Logan (2017) – Review

If Get Out sold us short on the trailers, then Logan reset the balance. We know it’s Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, and the arrival of young girl in the said trailers indicates X-23 is likely to be brought into the X-Men cinematic universe. It’s also clear we’re heading for a serious drama, less superhero feast. Knowing all this doesn’t detract from what we’re given.

Many are saying we should thank Deadpool for Wolverine getting – at last – an adult movie. Let’s face it, his previous two solo outings were subpar. And that’s being nice about it. The studio told director James Mangold and Hugh Jackman to make the film they wanted. Why don’t studios just do this all the time?

We find an aged Wolverine in a future where mutants are a distant memory. The disappearance of those with special abilities is explained clearly. Richard E. Grant’s Zander Rice has developed the vaccine earlier X-Men films fought against. He describes getting rid of them no different than curing Polio outbreaks.

The aging of Wolverine is a little less clear. We’re led to believe that perhaps it is the adamantium slowly poisoning the body, acting as a cancer. This just doesn’t wash with me. Sorry. But he’s had it long enough to dispel that theory. However, we have excused the fact his adamantium magically reappeared at the end of Days of Future Past so we can just accept the idea he’s not in the best of shape.

Neither is Professor X. He’s being kept locked away in a metal container, on lots of meds, to protect the world from his brain. See, it’s a massive problem if your head is classed as a weapon of mass destruction but you’re suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Logan’s joint carer for Charles Xavier is Stephen Merchant’s Caliban.

Quick segue here, so Tómas Lemarquis played Caliban in the very average X-Men: Apocalypse. The two versions in no way can be married up. It’s effectively a different character with the same ability (they’re trackers, in Logan, Caliban is captured and used to track the escaping Wolverine(s) and Professor X). It raises the question: Is Logan really canon?

It feels like a set-up for a continuation or a spin-off but could remain standalone. The future of mutants is preserved because Zander Rice has been attempting to weaponize strands of DNA with powers. Hence the arrival of the excellent Dafne Keen as Laura, or X-23, or future Wolverine.

As the story unravels, and Logan tries to get Laura to her meeting place, we realise some of these children have been saved from the clinic. The displays of abilities are the only let-down of the movie. They are clearly working to a tight budget and it betrays the feel of the majority of the film. The legend of the X-Men has made it to comic book form, which Logan explains is overblown nonsense.

The idea the reality was grittier fits the grittiness we see for the first three quarters of the story.

The only other problem is the appearance of a younger, healthier Weapon X. The film didn’t need cheap parlour tricks to slow Logan down. But it does offer a mirror on his growing and real humanity. So perhaps it was a good move?

The catalyst and reason for Logan to open up to his feelings is, of course, Laura. She steals scenes without using words. As there ever been a child actor so expressive and effective? Not to mention kick-ass bad. She’s determined and also vulnerable, she needs Logan’s love.

Charles Xavier also prods the conscious of Jackman’s character. Here it is touching as we see two old friends, with years of history, care for one another. Logan looks after his body and protects his mind. Not just from destruction but the truth of some unknown atrocity Professor X is guilty of committing.

In return Charles reminds Logan he is good. He can be saved.

The tone of Logan is perfect and as the main X-Men franchise loses its spirit and becomes more and more the mindless blockbuster it once stood apart from, this is a reminder that the best comic book films are the ones with heart.

It is graphic in parts. The stall is set out in the first scene when Logan places his claws through the skulls of carjackers. But it is never played for the sake of shock. It’s a movie trying to be honest.

Patrick Stewart announced on The Graham Norton Show this would also be his last film connected to the X-Men universe. By the end, you can understand his reasoning. There’s nothing a future film maker will be able to offer that bests this complete picture.

It is a passing of the torch. In Dafne Keen’s hands, it’ll be carried safely.

9/10

The Lego Batman Movie – Review

After 2016’s flurry of superhero films, this year promises to keep up the trend. Before the world feels burnt out with them, Warner Bros. hand over their prime property to The Lego franchise. Before we get more of the Ben Affleck Dark Knight, we get Will Arnett’s light-hearted brick version.

Criticism Marvel fanboys aim at their DC counterparts is they are too serious and dark, that comic books should be fun. It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with The Lego Batman Movie. Sure, it’s not a canon entry. It’s aimed at the kids’ market (some would say, this is Marvel’s core audience) but if you need the exact opposite of “serious and dark” then this is it.

Like the best of modern animation movies – looking at you Toy Story – there’s action for the kids and jokes for the parents. Lego Batman pleases the children with explosive action sequences, Lego being used and reshaped to create unique outcomes, and behaviour they can relate to. When The Joker fires his weapon, he makes little shooting sounds just like kids playing with Lego need to do.

The Lego Gotham City does feel authentic. You can tell what world we’re in. All the rogues are here too, proving that a good film can survive with an overflow of enemies. It’s clear from the start the movie’s makers are willing to point fun at the source material, and at first, having nearly every conceivable Batman villain on screen seems like a quick pun. But they stick around and The Joker manages to recruit even more bad guys.

Thanks to the Lego tie in, anyone that can be made from the little bricks appears. Even the Daleks show up, although never referenced by name.

The main story is how Batman is too withdrawn and refuses help. Cue Robin and new Commissioner and soon to be Batgirl, Barbara Gordon. Alongside this is how he breaks The Joker’s heart by denying him the title of main villain. He says he fights around, that there isn’t an “us.” It’s great humour that will probably fly over the heads of younger members of the audience.

To make Batman appreciate him, Joker hands himself – and all the villains in Gotham – over to new Commissioner Gordon. Batman, easily manipulated by his nemesis, doesn’t sit tight and starts a sequence of events that sees Joker release all the baddies from Superman’s Phantom Zone.

Suddenly Gotham needs Batman again but he can’t do it alone.

Usually kiddies’ films like this are big on the moral message and speed up the slower adult scenes. Here, even though the ideas it’s trying to tell are plainly obvious, they blend into the background. Early on the plot building will lose some younger viewers. Even when having fun, Batman has to be moody.

The Easter eggs, often in the form of one-liners, come thick and fast, and clearly are designed for older ears. The fun is bright and outlandish, satisfying the kids. The flashy sequences aren’t to cover any deficiencies in the cast either.

Ralph Fiennes does a great turn as Alfred, Michael Cera is back to form as Robin, and it’s a compliment to say you won’t realise (although, you will now) Rosario Dawson plays Barbara Gordon. Even the cameos go to big names.

It doesn’t pull on heartstrings like some animation movies nor is it a film made just for children. It’s not perfect but it works well and Bat-fans and kids alike will enjoy it.

7/10

Captain America: Civil War – Review

If you eat too much of anything, however much you may enjoy it, you’ll eventually become bloated. 2016 could be the serving of one superhero film feast too many. To make matters worse, here is a review for another that sees good guys face good guys. Can Captain America: Civil War add energy to Marvel’s concept and make us forget the market is oversaturated?

I’ll save you reading 500 words and give you the answer now: It’s a big, fat, No!

Now I’ll humbly explain why.

It starts with so much promise. Captain America and his team (Black Widow, Falcon, Scarlet Witch) are heading an espionage mission in Africa. At this point I found myself applauding the Captain’s films. I like how they blend superhero with spy movie. Had this remained the case – indeed, remained a Captain America film – we wouldn’t have had a problem.

The problem came when Scarlet Witch, by accident, threw a baddie into a building full of innocents.

Cue the morale debate about should superheroes be allowed to go around without anyone giving them orders. A little bit like the Superman subplot in Batman v Superman but without any of the meat on the tired old bones.

Rather than it be an area of worthy exploration, it becomes nothing more than a plot device. And what a dire plot. Captain’s buddy, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, appears to blow up the UN when all The Avengers minus Captain America sign a new treaty, placing them under the control of men rather than being outside of the law.

Obviously, Captain America has to defend a guy he shared double-billing with on the last solo movie poster and Iron Man has to stick to the letter of the (new) law and treat him as a criminal. Also pretty obvious, is how it’s all been a set-up to make Bucky look bad. The motivations and the main bad guy an extraneous excuse to see our heroes have a fight.

Once the action starts, you may ask, surely it masks the poor plot?

Nah, not really. Ant-Man steals the show in the main battle, which is more like handbags at ten paces. And proving that Marvel fanboys make the most noise but the least sense, I can now confirm the new Spider-Man is the worst incarnation seen on the big screen.

Andrew Garfield must be wondering how on Earth Marvel couldn’t have shoehorned his version into the movie instead of this lame replacement. The teabag I squeezed out of my cup ten minutes ago has more screen presence than Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. As Spider-Man, things do improve, but Garfield was more wisecracking and it felt more natural.

While I will never deny the beauty of Marisa Tomei, is it really progressive to have her as Aunt May? The moral compass of a young hero that still looks like the lap dancer from The Wrestler? Yeah, that’ll work, Marvel.

The flaws in the films message and the bad guy’s main intention fall apart in the final scenes because it is plain stupid. His idea could never have worked and there’d always be some version of The Avengers regardless of infighting.

Sadly, due to overeager reviewers and the fanboys, there’ll always be Marvel movies like this.

It isn’t the worst ever (it can thank Iron Man 2 for that) but it isn’t far behind. It seems unfair Marvel can be applauded for another misfire while DC struggle for any type of credit from mainstream critics.

If things don’t vastly improve in the MCU, sooner or later others will speak up, and 2018’s Infinity War may forever be in pre-production.

5/10 (It would have been 4/10, if not for the opening Captain America elements.)

Suicide Squad – Review

The post Superman battling Batman instalment into the DC Expanded Universe follows a Black Ops team assembled using the Dark Knight’s captured foes. In real terms it’s another throw of the dice for Warner Bros. after the critics slammed Zack Snyder’s last entry. So, are they the worst good guys ever? Or the best bad guys? Or bad worst bad good guys?

Director and writer David Ayer’s film focuses on the idea that now the world has seen Superman, the terror threat can’t be controlled by standard armies. The character Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is the voice for this point and the mean woman that will do anything to ensure her pet project is given the government green light.

That project is of course, what we know as, Suicide Squad. Six bad guys, some of whom display unique abilities, that can face unnatural enemies and if they fail, the government can deny any involvement.

To ensure she gets her way, Waller scares the living daylights out of the decision makers by using the Enchantress to give a graphic display of her powers.

Suspension of belief part one, folks. The Enchantress is an ancient spirit that had been trapped in an idol. Cara Delevingne’s Jane Moone accidently broke it on an exhibition and has since been possessed. Waller controls the sorceress by prodding her heart (somehow mummified and still intact).

Magic and sorcery isn’t the thing you need to suspend belief with here, it’s the idea Waller thinks a being that can travel thousands of miles and back in the blink of an eye could be kept under lock and key. But hey, we needed a tool for the main villain to appear, right?

In the least surprising turn of events, Enchantress does a runner and then gets her brother’s idol open . . . and away we go.

Enter Rebooted Robocop Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag. Bad ass special forces guy in charge of Task Force X (Suicide Squad), oh, and June Moone’s lover. Because everyone loves to make out with witches.

It’s a pretty easy set-up, and it flows pretty well. Other critics have slammed it for being convoluted. This really isn’t the case. The backstories for each of the main characters offer enough insight without dragging the main plot down and the action scenes couldn’t be simpler. It isn’t too dark nor is it humourless.

Its main flaw is how easy it is to watch. Unlike other DC projects it strips away the deeper issues and just plays out like any easy viewing action film should.

The elephant in the room is The Joker, or the lack thereof. Jared Leto has the thankless task of being the first guy after Heath Ledger to assume the role. He does a sterling job of reinventing the Clown Prince of Crime. This is a mobster style criminal. You get the impression he’s had more turf wars than attempts to destroy the world.

His fleeting appearance makes sense; too much of a good thing and this film would have been derailed. Ayers had to stay on point with a simple Suicide Squad movie.

The Joker’s squeeze, Harley Quinn, steals the show. Margot Robbie is mesmerising and one hopes we see a solo Joker film just to get more of her. Without her colour, the ensemble of villains would lack cement of vibrancy, then, and only then, this film would have been a mess.

Harley Quinn

The other characters range from Will Smith’s Deadshot. In many respects, the human side of the flick but it’s hard to not see it as Will Smith just being Will Smith. He’s caught because Batman confronted Deadshot while he was walking with his daughter.

Which requires a quick suspension of belief once again.

All the baddies Batman catches in flashbacks, baddies we’re lead to believe are the most dangerous on earth, are all caught as if they never attended Day 1 of baddie school, lesson 1, avoid easy capture.

Jai Courtney plays Captain Boomerang and is only here to provide comic relief. He may well be the least fleshed out character, aside from Slipknot.

Lost’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje performs as Killer Croc. He’s unidentifiable beneath all the makeup but somehow manages to get enough spirit over and commands attention when on the screen. You probably won’t see him appear as a villain on film but as a member of the squad, he works.

After Harley Quinn, the main props go to Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo. A reluctant participant due to the harm his powers have inflicted on those he loves. He can literally make fire and his backstory feels relevant rather than added for the sake of it.

DC went in big with this movie, from marketing and the future of the shared universe. It doesn’t deserve the negative press but Suicide Squad isn’t the feel good fix it should have been. It trumps most Marvel films out there but it seems DC are being judged by different standards.

Marvel get away with brains-out-live-action-cartoons. DC have made a better one of those but still get slated.

It lacks the depth Batman v Superman offered and the easy fun Star Trek Beyond served up, but it isn’t bad.

The Suicide Squad are the best trying bad guys out there.

7/10