Review: Logan, and what this means for the X-Men moving forward

An era definitely came to and end on Friday when Logan hit theaters.  I will keep the spoilers to a minimum here in case any of you haven’t seen it.  And if you haven’t seen it yet, what are you doing here?  This is something you need to go see as soon as possible, because it is, without a doubt, one of the best comic book movies ever.

Now, the gold standard for comic book adaptations is The Dark Knight, and I don’t ever see that changing.  That being said, Logan came pretty close in a few respects.  The raw emotion of the movie was something that was way  out of left field and was the driving force behind the movie.  That is something that was wrong with the X-Men movies we generally do not like- X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand come to mind- isthat they do not have enough emotion behind them.  Yes, effects are cool, especially in this universe where many of the characters have incredible powers.  Yet, any old movie can have effects, and the comic book movies that leave impressions are the ones that convey emotion the best.  The Dark Knight was phenomenal in this regard, but dare I say Logan is even better, simply because there’s not as many characters and they all did a great job of giving the movie the gravitas it needed to close out this chapter.

Speaking of the performances, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and all the others who we haven’t seen before brought their A-game.  It will be sad to see them go, as they are part of our collective memory now, but they did it on their terms, didn’t let the characters get boring, and made sure that we the fans would be satisfied by their final outings.  Fox needs to wait a while before they cast anyone else as Wolverine; I’d argue against it entirely, but they are trying to make money, and Wolverine will sell.  Nobody else is as iconic in their superhero role now, and Jackman will be remembered as Wolverine forever.  I’d like to say the same for Patrick Stewart, but in his three times playing Charles Xavier, James McAvoy brought the heat, especially in the appreciated-but-highly underrated X-Men: First Class.

The movie was a bloodbath from start to finish, not taking its R-rating for granted.  For a  movie so emotional, there is a ton of bloody, gory, glorious violence, and it really complements the emotion well.  It looks incredibly bleak, which goes well with the story.  the direction of the film was great; we knew what James Mangold could do after he did The Wolverine, but this movie took it to the next level.  Oh, and the soundtrack was perfect.  All those emotions were captured beautifully in the songs chosen.  Not wanting to give too much away, because there’s a lot of surprises in the move, the ending was the best part.  After all the movie’s events, we are left with this one scene that defines Jackman’s time as Wolverine, and personally, I thought it was executed flawlessly.  Last impressions are as meaningful as first impressions, and if this is what we have to remember Logan and Wolverine by, we are very blessed indeed.  In short, the movie was an absolutely perfect end to an iconic legacy.

Final grade for Logan: A+++++.

Back to business.  What does this mean for the X-Men in film now that the anchor of the franchise is gone?  Well, a few things.  One, since they recast all the important X-Men last summer in Apocalypse, I think we’ll see a few movies with that young and talented cast.  Hopefully Fox will smarten up and get someone other than Bryan Singer to direct; at this point his work is stale, and both us and the cast deserve better.  Marvel and DC are always trying out new things (those things may not always work out, but giving them a shot is admirable) so Fox should try some as well,  so long as those new things are thought out well and not a repeat of Fant4stic.  If we can get one more film out of James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Michael Fassbender- who all have bigger fish to fry in terms of the roles they get- with this newer cast that is not an origin story, the X-Men will have changed their course for the better and we can rest easy knowing that it is in good hands with this new generation.  We need to see newer stories and different stories, because with Singer at the helm, we have simply seen all he can do.

Did you see Logan? Did you think it was as good I as think it is?  let me know, and let me know what you think of the X-Men too.  As always, follow me on instagram so you don’t miss any posts.

The OA Season 1

I watch a lot of TV.  I don’t have one particular genre that I stick to, so as long as it’s good, I’ll be tuned in.  Netflix and Amazon Prime changed the game so that binge-watching is the hot new thing, but you already know that.  However, there is only one show I have truly ever binge watched, where I sat in one place and did not move from start to finish minus a few bathroom breaks- that show is The OA.

In your head, describe your favorite show as simply as you can.  It might be difficult to condense years of television and characters you’ve spent countless hours with and come to love in a few words, but typically it can be done.  Example: The Sopranos is about an Italian crime family in New Jersey.  Breaking Bad is about a chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer who makes meth to support his family.  Now, those may not do justice to the complexity and development those shows had, but they are pretty good descriptions for a beginner.  The OA, however, can have no simple description.  Where would you start?  How could you possibly start? The show is abound with content, yet, I do not have the words to describe it simply.  If you asked me what it was about, very frankly, I’d say I have no idea.

The show gripped me right from the beginning, where we see Prairie jump off the bride and end up in the hospital.  The first episode can drag a little bit, but once Prairie assembles her audience, the story grabs you and doesn’t let go.  There was no fanfare around the series as it was announced just days before it released, meaning there was no build up or really any time to tease the series.  That being said, I think it should be done more often, because I went in with a blank slate, not knowing what to expect at all, which was good, because if there were expectations going in, I guarantee the end result would have been wildly different from what anyone could have predicted.

It takes some time for the first episode to pick up.  In all fairness, setting the show’s course would have taken a lot of setup anyway they did it, so I’ll give them a pass here.  Without knowing exactly what we were getting into, it was certainly strange watching the events that lead to those five misfits sitting around Prairie listening to her story.   The series takes us back and forth between present day and Prairie’s early life, eventually into her teenage years and starting in the second episode, the real meat of the series: Prairie’s capture by a scientist studying near-death experiences.  Played by the familiar Jason Isaacs, “Hap” as he’s called uses Prairie along with Homer, Rachel, and Scott to study NDEs, as he calls them, to figure out what happens to people having near death experiences and where they go during them.  This is where the show gets really good, and easily where the most questions come from.

Where most shows that are so ridiculously ambitious lose steam, The OA only picked up.  It was after the fifth episode- where Prairie and Homer revive Scott- that the series was at its best.  Watching that scene, you think you know exactly where the series is going, and just when it gets to that point, it practically drops dead, only to pick right back up and start running at 100 miles per hour again.  That is a trend after major plot developments and it keeps you going, which is part of the reason why I could stomach this whole show in one sitting.  However, the pacing of the show is a little off at times between Prairie’s storytelling sessions and the few timelines going on, but its never so bad as to hamper the viewing experience.  The show’s pacing is good where it needs to be.

The one major flaw was the very end.  We were supposed to see the five open the dimension and reunite Prairie with Homer right?  Wrong.  What we got was not really much of anything.  Should we think Prairie made the whole thing up?  I doubt it.   Sure the books were under her bed, but she was blind for most of her life, so how could she have learned how to read them?  If Prairie is making the whole thing up, what was the FBI trauma counselor doing in her house?  And why did French see Homer’s reflection in the mirror?  Personally, I believe Prairie.  There is too much evidence that points to her being right, or at best leaving the real answer ambiguous enough (like why was Rachel’s name written in braille at the FBI office?) that we would need to see more to really get a good idea of what actually happened.

The show is acted well and looks pretty good, and if there is a second season I’m sure Netflix will up the ante a little bit and get the effects looking better.  I hope there is a second season, because there are way too many questions, and not in a way that does the story justice.

Final Grade: B+, the ending was easily the show’s lowest point and left a bad taste in my mouth that only a second season can get out.

Legion- Season 1, Episode 1, and what this means for the X-men and superhero TV

Watching the first episode of Legion was a bit of a thrill ride.  Going into the premier, I had high expectations, and boy did Noah Hawley and his team deliver.  It was nice to see the X-Men franchise take a turn for the better here and hopefully that trend will continue with March’s upcoming Logan.  Minor spoilers ahead, so continue at your own risk.

When the show began, it was a little tough to grasp what was going on- there were obviously a few different timelines, changes between what was real and what was in David’s head, and the mystery surrounding the event that brought him to the mental hospital.  Normally, a show that reveals so little after one episode can be frustrating to follow, but in this case, everything came together just enough to point us in the right direction and tell us what to expect in the upcoming weeks.  We kind of know what to expect here- Legion is Professor X’s son and one of the most powerful mutants in the X-Men universe.  We also do get a taste of mutants not being welcome in society, hence the interrogation of David and all that shady government stuff that long time X-Men fans are familiar with.  Being on the run is another common X-Men thread here as well, and at the end of the first episode we see David, Syd, and a mysterious yet familiar group of mutants and maybe non-mutants running away from David’s captors.  Additionally, all we get are small glimpses of David’s power- while incredible, he does not know how to control it and is very destructive when he does, which sets up the event that leads to his capture by those mysterious government people.  We have seen similar instances of this before and it is one of the reasons why the X-Men series is so different from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Having a mutation  casts people away from society and is what leads David to be institutionalized, with similar instances of stigma around mutations being popular in previous X-Men adaptations. Whether or not we will see Professor X in the series is still to be determined, and even though I personally will not be holding my breath, I think that the show will still be X-men-y enough and different enough to be successful as both a comic book adaptation and as stand-alone (for now) TV.

I believe Noah Hawley struck gold again here.  The first two seasons of Fargo are criminally underrated and this series, with broader appeal to an established comic book community will turn people on to the great work he is doing with FX.  Hawley created and wrote the series and directed the pilot, a visually stunning and intriguing set-up to what should be a thrilling ride and hopefully the basis for more of the X-Men universe on TV.  That being said, I hope Fox starts exploring characters and stories that  Bryan Singer, er, I mean, they have previously not been bold enough to explore.  Marvel Studios repeatedly shows what lesser known characters and stories are capable of, and with Legion, Fox should taste similar success and diversify what we see out of future X-Men adaptations.

Building off that, this is a step forward for superheroes on TV.  The market for comic book based entertainment is probably nearly saturated, with Marvel and DC dominating box offices even with sub-standard films and superheroes taking up increasing prime time slots.  However, before this, cable had not seen any superhero TV like this.  Marvel and Netflix developed some dark stuff with their Defenders lineup including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, but being on Netflix affords those shows with more opportunity to push boundaries in terms of content and story lines.  Plus, those shows have the added benefit of fitting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, conveniently using the events of the Avengers as plot points when it suits them.  Legion does not have those opportunities, having to insert itself nebulously into the X-Men universe, and we really don’t know where in the timeline this should fit, for a few reasons.  Does anyone really know where the X-Men universe is after 2016’s Apocalypse? Probably not.  As Deadpool said, “McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing.”  Same, Mr. Pool.  The darkness of the story and catalyst to its events plus the commentary on mental illness are not always easy to watch or process, but Hawley and his team, throughout one episode anyway, demonstrate the ability to balance them out with some humor and don’t overdo any one element, keeping the plot moving and the story focused on superheroes, which is, after all, why we’re here. That aside, I don’t think it should matter too much for Legion, which has already established solid footing between including familiar X-Men themes and setting a tone that resembles the X-Men films but is unique on its own.  We will definitely learn more in the coming weeks, but with that will come more questions, and hopefully more X-Men in the future.