Sunday, 5 March 2017

Review: Logan (second-pass / spoilers)

Logan (second-pass / SPOILERS)
Cert: 15 / 137 mins / Dir. James Mangold / Trailer

This is your spoiler-break. I mean, there's a thing up there which says spoilers, and any link which brought you here probably warned of them too, but trust me - there are some massive, honking-great plot spoilers after the break, and not like neat-plot-synposis ones, just discussion of the themes and events which will assume you've seen the film (and also be reasonably familiar with the other X-Men movies, as well). Anyway, sometimes an RSS-reader or social media link will pull through content from the beginning of the post. This paragraph is to get around that chunk containing spoilers. That's how considerate I am. If you came over here looking for spoiler-free words about Logan, my first-pass review should be what you're after.

Anyway, that should be enough stalling.
Proceed with caution…

Spoilers Ahead!

Still here? Smashing. Now, as much as I love James Mangold's Logan (and I do), I have to confess that the film's trump card of Finality™ is nerfed slightly (for me at least) by the unasked question '…which timeline does this all take place in?'. The crescendo of a story doesn't have as much impact if you're not sure which story is actually being wrapped up. Notwithstanding the series' apparent inability to play by rules laid down in previous installments, Days of Future Past saw an active and deliberate move to set the cinematic course of events into a new and straight line. And it did so rather beautifully, I'll gladly admit.

The problem with continuity in the series seems to be with time itself, when dates are stamped on things and even when they're just implied. Back in 2000, the first X-Men movie opened with a scene set during the Second World War, captioned appropriately with "Poland 1944". The pinpointing makes absolute sense of course, for that's the precise historical moment we're seeing. When the film flips into the 'contemporary' setting, we get a location-tag accompanied by "the not to distant future". Which again, is fine as it avoids dating the film by specifying it as "2000".

X-Men (2000). And that's just fine.

In fact, the action taking place in the 'current' strand of most X-Men movies is usually alluded to be in the near and vague future. Yet from a retrospective point-of-view, the series often ties the story in to real-world events, from Origins: Wolverine's alternative-view of the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979, to First Class's retooling of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Origins: Wolverine / First Class - also largely fine.

Now, leaving aside the fact that Future Past essentially erased the former (and all of the previously told stories set after 1973 for that matter), there was still only an ambiguous link between the 'present day' or futuristic stories being told, and those framed in an historical context. But in Days of Future Past, something curious happened. Kitty Pryde sent the consciousness of Wolverine back into his 1973 body, to avert the crisis they were now permanently trying to escape. And in the midst of some fairly heavyweight exposition, she let slip that the 'current' year was around 2023:

"For the rest of us, it'll be the only history that we know. It'll be like the last fifty years never happened." ~ Kitty Pryde.

Obviously 'fifty years' was a generalisation on her part, but it's going to be around that, and almost certainly not forty-five or fifty-five. So around 2023, then.

Days of Future Past: Listen very carefully, for I shall say this only once…

…and if Wolverine jumps back fifty years, it stands to all reason that once his mission's accomplished (and/or he's skewered and dumped in a river, whichever comes first) he'd zap forward fifty years in return. Which is what we see in the film's final moments, as our hairy-hero awakes in Charles Xavier's school in Westchester in the newly created timeline, his old friends and acquaintences still alive, having never perished in the first place. All is right with the world, and this is where we leave the characters. In 2023.

Skipping forward to the events of Logan, we don't get an on-screen caption so it's down to the screenplay to fill in the blanks for the audience. The things we know are that there have been no new Mutants born "in the last twenty five years". Through Transigen, Alkali and various shell-companies, the nefarious Dr Rice has helped implement a worldwide program of genetically-modified crops (corn-starch, to be precise) to prevent naturally occurring Mutants (and very probably weaken existing ones in the process), whilst also co-ordinating further generations of the Weapon X program, to precisely harness mutations for military/intelligence purposes. Oh, and in case you were wondering, it's 2029.

"…It's 2029, why are we still talking about Mutants?" ~ Man on Radio In Logan's Car.

Which means while Laura and presumably the rest of the X-23 program subjects were born in 2018 (Charles tells Logan at one point that "She's 11 and I'm fucking 90"), there'd have been no 'wild' Mutants born since 2004. Dr Rice's program has already been underway for at least two decades by the time Logan returns to Xavier's school in 2023. The heroes went through all that effort to avert the hard-genocide of Bolivar Trask's Sentinels, only to find themselves on the receiving end of a more insidious, soft variety, by eating The Wrong Cornflakes™.

All of this also means that when Logan wakes up and looks around the corridors of the once-again buzzing school, the youngest student there should be around 19, right? Since it's 2023 and the last Mutants were born in 2004?

Days of Future Past: …aren't you a little short for a Mutant?

Now those figures may be fleeting cast-members in the shots, but unless their particular super-powers involve not being allowed on the rides at theme parks, they're kind of short for 19yr olds, don'tcha think?

Given that some of the history mentioned in Logan contradicts what we've already seen in the 'fixed' continuity, one throwaway line from a nameless radio presenter suggests that this newest film doesn't take place in the established timeline at all. Logan isn't 'the' final chapter, it's a final chapter. Of a story we haven't actually been told yet.

Although Jackman has said in various places that this will be his last outing as Logan/Wolverine, there's no reason why more stories can't be told with the 'legacy' cast, just set earlier in the chronology. And there's no reason why Jackman couldn't return, short of just being tired of playing the role. We already have no real idea what occurred in the six years between the end of Days of Future Past and Logan. And when has X-continuity ever bothered Fox, anyway? They've already broken it to the point where it's no longer necessary for making a fantastic movie, as James Mangold has shown.

All I'm saying is, let's not write off Weapon X just yet…

But leaving all that aside, I love that the film is about growing old and dealing with guilt. It's heavily implied (but not specified either way*1) that either Charles or Logan are responsible for the death of their fellow Mutants at the School for Gifted Youngsters. Here, X-24 represents Logan's guilt over all the bad things he's done, while X-23 represents his guilt over all the good he never got round to.

• So in this film, Wolverine ends up protecting a clone-Wolverine from a clone-Wolverine, who kills Xavier then goes on to kill Wolverine, before being killed by clone-Wolverine. And if that doesn't crystallise existential-guilt, I don't know what does…

[ UPDATE: 06 MAR 2017 ]

So after writing, posting, editing, re-editing and sleeping on the above, another thing occurred to me. Regarding the 'no Mutants born since 2004' claim, there is of course the question of the children that Logan and Laura find at the Eden outpost in North Dakota. They've clearly been born in the intervening years, as the film illustrates. There are two possibilities for their previously unknown existence:

1) These are naturally occurring Mutants who've found their own way to Eden. Despite the measures put in place by Dr Rice's genetically modified cornstarch, life has, to quote Ian Malcolm, found a way. Coded messages within the in-universe X-Men comics, hidden in plain sight, have had the desired effect and enabled the gathering of new, young Mutants.

2) These children are escapees from various stages of Dr Rice's continuing Weapon X project. IIRC, it's stated in the film that Laura's X-23 generation consisted of ten children. There are more than that at Eden, and they're of varying ages (plus, it's unlikely that all of her classmates escaped to safety). It's also notable that many of them appear to have not yet reached adolescence, the point where mutations traditionally begin to reveal themselves, even though we see the children using their powers. This would suggest an artificially accelerated mutation, typical of a medical or weapons-research program. Additionally, the children at Eden have no parents or guardians present; it's unlikely to be the case that the biological parents of all these Mutants would abandon their offspring in the wilds of Dakota. Given Laura's circumstances, it's more probable that these children have escaped or been smuggled out at separate points until a plan could be formulated for their safety*2.

Irrespective of their origin, Charles Xavier has only been in telepathic contact with one of these Mutants: Laura. If The Westchester Incident only occurred a year before the events of Logan, that still leaves a significant amount of dead-air time beforehand. Has he been unaware of the others' presence because of his weakened state, because of his reverse-Cerebro farm-bunker, or because the children were somehow shielded at the Transigen headquarters?

Either way, it's Logan himself who tells Charles that 'no Mutants have been born in twenty five years', and the point isn't argued save for Laura. And as they're unaware of the new generation, the line itself is incongruous with having children in their early teens at Westchester a mere six years earlier.
The main point still stands, I think Logan happens in an alternative timeline.


Other (slightly more flippant) questions I have after watching the movie again:

• Is Wolverine's entire skeleton coated in Adamantium like in the old continuity, or does he only have the implanted claws now? Because Laura's meant to be based on him, and her notes just say 'implants', and you couldn't very well coat the bones of a child who's still growing, using the world's strongest metal now could you? She'd be gradually crushed by her own imposed-superpower. That'd be a dark spin-off.

• How come the X-Men universe has X-Men toys and comics which are exactly the same as the audience-universe X-Men toys and comics? For most of these movies, the mutants have been a thinly-veiled metaphor for the LGBT community, constantly teetering on the edge of public mistrust and often the victims of outright prejudice. Yet in 2029 the general consensus has turned (and long before that point, remember) to "fuck it, let's make a 12" action figure of the most butch, murdery actual real-life Mutant, but wearing this yellow spandex outfit. That seems appropriate".

• How come Gabriela's phone doesn't have an unlock-code? She's already hidden this crucial story-prop incredibly badly so that Logan can find it (yet apparently not so badly that her murderers could get to it and destroy all the evidence first), then he just pops it on and starts watching the conveniently edited secret-documentary. And then when the power dies (I don't know about your mobile, but my phone bugs the shit out of me for about ten minutes rather than just flashing up a battery-icon then switching off within a second) and Logan recharges the phone (nice to see USB cables still ubiquitous in 2029), it just pops back on ready to resume play. No startup sequence, no unlock-code or welcome screen. And don't get me started on Logan's own iPhone 6.

• Also, how come Logan's hair and beard grow back instantly if they're sheared off by an atomic explosion, but when six mischievous urchins decide to give him a trim, they just stay that way? Is super-hairdressing their mutation?

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Them X-Men films.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you're going to see it at all, yes.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I think so.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It'll be a high water-mark.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Maybe not, but let's talk about that…

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
So, yep

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film's got Boyd Holbrook in it, and he was in Run All Night and A Walk Among The Tombstones alongside Liam 'Qui-Gon' Neeson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Xavier's "What did you do?" line, and Logan's reticence implies that the latter could have wiped out the students in an attack (which would tie in with the Old Man Logan comic-book, upon which this film is loosely based). But Xavier's later confession of "I did a terrible thing" suggests the students and teachers could have been killed during one of his seizures. That said, we hear a radio report stating that it's been "one year" since the Westchester incident which injured hundreds but had only six fatalities. Whether the reported deaths included Mutants or not isn't clarified. [ BACK ]

*2 Although let's not forget that the author(s) of the in-universe X-Men comics seem to know all about safe-havens and grand-plans, the likes of which even Professor X himself is unaware. I'm sure that'll be covered in the potential New Mutants spin-off, by which time they'll probably have changed the continuity again... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.


  1. Don't think I've ever commented here before.
    Can't really talk spoilers things on twitter.

    Some, but not all of the kids at "Eden" are seen at the Alkali centre. Part of Laura's batch (for ant of a better word)
    Also not, all the kids are called X-23's (or simply, 23's by rice) yet Laura's serial number on her paperwork states X-23 - 23. Suggesting at least 23 kids in that test.

    I also like to think that Prof X's "what did you do" is Jim being unable to remember what happened, even though he's aware SOMETHING happened. I like to think Wolvy not telling him it was the Professor is him carrying the burden for him. Same way you maybe wouldn't keep telling someone with Alzheimer's that their beloved dog is dead making them suffer the fresh anguish every time.

    Just a couple of bits I took from it.

    Also, Sony phones suck balls. I wouldn't be surprised if they had no security.


  2. So Laura's 23 of 23 (probably)? Hadn't noticed that, only that some of the other kids' files also state "X23", so assumed it was the 23rd batch of experiments, with accelerated-growth angry-Logan being the (presumably) sole survivor of 24.

    And for all Rice's leading question of "Alzheimer's? ALS?", I'm still not entirely convinced Xavier is having a regular medical deterioration. That no naturals have been born for so long, the other established mutants being ostensibly dead and the last two of the 'old guard' severely weakened seems too coincidental for my liking. After all, the mutants are humans too, and they've been eating the same corn-syrup based food as everyone else (cf Colossus in Deadpool*). The modifications which quell the X-gene in the reproductive system of normies have got to have one hell of an effect on an actual developed mutant.

    *Although y'know, timelines :P