Posts tagged “X-Men

Logan (2017)


Now this is a rarity, a review of a superhero film. Previously I’ve seen a few superhero films, I could give a list – mainly X-Men, as I grew up with the cartoon as a child. Only a few months ago I caught Deadpool (2016), yes I’m a bit slower when it comes to the costumed characters. When I heard this film in the same breath of the Western I was more interested in seeing Logan (2017) billed as being Hugh Jackman‘s final outing as the angry clawed loner. Also to be the first and possibly worthy film for the character – which I can’t really comment on.

I can however draw on my understanding of the Western in relation to Logan, which will take up the majority of my time here. So let’s get under, saddle up and ride on out. Or in Logan/James Hewlett (Jackman) is a limo driver in the year 2029, living in Mexico. He is clearly tired and ravaged by time, the years haven’t been good to him. The once virile mutant filled with rage really doesn’t want to get into fight, he’s become reluctant to draw out the adamantium that have become more of a curse than before. The feeling of immortality has long faded, age and time is catching up with him. Much like in The Gunfighter (1950) – Johnny Ringo (Gregory Peck) who wants to lay down his gun, tired of killing and running, wanting a normal life. His celebrity has long-lost it’s appeal, now a target for young wannabe’s hungry for that trophy and title “I shot Johnny Ringo”. Wolverine/Logan is our gunfighter who has gone into hiding, nursing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) whose suffering with dementia, needing medication to keep him lucid. Any drop in dosage can unleashed his now uncontrolled mental abilities can be felt on an almost planetary scale – it’s just not worth thinking about.

So if Logan is the gunfighter, Xavier is the elderly parent who once took him under his wing, brought him up to be the man he hoped to be like. It would be wrong to compare Xavier to a Walter Brennan character who acted as the older sidekick whose life experience’s are shared with our hero. We also have a mutant tracker, an albino Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is the unwitting sidekick who keeps both in check. We have the first of our principal characters in place now.

The film begins as it means go on, setting the tone, its hard language and bloody violence, not through Logan wanting to deliver it. Coming from a place of self-defense of self-preservation, showing that there is a place for violence in the comic book universe beyond imaginary buildings and cities being blown up in a computer. The violence leaves little to the imagination, even quick editing we are still left feel slightly queasy at the body parts being cut into and off into multiple victims throughout the film. It’s also the first time that I’ve heard Stewart swearing and as coarsely. I’m reminded of Unforgiven (1992) that sees violence rise from the embers of once prolific gunfighter William Munny (Clint Eastwood,) who picks his gun up hopefully for the last time, a big pay off that will support his family. Turning back to an old undisturbed part of his life, thought to be tamed by his dead wife. What we see is a resurgence in those aggressive emotions, the death of his friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) a line has been crossed, up to this point he’s been rusty with his rifle, not able to mount a horse without assistance, a shadow of his former self. Logan is Munny just with a adamantium skeleton – no need for the rifle here.

The films director (James Mangold) has been pretty blatant in his sources of inspiration – namely Shane (1953), the titular gunfighter played by Alan Ladd who enters into civilisation if only briefly to free a town from the strangle hold of Ryker (Emile Meyer) threatening the homesteaders who were trying to make a life for themselves. Then there’s the annoying kid Joey Starrett (Brandon De Wilde) who looked up and adored the man with a gun, who could handle it with such finesse and skill it put his own father Joe Starrett (Van Heflin) to shame, he was not the man who he wanted to look up to. That was something he had to learn and accept. The acts of violence that Shane commits are held back to the end of the film, allowing us to see this strong stoic figure who only shoots when he really needs to. This skill is more than just that, it’s a form of defense that stops him functioning in society. He ultimately has to ride on away from the homesteaders who have chosen a peaceful life. The link’s seen in a few scenes Logan, we see it literally on TV, supposed to be nearly 100 years old (76 years, but whose counting). Showing that it still hows the power to hold the attention of an audience. The scenes carefully chosen to include Shane.

Our Shane is clearly Logan whose followed by his own kid (spoiler!!) a young Mexican girl – Laura (Dafne Keen) herself on the run from an army of men and mutant who want to capture her. Her own existence is very similar to Logan’s, through no fault of her own plagued by this mutation that has been engineered, thanks to mad scientist – Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant), a connection to the X-Men cannon. One of a new generation who are on the run, the gunfighter of the Marvel universe start even younger. No need for guns, they were born with their own gifts (if you can call them that.

Away from the Western connections and themes we have that of family, having only Xavier and Caliban as Logan’s family, its dysfunctional, a father figure who has become the receiver of care. Family isn’t something that comes naturally to him, the violence in him does not allow it to really happen. All he’s ever had has either left him or been killed. With the unwanted arrival of Laura his world starts to change, his perspective on life, he softens up towards the end if only reluctantly. She also acts as a way of the character carrying on in future films and the wider Marvel comic universe which I know little about. Here she’s just a child, but one with more than her share of issues to conquer in order to function. The baton’s passed here as characters die, passing them onto new ones.

I’ll end where I began, I’ll probably never again review another comic book film, this however spoke to me, my passions, the ideas in the western are very strong. You could say the comic book super hero is just another gunfighter, their adventures chronicled in the pulp that made them. The dime novels of the 1800’s did the same for Buffalo Bill and Jesse James and numerous others, the legends were being printed, the truth being blurred with each publication, which is referenced also in the film with a subtle self-awareness that doesn’t take you out of the film. You could say it’s a Western, just with an angry guy you don’t want to cross.

 

 


Chronicle (2012)


chronicle-2012Now I must correct myself, I previously said in an old review for Super 8 (2011) that I remember the trailer, clearly after seeing Chronicle (2012) that is all rubbish, it was for this film which doesn’t try to be a Steven Spielberg homage, instead this is something much more interesting in its own right. It’s the voyeuristic aesthetic of the film that I remember from the trailer, which we don’t have at all in Super 8 which is a completely different film. Anyway lets move on from the slight confession and look at what made me want to talk about this film. I’ve only seen a handful of films that are almost exclusively filmed from the point of view of a personal camcorder, I attempted to watch Unfriended (2014) which goes further to the view of the computer screen and just became annoying…very fast.

You’d have to be living in a cave in the remotest part of the world to have not noticed that a whole generation has grown up with a view of the world perceived completely from the view of the a mobile phone, filming and capturing images from a tiny camera hidden within, recording anything and everything that takes the users curiosity, for fun, for work. Chronicle pre-dates that…slightly, there are even more home-videos uploaded to my own social media streams. I’m sure you can relate to that even if you switch between reading this reviewing and your own feed.

When your own personal footage forms a feature-length narrative things begin to change, you have to fill it with characters, a plot, twists and development beyond that of what just in front of you. Of course the majority of the camcorder work for Chronicle was probably completed with industry standard cameras, not ones for home use. However the look of the film is that of the home-video or vlogger who carries it around with them. What begins as a personal thing for Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) who is out to prove and recorded his abusive dad’s behaviour, a visual weapon in his domestic fight for survival, whilst his mother is bed-bound with an unknown condition.  This could be just another teenage experience film, which really doesn’t interest me unless there’s a twist to it all.

Thankfully there is one. That’s after we first do some exploration of the teenage world of the high-school, one I’m glad I was never around, a dog-eat-dog world of popularity and over achievement which can either make or break you. Making for a pretty standard teen-drama for the first few minutes before his cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) asks him to join him and class president candidate Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) who have found a massive hole in the ground. Brought along merely to record the life-changing event down below. A luminescent crystal-like structure that draws them in, more from excitement and the thrill, it excites the young men who are changed for life by the experience – giving them superhuman powers, that of telekinesis.

Of course like every new experience during adolescence, this ability proves be fun as they explores what they can do with it. The three of them naturally are at different stages, like learning to walk, each with different level of progress. We see early on that Andrew is a quick learner and obviously know how to focus his power. Its like the early days of X-Men only with some messing about, we don’t have the number characters to create the drama of that scale. There’s no real rivalry between the three young men at this point.

Things start to change for them boys and the audience when the special effects are still subtle and fun, we know they are adding things in post-production so they are floating at their command. When they start to fly, things start to really get fun and potentially dangerous, leading the film into other directions, they are growing, learning what they are capable of. It’s really exhilarating to watch, like the first time we saw Superman flying on the big-screen, it has that sense of wonder, freedom and youthful energy. Yes it probably involved a lot of C.G.I., wires and green-screen to achieve these shots, but the finish is so clean and subtlety done that this time I don’t care because I’m caught up in the moment that you’re taken aback when the plane flies through the shot, knocking you out and them out of the sky.

We start to enter the realm of X-MenMagneto and Xavier as the powers are used more overtly. It’s one thing to use the power for a magic trick, when it comes to keeping your mother medicated things get serious for Andrew who uses his powers that are growing, under his mentality of the “Apex human” the top of the evolutionary food-chain, combined with his abusive home-life he begins to unravel and reveal who he truly is. This is where we can no longer stay in the realm of camcorders, having to rely on CCTV and other surveillance to record to the action as it occurs, cutting straight to these fixed positions to build up the image that is the film. Striving to be more immersive for the audience, removing the conventional camera angles for those of the domestic to capture this cinematic moment as two friends fight to hold on to each other. The Magneto lashes out at the world around him whilst the Xavier tries to save him from himself.

If I had to be negative and fair about this film, I would have to show my disappointment at killing off the only black character, even though it allows for character development, it shows that we have a white on white fight at the end. All originally friends, it wouldn’t really matter if Matt was killed off instead, they same result would have lead to this resolution. In the climate of the lack of Black on-screen depictions Chronicle suffers from this deficiency in the final act, would it be seen as more racially motivated, friendship should overrule that thought.