19 March 2017

No Country For Old Man Logan

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In the way that the media presents us with an unrealistic expectation of beauty, it also, to a slightly lesser extent, presents us with an unrealistic expectation of coolness. I mean, we all agree that James Bond is cool, right? But apply his lifestyle to reality and imagine that dopey fucker surviving more than a year. If his hard-drinking hasn't left his liver on the verge of packing in then at the very least his years of sexually exploiting a never ending conveyor belt of vulnerable simpletons would surely leave him with a horrendously crippling case of knob-rot?! Well it seems to be in this later and slightly more realistic world that Logan takes place. Having spent his cinematic career watching everybody he ever loved end up with a bad case of being completely fucking dead whilst remaining a total bad-ass himself, Wolverine has finally hit rock bottom. He's a shadow of what we've seen in the past and now lives the kind of life that Mel Gibson might in an alternate world in which Hollywood failed to find him. He's got a shitty job, his anger issues and mental anguish have isolated him from society, and his alcoholism could only be worse if before taking a shot he replaced the sprinkle of salt on the back of his hand with the ashes of George fucking Best.

This idea that Logan is set in an alternate world to the previous films seems to be spread throughout the entire movie, however perhaps it's best demonstrated by all of the aspects that have bumped things up to an R-Rating. In The Wolverine, Logan was at one point pinned in place by a barrage of arrows and we thought, “Hmm I wonder how he'll escape from being skewered by all of them”. In this film however he sticks his metal claws through peoples heads as he has done since his first on-screen appearance in X-Men back in 2000. However this time, and due to the increase in how realistic this violence is, our thought is simply, “HOLY FUCK HE JUST STUCK HIS FUCKING CLAWS THROUGH THAT GUYS FUCKING BRAIN. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST”. In X-Men: First Class, Logan tells Charles to “Go fuck yourself”, and we all let out a gasp. Here, both Logan and Charles throw so many F-bombs at each other that it almost becomes background noise. Because why the fuck would a man that stabs people for a living give one solitary shit about minding his language? The violence here isn't gratuitous or for the thrill of the audience, but to highlight the obvious fact that violence isn't nice, it's not something to be cheered on, and it is certainly something that the character will then carry with increasing weight and for the rest of their life. No wonder Bond drinks. I can only wonder and dread the nightmarish level of PTSD that must be on the way for John fucking Wick.

I suppose you could argue that these are all fairly superficial observations that separate it from the universe of the X-Men series that we've previously seen, and to point out the lack of continuity between films as further evidence wouldn't be getting too much deeper. Which is my way of still pointing it out regardless... so fuck you. It's worth noting too though that a lot of Hollywood cliches are also subverted here. When our anti-hero meets some goons at the start of the movie, he doesn't take them down like John Wayne used to pretend to do to distract us from the fact that in real life he hypocritically dodged the draft. Instead, Logan pleads with the twats to leave him alone before quickly getting shot in the chest and then having his head kicked in. Later on when fleeing from a scene, Logan drives towards a wall. If movies have taught me anything it's that walls only do their job so long as people believe that they do, in the same way that money only has the level of value that society places on it. If we believe we can drive through a wall then the odds are it's going to smash in slow-motion and the people in the car will be able to continue at speed to safety. It seems however that in Logan, walls actually are capable of doing their job and so when he aims his car towards it and hits the accelerator, we don't get the satisfying escape that we've been conditioned to expect. Instead he hits the wall, the wall remains in place, and the car gets completely fucked. I guess things have moved on since that time Quicksilver enjoyably raced around the X-Mansion to the sounds of Annie fucking Lennox and whilst his friends all died around him.

However it's within the tone of the movie that all of these aspects work together to create something that feels as though it's from a much more grounded world. Perhaps the previous movies did happen here and the filmmakers just don't give a fuck about continuity. In X-Men: Apocalypse, Caliban was an underground dealer played by Tomas Lemarquis whereas here he's played by Stephen Merchant who appears to have adopted the role of Logan's surrogate wife, left at home to look after their baby, Professor X. At one point Logan holds an X-Men comic and so there's no reason that earlier films couldn't simply be Hollywood's adaptation of this film's past. Or perhaps the previous movies are simply the drunken memories of what's gone before? Like when you remember your night out as being brilliant until you find the photographs and realise that you actually spent most of the time in a queue to have a piss up against the back of a bin. Whatever you choose to believe however, there's no doubt that all of this builds up to the theme of the film. Whether it be the cost of violence, the hopeless future of a tortured alcoholic, or the fame of having once been known as a hero, it seems that Logan is obsessed with legacy. Well either that or it's a giant fucking tribute to the film Shane I suppose.

Although Shane might be Logan's biggest source of inspiration for reasons that will become obvious when you watch the movie, it's worth noting that there are a few others in here too. For similar reasons, there's also Unforgiven in which what's left of a previous hero comes out of retirement to dispel the romanticism of his past glories. As much as this film literally quotes Shane's, “There's no living with a killing” speech, it could just as easily drop in Clint Eastwoods, “It's a hell of thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and it's all he's ever gonna have”, the Schofield Kid whilst crying responds, “yeah, well I guess they had it coming”, to which Eastwood spits back, “We all got it coming, kid”. Or perhaps we could also throw in the, “I'm an old broken down piece of meat and I'm alone and I deserve to be all alone” line from The Wrestler which this film shares a similar underlying sadness with. Both films also show the effects of the title character's destructive life on their own body, however where the Wrestler "[doesn't] want you to hate me”, Logan is so busy hating himself that he probably wouldn't notice a little extra from anybody else. On top of these though, there's the dysfunctional family on a road-trip aspect from Little Miss Sunshine, and the rumour of a safe-haven in a rotting society suffering from a problem with its birth-rates from Children Of Men. There's also a Beyond Thunderdome thing in the third act in regards to where the X-23 story goes. None of that last paragraph had any swearing or attempts at jokes to try and keep your attention and so for no reason at all I'll just end it with the word “cock-womble”.

Although I actually have a giant soft-spot for the previous instalment The Wolverine, I think we all agree that it went and gone and done a fuck up with its third act, CG-Silver Samurai, comic book bullshit. Despite how grounded Logan may be however, I suppose there is one aspect of the film that gets a little close to that again with the appearance of X-24. If you've not seen the film yet then you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph for fear of a few spoilers. However for all its pretensions to the higher-brow examples of Hollywood Past, there's no denying that Logan also borrows a little from something along the lines of the 1991 crap-tastic Van Damme vs Van Damme fight in Double Impact. Logan is forced to fight his own evil twin which is pretty much something that every 1980's beef-cake action movie star has done at some point in his life. I'm aware that this plays into the overall theme of the movie in which Logan must grapple with both his past and therefore his own darkness. In this case, that happens to be a younger version of himself that's fuelled by nothing beyond the rage and aggression that he's spending his life attempting to contain. However perhaps seeing the metaphor of Logan attempt to defeat the ghosts of his past and mental pain by literally punching it in the face, like Arnie did with his clone in the movie The 6th Day, is a tiny bit on the nose. Although, unlike Arnie, at least when Hugh Jackman looked at his own clone, he didn't also look like he wanted to shag it.

I'd hate to sound like I'm slagging that aspect of the film off however because I actually thought it worked fine. I'd just understand if other people thought it was an aspect that got a little too close to falling into the type of movie that the rest of Logan so successfully avoided becoming. Especially when you consider how smartly this film seems to be commenting on our current state of society too. Charles was once a dapper and idealistic chap who has been shat on by the world to the point that his dream of integration has left him a husk of his former self. He's in dire need of medication and yet exists in a country in which his carer is working a separate full time job and struggling to get access to the necessary healthcare. This is a world with driverless trucks and a sky full of drones contrasting with widespread poverty in a developed nation. The gang simply want to cross the border for their dream of a better life and yet they're being hounded down by the selfish agenda of a corporation that essentially earns it's vast wealth from fear mongering and the exploitation of human misery and prejudice. Oh and one of the main causes of trouble in this movie is a dim-witted prick called Donald that essentially does the bidding of this corporation for his own fucking dumb, greedy reasons. Although even in the world of the mutants and the X-Men, I'd be at odds to work out what the fuck is really going on with Donald Trump's duck-fart of a hair do.

Combining both the legacy aspect of the movie along with its obvious comment on our modern times, it seems difficult to also ignore another over-all message of the film.. that life is ultimately a miserable experience in which our fleeting moments of happiness are eventually lost to the sadness and failures of our past. Why carry on with such a miserable and hopeless outlook though? Well, as was the case with Charles taking on Logan and Logan taking on X-23.. there's always the slim hope that things might get slightly better for the next generation. Although I've been listening to that album in which Nick Cave sings about his dead kid a lot recently. Maybe if you have a less downbeat consumption of pop-culture than me then the message of this movie might not feel quite so much like the numb misery of a kick to the balls. By focusing more on character than spoon feeding information on plot, director James Mangold has made a film that's ambiguous enough that I'm sure we can all ultimately read Logan however we like. What was the "bad thing?" that Professor X references from his past.. did he suck off Super Hans from Peep Show, I wonder? Whether your outlook is a pessimistic one or alternatively probably wrong, I'm sure we can all agree that this film with its themes and obvious increase in quality is the film for the phenomenal Hugh Jackman to hang up his claws. Especially when compared to X-Men Origins: Wolverine which was so shit that I wanted to shoot myself in the head with an adamantium bullet to kill my memories of having seen it. Until I realised that made no fucking sense whatsoever.

After seventeen years of playing a character you'd think that he'd be bored to the dick of Wolverine at this point, too. Going back to James Bond, you should compare Roger Moore's charming performance in Live And Let Die to his work in A View To A Kill. Those two films had a gap of twelve years and in his final performance as 007, it's like Moore is being directed at fucking gun-point. Watch the film carefully and you'll notice that Moore is actually spelling out the words 'help me' in Morse code with his eyebrows. However here, Jackman seems more dedicated than ever. The only thing that stops me from smashing the mirrors in my house is the knowledge that although the 48 year old actor looks better as an ageing alcoholic than I do as a 28 year old tea-totaller... he also looks better in that condition than he did at my fucking age too. Not that I'm saying he looks cool, of course. Not here anyway. Just that despite being the mess that he is, I imagine he's still strong enough that he could quite easily kill me by pulling my arms out of their sockets as though he's a fucking wookie.

In a film about legacy though, I can't help but worry about the legacy that Logan itself will leave behind. I imagine that as it does better and better at the box office, the Hollywood fat-cats will assume that the message is that they should start making more R-Rated superhero films. However the real message should simply be to allow the filmmakers to tell a story that suits the needs of the characters and the material that they're working with. The reason that The Dark Knight worked was because it also suited the tone of its title character. The reason that The Amazing Spider-Man didn't work is because it took what it could from The Dark Knight and tried to apply it to a character that should be at the opposite end of the spectrum to the grounded and anxiety driven film of Christopher Nolan. Also it had a stupid giant fucking lizard in it. As much as a Spider-man film in which Uncle Ben is killed by having a knife stabbed through his head as he struggles to take himself to the bathroom would be interesting, the violence isn't why Logan is great. Logan is great because it's a film that was made by people with a story to tell and not by people being hired to continue funding an executive's cocaine and prostitute hobby by appealing to a mass audience of idiots. To quote the film's director James Mangold, “We can not make films for the dumbest of us. We're already working on getting a Government for the least intellectually appropriated”. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.