Saturday, March 4, 2017
This was an unusual entry into the X-men universe. This finally makes this series a trilogy, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. People give the first entry in the series more grief than it deserves. As I remember it, it had the dubious honour of having a critic review an unfinished leaked copy of the movie, and then it was all downhill from there. Anyway, that's a tangent for another day.
This trilogy has been quite unique; in some ways as unique as the Captain America trilogy. It basically employed the same format, starting with one director, then shifting to a second director(s) who helmed the second and third movies. Despite this being the same director, the 2nd and 3rd movie are stylistically very different. In Captain America, it was because the Russo brothers had morphed "Civil War" into Avengers 2.5; in this case, James Mangold was aiming for a movie straddling multiple genres (Dystopian future/Western/Road Movie).
As you know from all the media hype about this movie, mutantkind has for the most part disappeared. What remains are a few vestiges; what we see of those vestiges are Wolverine, Caliban and a 90-something Professor X. Logan's invulnerability isn't what it used to be, and the Professor is more liability than saviour at this point in his life, with major repercussions for any humans in his vicinity. Things can only get worse when Laura aka X-23 is introduced into their lives.
It was hard to watch these 2 X-men brought down to this level. Wolverine has always been the Lone Wolf who is sometimes called upon to be the ever reluctant hero. Despite all the bad that humankind has forced upon him, at least he always had invulnerability to rely on, and the choice to hit the road when he so desired. The pillar that was Prof. X is now also a distant memory; in a change of roles, Logan is now tasked with eking out a living to cater for the Prof. and his many special needs. The antagonism between the two of them gives the movie a lot of heart, sometimes intensely engrossing, and at other times hilarious when the Prof. exhibits petulant outbursts.
However, ever the heroes that they are, Laura's needs are a call to action, and even a chance to earn some redemption.
All things considered, this was a great movie, beautifully shot and well paced. I remember the joy of seeing Wolverine break out into a berserker rage in "X-men: Apocalypse", and this movie managed to one-up even that bit of gruesomeness! The R-rating on this movie is definitely used to good effect, whether it's Wolverine or X-23 doing the eviscerating. Though it's set in the near future, the movie is mostly grounded in the present, with the reavers and minor elements reflecting anything of futuristic proportions.
I have to come out and state that this movie is really its own story. Coming into it, there had been talk about them adopting the "Old Man Logan" storyline (definitely a great read if you come across it), but apart from the "Open Road" element of that comic, there isn't much of similarity worth noting.
This is (somewhat) a Marvel movie, so the complaint may arise that the bad guys are not really captivating. I don't think this will be the movie to change your mind about the dearth of characterization for villains in the Marvel stable. On the plus side, though, reflecting on Logan's tribulations will make you understand that the baddies are just an unfortunate hurdle. It could've been anything really. Anything that pushes against him so hard when he's at his most vulnerable seems downright insurmountable.
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen are the heart and soul of this movie. What surprised me most was how many times Prof. X dropped the F-Bomb in this outing; all his typical decorum is thrown out the window, and he must've picked up some Wolverine-isms after being cooped up with him. For the most part, Hugh Jackman is reduced to brooding, but his emotions cover the whole range of the spectrum...with the rare smile chipped in. Even though Logan is even more reluctant to be a hero in this outing (Prof. X seems to be the one more concerned with looking out for X-23), Jackman imbues even the neglect with a true humanity. And Dafne Keen will not be afflicted with the "bad child actor who ruins a good movie" title. She has little dialogue for most of the movie, but her facial expressions and physicality convince you that she's more than a little bundle of joy. I look forward to seeing her take her rightful place in the X-men franchise.
I feel like this movie has emotionally drained me; it will take the love you have for these characters and beat you down with it. But, if ever there was a way for the roles of Prof. X and Wolverine to be retired (by their respective actors), this was it. Five star performance that's definitely worth watching. I still feel like there's more left of this story to tell, but maybe the X-men can give us that in a future installment that involves X-23 and Nathaniel Essex (aka Mr. Sinister), who was teased at the end of X-men: Apocalypse, but sadly didn't make it into this movie. Maybe some other day.