worthy physical torment, and Mangold and the visual effects don’t hold back from showing his gaping wounds as he struggles to drive the last few miles to Eden, and medical experts say he’s dying. To draw a connection to the Hebrew Bible, Logan, like Moses, could see the Promised Land, but he can’t live in it.

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Other than the incredibly sad funeral sequence where one of the kids holds a Wolverine action figure and Laura turns the wooden cross on his grave sideways to make an “X”, the scene where Laura pushes a semi-comatose Logan to the side and drives both of them to Eden is real moment where Logan comes to terms with its finality. It parallels a scene early in X-Men where Logan is the one driving a young mutant named Rogue to safety except now the young mutant, Laura, has his life in her hands. It’s a really passing of the baton moment, and Laura even becomes the badass loner with the dark past of the group of new mutants brooding off to the side while her new friends eat by the camp fire. This is very much like Wolverine’s role in the first X-Men movie.

Logan is dead, and the Wolverine with him as he passes the torch of hope and heroism despite great odds and a messed up past to Laura and the young mutants of Eden. And along the way James Mangold redeems the adamantium bullet that made everyone snicker in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Early, in the film, it’s the symbol of Logan’s suicidal ideation when Laura finds out that he carries it an and a single shot revolver to kill himself when the time comes. However, Laura ends up using the bullet to kill X-24 defeating the murderous animal inside Wolverine and only leaving the noble, flawed man Logan to die a mortal death from his wounds. Mangold, Jackman, and Keen create something beautiful from the carcass of a terrible film and let Logan find a small measure of redemption before he passes away.

And this is why Logan is such a fantastic film. It has real life and death stakes and not in the Iron Man passes out for five seconds after going into space before being okay way. James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green aren’t afraid to grapple with the pain of taking a life and the bitter tang of morality, and it does it all in the thrilling, poetic skin of a Western cyborg film. It’s the sad, savage, and soulful superhero film that I’ve been waiting for.

Movie Review: Deadpool

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After many years of being stuck in the movie production limbo, Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller’s Deadpool is finally out, doing right by the character. Not only is the film extremely fun but it is also makes you care about the characters. With the impressive and ingenious marketing campaign that it has, Deadpool placed high expectations on itself, and it delivers.

Deadpool follows Wade Wilson, a mercenary that falls for a girl, who is ironically a stripper. However, he’s later diagnosed with cancer in most of his body and is contacted by a person who claims he can heal him, and do even more — give him abilities people usually don’t have. Left with no choice, he goes to a not so hygienic laboratory where he is painfully transformed into Deadpool. Nevertheless, being a superhero doesn’t come without shortcomings for him: he can regenerate faster than wolverine but his outside appearance is ‘haunting’ and there is one person who is to blame.

Ryan Reynolds grasps the very essence of the character and brings the Merc with the Mouth from the pages of the comicbook to the screen with an outstanding performance. Although he constantly tells sarcastic jokes and throws one-liners left and right, rarely is one not laughing when expected. Yet there’s more to him, a humane part that loves a certain girl and is willing to do anything to protect her.

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Vanessa is the abovementioned love interest and is played by Morena Baccarin. She was perfectly casted for the role and is great at it. After playing a more or less uninteresting character in Homeland, the actress loses herself in the role and is the reason I appreciate the producers. Every so often nowadays, we get models to play the ‘hot’ roles and rarely do they turn out to be good so going with Morena was a great choice. Her character is not a Mary Sue and is definitely not a damsel in distress.

The two make an adorable couple and form a romance that is relatable and believable. Neither is perfect, but they are wonderful together and are the biggest standout of the film apart from the sense of humour. It’s a breath of fresh air for comicbook movies where romances don’t really work well.

The antagonist is Ajax (Ed Skrein) and he’s great in his role of the ‘British bad guy’. Considering he was the only enjoyable thing in the latest Transporter, Ed delivers a believable performance.

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The plot seems a bit convoluted by the time the film finally chooses if it will continue to develop with flashbacks or continue with a linear narrative but by the end (almost) everything is crystal clear. For me, both worked ways of telling the story worked.

What appealed for me was the amount of actually funny lines and laughable jokes that are present. With most comedies lately we have things thrown in just for mere shock value that are just gross and extremely unfunny (looking at you Dirty Grandpa!).

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Deadpool is an extremely violent film that goes all the way. It really shows the maing fault with PG-13 movies. Namely, the lack of blood; when the antihero shoots someone, there is actual blood. However mind-blowing may have the first 20 minutes been, I do find that some of the action is a tad too quick-cut, especially the sequence in the car.

For all the controversy around the sex and nudity about in this film, there is not too much of that. Sure, there is a sex-montage and a few strip club scenes but is nothing too excessive or gratuitous.

There was one thing I am not completely sold on. The ending is a bit generic and predictable, which is not that big of a deal when taking into account there are only so many ways you can have a final showdown. Yet, something remained unsolved that, if there were not going to be a sequel, it would have been disappointing. Fortunately, we can hope that everything will be resolved whenever the sequel comes out.

With opening credits so spectacular perfectly setting the tone of the movie, there is no denying this film is made with an abundant amount of love. The on screen and behind the camera talent does a fine job adaption one of the most popular antiheroes Marvel has. With tons of comedy, intriguing romance and phenomenal soundtrack, Deadpool is a genre-bending film that is so meta it is one extravagant piece of art.

9-out-of-10

This review was originally posted The Arts Lover.

What Could Be Expected in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

After its initial success with Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and Thor, Marvel Studios quickly realized that it had a formula for success on its hands and seemed ready to take advantage of it.  To do so though required a plan, and studio head Kevin Feige soon had broken down the movies into various phases, with the most recent Ant-Man signaling the end of phase 2.  Aside from the developments inside the movies, there have been some developments outside the movies which have affected the universe as well, chief among those the partial reversion of the rights to Spider-Man back to Marvel, or at least the use of Spider-Man inside the shared universe in a collaboration with Sony.

At the moment, we kn ow the entire lineup for phase 3, starting with Captain America: Civil War and continuing through two new Avengers movies and the Inhumans.  What might be expected in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  The release of the newest Fantastic Four might signal some of the changes which we can anticipate ahead (there are some spoilers below).

Ant-Man and Wasp

waspMany expected Ant-Man to be one of the bigger disappointments thus far in the MCU, due to its ongoing problems with the direction, after it passed from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed.  It seemed as though the studio was not going to take any risks with the character as they could not even confirm his role in any future movies.  This presumably will all change now that the movie has been released.  Although it can’t compare to the financial success of the year’s other Marvel movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, it also is noteworthy as being a better critical success, with a better rating at Rotten Tomatoes than Avengers.  With both financial and critical success it seems as though there will be more to come from these characters.  As was hinted at the end of the movie, there is still a lot of story left to tell as well, as the end hinted that Janet van Dyne might not be truly lost.  Furthermore Hope van Dyne was presented with a Wasp suit by her father.  There could be a lot of places to take the story of the two heroes, though one in particular might make the most sense …

Micronauts

micronautsThe Micronauts are a bit of an oddity in comics.  They started out as a line of toys, who were written into comics after in the 1970s after Marvel writer Bill Mantlo saw his son open a box of the toys.  The series started as somewhat of a standalone, but slowly was incorporated into the Marvel Universe, with appearances by some other mainstream characters.  While the rights for the characters do not presently rest with Marvel, there is a long publication history with the characters and as the rights rest with other smaller comic companies, it would likely not be too difficult to reacquire the rights.  Furthermore for the film studio that might try to replicate the runaway success of Guardians of the Galaxy, they might look smaller instead of bigger and find their next surprise hit there.  There would be some hurdles, but also there might be a few benefits, as Janet van Dyne disappeared into the smallest dimension, the Microverse.  This small universe is not in itself small, but the pathways to enter it are, and could give an explanation as to where the character disappeared.  They might find Janet in the Microverse, but they might also be able to find some other heroes there as well…

Fantastic Four

fantastic fourThe Fantastic Four is one of the best known Marvel properties that does not lie within the company’s grasp at the moment, instead being controlled by Fox.  While Fox has managed to control the X-Men franchise strongly enough with some decent movies, the Fantastic Four has mostly been a sequence of failures.  The first of the series was good enough to warrant a sequel, but this was before the wake of Marvel movies changed how fans expected superhero movies to turn out.  Marvel Studios was looking to be innovative, not just rehash generic action/sci-fi plots with superheroes thrown in.  The most recent attempt by Fox to revamp the Fantastic Four might have been an attempt to do the same, to get some new excitement into the mix, but it evidently did not turn out that way.  Critical response (and probably financial) will mean that the characters will have to be shelved for a while before the public has forgotten enough about them.  Using the Sony/Spider-Man approach, lending the characters back to Marvel Studios might be a wiser choice, one that would probably make more money for both, and one which would keep the fans happy.  By this point though, with two origin movies behind them, it might make sense to jump straight into the Fantastic Four with them already established as heroes.  They could exist in a similar sense to Hank Pym in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unknown but still present.  More so, one of the places that is visited by the Fantastic Four is the Microverse, and if they were stuck there then it would be an easy bridge between Ant-Man and the return of Marvel’s first family.

Namor

namorIt is not entirely clear where the rights to Namor presently rest.  Kevin Feige has indicated that Marvel, if they desired, could make a Namor movie, but that there would be some “entanglements”.  Rights to the movie have rested with Universal, but seem to have at least partially lapsed.  What remains is speculated to be the same arrangement with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, that Marvel creates but Universal distributes.  While it was not a problem when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still nascent, it seems moving forward that Marvel likes to create and distribute, and to get rewarded financially at 100% for its efforts.  It might make exceptions for Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four but maybe less so for Namor.  Another factor to consider is what DC Comics will manage to do with its own movies.  The other of the big two comic companies is playing catchup, but also has the benefit of controlling the movie rights to nearly all of its characters.  They have already greenlit an Aquaman movie, but it remains to be seen just how well it will do.  Aquaman is after all a hero that is taken not so seriously in pop culture, but if DC can make it work, maybe it will give Marvel second thoughts about its own underwater hero.

Thunderbolts

thunderboltsThe fact that DC Comics is playing catchup in the movie game can also be to the advantage of Marvel.  Marvel has already taken its gambles and seen those pay off, as with Guardians of the Galaxy.  DC Comics, who are eager to catch up, are also taking their own gambles, and chief among those is the Suicide Squad.  Featuring a group of villains forced into a heroic role, it might catch on, or it might flop.  Fans certainly will not be very familiar with the concept, and the concept in itself is strange enough that it might not work.  On the other hand, it might work, and if yes then it could serve as a gamble that Marvel gets to witness the results of without gambling anything itself.  If popular it could use its own villain-turned-heroes team the Thunderbolts and catch the wave of people wanting more Suicide Squad before a sequel to the DC movie comes out.  If played right as well it could help quieten those that think that the MCU’s villains are the weakest part of the movies.

Defenders

defendersMarvel is already a long way along in its development of the Doctor Strange movie, and holds the exclusive rights to the Hulk as long as he is not the featured character in a movie.  A Namor movie could be forthcoming depending on the success of Aquaman, and if Fox sees the benefits of doing so, a collaboration might be in the works to return the Fantastic Four and associated characters to the MCU, which would include the Silver Surfer.  Those four make up the original four members of the Defenders.  For those that are getting a bit tired of seeing the Avengers over and over again on the big screen, it might be an excuse to feature this other Marvel team (although Marvel is working on a street level Defenders television show as well.)  One interesting aspect about this team is that as opposed to the Avengers that the original team is made up of all non-street level characters, meaning that the stakes could be higher and that bigger things might happen as a result, such as …

World War Hulk

wwhThis has been a long rumored development in the MCU, but also not one that has not yet come to fruition.  Marvel has been careful to include in story arcs from the comics, and it has made for some great connections for fans of both mediums.  Although World War Hulk is not necessarily the best all time Hulk story, it is up there, and would be a better vehicle for putting a new spin on the Hulk stories, more so than what we are seeing at the movies, with both Hulk movies fitting the same general pattern of the Hulk being hunted by the government after smashing up a bunch of stuff.  It would also allow the character to move beyond the Avengers, which is a connection that is not as strong in the comics.  Also if all the pieces fell into place, it would mean that a lot of the major players from the crossover might be able to make it into the movie, save for the X-Men.

Hawkeye

kateRumors abound that another major character will die in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War (especially that there are pictures from the set of a funeral sequence), and without any other way to verify this other than by seeing a movie that will not be released until 2016, it still seems likely that one of the characters that might be easiest to kill off would be Hawkeye.  He is among the less popular of the main characters in the MCU, and has been almost a footnote to the movies series, appearing to provide fans with another superhero, but also one that doesn’t really do much.  Even if he does not die in the movie, it is also worth noting that the character is one which is on the verge of retirement, being somewhat older than the other heroes and with responsibilities to his family.  This could leave open the possibility for a Hawkeye movie except not as we might expect.  As the movies expand in popularity it makes sense to be closer to four quadrant movies, and one way to do this is to introduce more female characters.  If Clint Barton were to retire on screen, it could open the door for Kate Bishop to step up, providing the MCU with another superheroine, and one with a lot more of an edge than Clint.

She-Hulk and Spider-Woman

shehulkOn that same note, if Marvel is looking to keep its female fans happy it might look to develop these characters as well.  Most of the main Marvel superheroines would be tied up elsewhere, with most of the major heroines being members of the X-Men, and other such as Sue Storm or Medusa mostly only operating as parts of teams.  Others such as Elektra and even Hellcat are tied to the television series, which mean that only a few major female characters would be left to get the big screen treatment.  She-Hulk and Spider-Woman could both be strong contenders to hold down their own movie, especially if Marvel did something unexpected and went off the script with the Spider-Gwen version of Spider-Woman.  It would also help to fill the ranks of the Avengers, a team which needs to be mixed up a bit from time to time to keep the roster fresh and the fans intrigued.

Ka-Zar

tigraKa-Zar is one of the longest running Marvel characters, but also one that has not had a very solid fanbase in modern years, although unquestionably popular among many.  Although Marvel is keen on taking risks, could it make the Savage Land work the same as it made Guardians of the Galaxy work?  The Savage Land is the source of many stories within the Marvel Universe, though most of them with the X-Men.  Why might the MCU be interested in the Savage Land?  It is a fantasy setting, and while it does not match up with other heroes, could still serve as an explanation for the re-appearance of some characters who also happen to be Avengers – Hercules, Tigra or even the Black Knight.  It might be a stretch, but Marvel will be looking for new blood for its Avengers as it moves forward, as is evident from the new roster after Age of Ultron.  Tigra especially might be interesting, as she not only is her own character, but is also indirectly responsible for the development of Hellcat, whose non-superpowered version is already set to be introduced in the Marvel television show Jessica Jones.

Iron Man 4

iron manThis is perhaps the biggest question to solve in phase 4.  A big part of what made the MCU so popular is that it based its hopes on the initial movie, Iron Man.  If this movie had failed so too would the plans for the shared universe.  Success would probably have still come the way of the studio, but it would have been a longer road.  Part of the runaway success of the original Iron Man was that Robert Downey Jr. was perfectly cast as Tony Stark, what some might say is not even really acting as he seems to be mostly playing himself.  That having been said, superheroes never really age but actors and actresses do.  While the studio can get a few more years out of Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson (all in their early to mid 30s), and even a lot more out of Paul Bettany (whose character the Vision wears so much makeup as to be ageless) and Elizabeth Olsen (who is in her mid 20s), it can probably expect less out of Robert Downey Jr, who is now 50.  They might push him for a couple more movies, but eventually he will need to be replaced, and the biggest question would then be by who, as the character is one that is of highest importance to the MCU.  There might be no bigger question heading forward in the MCU than who will fill this role.