Wednesday, 8 March 2017
Logan, and what the critics miss...
First off, whilst I'm not going far into spoiler territory here, this will work better if you've seen 'Logan'. Enter at your own risk....
Many critics are calling 'Logan' the best X-men movie ever, some even call it the best superhero movie ever- which in critical circles is admittedly like awarding the prize for 'Tallest Midget' or 'Most comfortable Thai Prison' but praise is praise. I'm not going to tell them they're wrong on that, since it's a subjective opinion and anyway, Logan is damn good. You're probably going to have more fun with 'Deadpool', but that's not always the end goal. My own mini-review is simply to say yes, it's damn good, it's certainly moving, and frankly it's refreshing to see Logan's savagery accurately represented for once. It makes you appreciate what the more clean-cut X-men were dealing with all those years.
That last thought brings me on to my topic, something which has irked me about reviews of... well let's call them 'superhero movies' for now. I like to live by the maxim 'a person is about as big as the things that make them angry' so I've got no further than irked, or on occasion miffed, but still, miffed I am.
Many of the critics came out of 'Logan' expressing surprise at how much they were moved by it. In part, of course, this is due to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart being two of the best actors in the X series, but I think there's more to it than that. You see, we've grown up with these characters- we've seen a young, optimistic Xavier found his X-men, seen Logan struggle with his past, lost loves and old sins. We've seen them defeat terrible threats, mourn loss, and even re-write the future, and now, finally, we see the inevitable end of their path. 'Logan' isn't just a strong story in it's own right, it's a pretty hard full stop at the end of a longer story. Not every chapter of that story was exactly stellar, but all of it informs our feelings for the characters.
So why am I irked? Well, read a review of any of the MCU movies, once the critics had got over the initial shock of the first Iron Man being as good as it was, and some hack will eventually come out with the complaint that 'it would be a better movie if it wasn't busy setting up the next one'. To call this complaint dumb is to describe the Mariana Trench as 'sort of low, and a bit damp'. Movies are still catching up with TV in this respect, but we've come far beyond the days where a story was simply contained within one film. Game of Thrones 'Red Wedding' works because of what comes before it- sure, you could make a decent short film out of a similar idea, but it would lack the punch. Babylon 5 spent two whole seasons carefully building to the events of its third and fourth and the result was a show still held up in high regard some twenty years later, even with sets made of cardboard and polystyrene and effects by an Amiga.
Personally, I found 'Captain America: Civil War' a very tough film to re-watch because for all of the entertaining action, the emotional conflict is pretty painful. All the talk of 'Team Stark' or 'Team Cap' misses the point completely because ultimately these people are on the same side- and we know this because of the ten or so films before. When Steve and Tony are split apart again just as they seemed to be reconciling, it's a gut-punch with twenty hours of windup behind it, and that's what makes it hurt.
It's fair to say that the X-movies have struggled to match the core MCU in terms of consistency, but it's hard to argue that with 'Logan' they didn't stick the landing. This sort of long-form storytelling is tough, and right now many others are trying to emulate it with varying degrees of success. The bottom line is that in this new age, the story doesn't necessarily end when the credits roll- there's often another 'after' that follows the Happily Ever one and it might not be so happy after all.