Logan Review

The X-Men film franchise is one of the most lopsided film series out there.  The first two films helped to define modern superhero cinema.  Origins was mediocre at best, terrible at worst.  First Class helped to restore my faith in the franchise, while Apocalypse was a massive letdown.  I’ve come to learn that it may be best to go into an X-Men film with no expectations to help lessen any potential disappointment.  I forewent that that rule with Logan.  I’ve been 100% hype for that film since the very moment rumors of an Old Man Logan film started making their way to the internet.  I was not disappointed.

The timeline in the X-Men films is so convoluted and filled with inconsistencies that it almost doesn’t matter when or how this film takes place.  It’s 2029, mutants are a thing of the past, Logan is a bitter old man and a heavy drinker, and Charles is kept locked up in a collapsed water tower.  It’s a tragically bleak setting with a compelling backstory that doesn’t get fleshed out in heavy-handed dialogue.  Instead, audiences are left to connect the dots as characters engage in conversations that have a real-world, organic feel.  There are no moments where the film breaks character to tell you something.  Every bit of dialogue that is spoken is said to someone who has lived in this world – someone who is familiar with what has happened over the last decade.  Viewers are visitors in this world, and it’s a harsh world that won’t welcome in anyone with open arms.  But those who take the time to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and its history will be well rewarded.

It’s been 17 years since the X-Men film franchise debuted and, since the initial film, each movie has been a (mostly) family-friendly PG-13 (Deadpool excepted).  With Logan, fans are treated with the brutally hard-R rated film they’ve been waiting for.  Seventeen years is appropriate timing for an R-rated goodbye to the two best roles in the franchise, even if it is hard to say “goodbye.”  Logan takes full advantage of its elevated rating, featuring some of the most graphic scenes in a comic book film not based on the works of Frank Miller.  But the brutality, the graphic violence, the language – none of it ever feels forced.  As organic as the dialogue is in the film, the violence on display feels equally appropriate.

As rewarding as it is to see The Wolverine in his full glory ripping through body parts with his adamantium claws, there’s a contrasting balance as the weight of his exploits weighs heavily on him.  He has long ago reached a point where this violence is something so ingrained in him that there’s nothing but a buried conscience and aching bones keeping the claws in.  The graphic action sequences and the aftermath that follows is a poetically beautiful visual of this ongoing, internal struggle that just happens to be fun to watch.

There’s a beauty in the subtler aspects of the film.  When it’s not gracing you with sharp dialogue and viscerally brutal fight scenes, Logan navigates deftly through the film’s narrative by omitting direct exposition.  The film tells you more by saying less.  Important plot points and backstories are often not told directly to the audience – they’re hinted at with offhand remarks or background noise that feels natural.  It never dumbs things down to let you know what happened, it expects you to embrace this world enough to just know.

While several of the previous X-Men films have been enjoyable in their own right, it’s sad see that the franchise waited until the two greatest players said their goodbyes to offer a truly great film.  It is a well-crafted experience that will challenge the idea of what makes a comic movie great – taking viewers on a journey through their emotional range before leaving them seated in silence as the cinema fades to black.  There may never be an X-Men movie that achieves the same level of greatness as Logan.  And that’s okay.

Good – 3 / 3

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One Hell of a Night: Evil Dead Review

Recycling old ideas has been a common thing in Hollywood recently with more and more big budget remakes/reboots of classics or sequels in established franchises sprouting up all over the place.  Sometimes it works, reintroducing a classic idea to a new audience with more modern themes and effects; sometimes it doesn’t with losing sight of what exactly it was that made the classic great.  Horror movies aren’t immune to this revisiting of existing properties and the latest horror reboot is this year’s Evil Dead.  A reenvisioning of Sam Raimi’s horror classic, this new Evil Dead eschews the camp and comedy of the original two films in favor of a pure, gritty, gory horror romp through evil infested woods.

The film starts out strong with a prologue that has a father trying to purge his daughter of the evil that possesses her.  From there, viewers are brought to a familiar cabin in the woods where a group of friends is gathered to help Mia (Jane Levy) through her detox.  The setup provides the promise of some emotional character depth, but it’s quickly lost after it becomes quickly apparent that the story only cares about Mia and her distanced brother David (Shiloh Fernandez).  It’s somewhat disappointing that all this promise is lost amidst horror movie clichés, but you soon forget about it when you realize just how well they did the tension and jump scares—it’s also impossible to deny just how fun all the over-the-top gore is.  In the end, though, the bit about the estranged brother and his recovering sister works out because those characters are the ones that stand out the most, so when something bad happens, you feel it—everyone else is fodder, so you’re really just waiting for them to die.

The script isn’t particularly strong, but it gets the job done.  The writers surely had a ball constructing this new vision, but it is somewhat weighted down by clichés.  Characters do ridiculously foolish things if only for the reason to put themselves in a situation where one of them has to die—but, as a viewer, you don’t really care because that’s really what you paid $8 to see.

It’s also worth noting that in spite of not being campy or over-the-top in its presentation of humor, this new Evil Dead has its own charms.  The humor isn’t quite as apparent as it’s much more tongue-in-cheek and morbid than the original films.  There’s one scene in particular that was brutally gruesome, but I couldn’t help but let out a solid laugh—a reaction I’m sure they were hoping for.

Evil Dead is built on the ideas of the classic films, but brings to the table several of its own.  There are scenes that feel incredibly familiar, but then you’re thrown a completely unexpected (and pleasantly gruesome) curveball that freshens up the formula.  This remake/reboot is a welcome entry in the franchise and the genre as a whole and, while it is more of a “pure” horror film, it does have moments that echo the charm of the originals.  Fans of The Evil Dead and horror in general will be more than pleased with what Evil Dead has to offer.