Logan–No Spoiler Review

logan2Last night we watched Logan. We made a horrible mistake by watching the late showing because the theater was filled with rude teenagers. I need to watch my movies when the other old people watch them–in daylight hours!

The movie was very good. In trying to organize my thoughts, it is perhaps best that I just make a list.

1. The movie earned its “R” rating.

The violence is brutal. In other X-Men movies Wolverine tends to go for chest kills, but I’d say ninety percent of his kills here are either decapitations or head shots. The violence is comparable to a slasher horror film or the first thirty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Seeing young children engage in violent activity was also disturbing to me.

The language is also strong. I think this is one of the weakest points of the film. The writers use F-bombs galore to communicate despair, anger, disappointment, and power. Smarter writing could have done that without resorting to this tactic. By contrast, other X-Men films have used strong language sparingly, which makes it more effective. The movie also has a rather gratuitous flashing of boobies.

2. The movie is not a super-hero movie.

If you come into this film expecting typical superhero fare, you’ll leave disappointed (like I think most of the teenagers we saw it with) because it is not that kind of movie. It is not about saving the world or even saving the day. The movie is about aging, dying, and the pain of regret as a person works through the knowledge they are past their prime. Logan’s character moves from one who has given up to one is faced with continuing to despair or to make a difference.

3. I loved the homages.

There are two specific homages that caught my attention. First, the use of X-Men comic books as as storyline was brilliant. These are not real world comics, but invented comics (as I understand it) for the movie universe. That X-Men comics exist in the X-Men universe is awesome. I perceive it to be a stand in for all the previous movies, with the hint that those stories were glamorized versions of what ‘really’ happened. This movie pretends to let us behind the curtain to see the nitty gritty of who these characters really are, the price they paid, and the tragedy of their existence.

The second homage is to the old western “Shane.” In fact, there are several scenes that reminds me of that old movie, besides the two overt references. One is a precious seen midway through the movie in a hotel room and the other is at the very end. I remember watching that movie with my grandmother many years ago, and I am remember showing it my daughters. They argued with me for days as to whether or not Shane died as he rode away. Of course he did.

4. The religious imagery is off the charts.

Despite its well earned “R” rating, the movie has intense spiritual references and imagery. In many ways Logan’s character is one who has lost his faith, and Professor X is the one who, despite his own difficulties, has been tasked with helping him on that journey. Woven into this tapestry of faith questions is the lingering mutant question–have human beings tampered with God’s creation so much that we have negated something he intended? In this scenario, mutants perhaps stand in as a metaphor for diversity and pluralism whereas corporations and governments seek to enforce uniformity and conformity.

Part of this is the title credits. Hang out and listen to the Johnny Cash song “The Man Comes Around” which is a very Christian song about the apocalypse. I expected the other Johnny Cash song, “Hurt” based on the trailer (which I have embedded below) but this was even more delightful.

5. Patrick Stewart might be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this role.

Stewart is like wine and cheese. He gets better with age. To me he will always be Captain Picard. His best turn ever is The Inner Light, but here he is amazing. Uncanny, even.

6. There are may themes buried into this movie.

Look for generational change, cultural degradation,lawlessness, corporate oligarchy, immigration, lost childhood, genetic testing, GMO, and child exploitation. There are others, but these stand out. Usually in a movie this many subplots is pollution on the brain, but in Logan it works.

I think there is at least one more theme in addition to these. That theme is reconciliation. Logan must reconcile–with Charles, with himself, with the X-Men, and with his fate.

MALEFICENT MOVIE REVIEW, NO SPOILERS (I PROMISE)

So, the evil queen is not so evil?  Or so you think?  But maybe she’s is? Then there is that thing she did?  But there is more to the story.

Maleficent Angelina Jolie
Angie, eat a cheeseburger or something

I am not a huge super-fan of retelling the old fables, primarily because more gets lost than gets added.  However, it is big business and Disney/ABC is making a killing off of it of late.  Their best offering yet is Maleficent, which I admit, is a very good movie.  In fact, as this years summer blockbusters have gone, I rate it in the same category as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Godzilla, which puts it ahead of what I think was a bit of a let down in X-Men Days of Future Past.

You know the basic story, so you think.  There is a dispute between a powerful magic user named Maleficent and a King.  In the process of their struggle, the king’s innocent daughter, Aurora is put under a dark enchantment that can only be broken by true love’s kiss.

What I Really Liked

The acting was superb.  Angelina Jolie showed that she has the chops to move beyond eye candy and actually carry a film on talent alone.  Sam Riley is also very good as Jolie’s sidekick, the crow.  I wasn’t as impressed with Elle Fanning and Sharlito Copley.  Neither one of them sold me on much of their character.  What I felt for Aurora, for example, flowed more from Jolie’s performance than Fanning’s.  But don’t let that discourage you too much.  Jolie and Riley are enough to warrant the ticket purchase alone.

Like most good stories, there is a generational aspect to the narrative that I find very appealing.  Aurora is not the prime mover, but it is the sins of the parents and the trauma done decades ago that serve as the prime mover.  Parents have secrets, and they don’t always tell us everything about what happened.  Discovering this is often the stuff that propels us into adulthood.

The movie was appropriate for my whole family, and I would have been okay watching it with my children when they were as young as five or six.

The dialogue was well written.  There is a snappy vibe to the script, with the best lines going to Jolie.

The CGI was good.  Unlike the miserable CGI for, say, Thor or Pompeii, this was well done.  I know it was well done because at no time during the film did the special effects dominate the scene or detract from one.  They simply added to it.  The one exception might be Jolie’s cheekbones.  It wasn’t until about twenty minutes in that I realized her cheekbones, apparently in order to look more fairy like, had been altered to protrude.  I thought they were really that prominent.  I kept thinking, ‘Angie, eat a cheeseburger sometime or something.’  I think that might have been more of distraction, than say her horns, which never bothered me at all, at least not like that emaciated cheekbone look.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like the narrator’s voice.  I don’t mean her physical voice, I mean, I think the film could have been better without the narrator altogether.  We would have figured stuff out.

As good as the movie was, there were moments when I was consciously aware of the film borrowing from other movies I’ve seen.  The opening battle felt like it was ripped from the Chronicles of Narnia while other elements were decidedly Frozenesque.  Ironically, it wasn’t until the very end that the picture reminded me of Sleeping Beauty.

As a dad,  I didn’t like the one dimensional portrayal of Aurora’s father.  In fact, parents are almost completely absent in this film altogether.  Which leads me to another thing that I didn’t like so much.

Nepotism.  It does not escape me that Jolie is Hollywood royalty.  She is married to Prince Brad Pitt and her father is Jon Voight while her mother was Marcheline Bertrand.  Elle Fanning is Dakota’s sister.  We should be thankful Dakota is not in this film or it would have been filled with unnecessary screaming.  My ears still hurt from War of the Worlds.  One of the scenes of young Aurora is Jolie’s daughter Vivienne.  For some reason I kept expecting Jaden Smith to show up as the prince.  I am not completely against families helping each other out and all, but it seems to me like a little more diversity could have been found in this film.

 

If you are looking for a really good film that everyone can watch, then see Maleficent and skip X-Men.

 

 

image from http://www.elle.gr