***Major Spoilers for Logan and Manchester by the Sea follow***
I wanted to get my thoughts out real quick while Logan is still hot in theaters. I have seen the movie. It is very good, but not great. There are some little things I do not like about it. The major theme that Logan will finally find something to care about before he dies is pretty out of place. We have seen Logan love romantically several times over in the 9 film Jackman era, and still more in the unconditional sense with Professor Xavier, Storm, and the younger X-Men. It is a little silly to drive that home as a theme. Also there is a stretch at the beginning of the third act where Logan falls asleep and wakes up about 12 times in a row. It made the story really drag. Having said all that, good action, characters, and tone. It was an appropriate send-off to the character.
I want to focus on one observation I made about Wolverine and Professor Xavier in Logan and how they connect to Casey Affleck’s character Lee Chandler in Manchester by the Sea. I was struck in both movies by the amount of baggage the characters had. Professor Xavier lives with the guilt that one of his psychic seizures killed several of the X-Men, among numerous other people. Logan shares in the guilt, in addition to a lifetime of killing people and losing people he loves. Lee Chandler lives with the guilt that his drunken negligence led to the death of his 3 children. Wow. That is horrifically heavy. It is a massive hole in which we find these characters. Here is where we find the difference between an Oscar caliber film and a popcorn film, albeit a gritty serious popcorn film.
The idea of dealing with loss and how you live your life after tragedy clearly works a lot better in Manchester. By design, even the moments where you think Lee will see a ray of sunshine are diminished. He is brought down to earth by the heavy anchor that is his guilt and pain. It creates a consistency throughout the story, so that by the end of the movie, we can appreciate the small victory of his nephew fishing with him and potentially coming to visit him from time to time in his new home.
With Logan, it is not as clean. Charles Xavier has a similar small victory in the form of one night of peace after bonding with the Munson family, Logan, and Laura. But for as talented as Sir Patrick Stewart is, did you ever really feel the weight of loss on him? He has some form of dementia that temporarily leads to him forgetting what happened, but Logan also does not seem like someone who bears that weight. These were the most important people in Xavier’s life. Logan is being praised as a movie that you can even see with non-X-men fans, but do you really think they would grasp the reality of what happened? Do Xavier and Logan really act like Xavier killed all his children?
This is far from the worst example of a movie slipping in character development or theme, but it stood out to me, having seen Logan just one week after the Oscars, where Manchester won best screenplay and lead actor. Those were certainly well deserved. There is also a difficult balancing act with Logan when you consider that it is technically part of a shared movie universe. As I said before, the movie attempts to be standalone and appeal even to people who have not seen the other movies, yet a large portion of the audience will have investment in those characters. How can Storm and Cyclops not even get a mention when Logan and Xavier reflect?
Additional Logan thoughts (People who have seen Logan, but not Manchester by the Sea can continue here):
- Logan: Fury Road – Remember last week when I said Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie that could inspire young film makers? Turns out it can inspire veteran film makers as well. A man with a troubled past joins forces with a bad-ass female character and other uniquely valuable individuals trying to get to a promised land that ends up being a hoax while being pursued by deformed men who like to stand on top of moving cars during chases. Not ringing a bell…
- Did anyone else feel Logan getting scary close to the much maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine at times? You have the Stryker-esque Zander Rice scientist character. You have the Sabertooth-esque Donald Pierce pursuing our characters. Logan has to help a bunch of mutant kids at the end. It is tonally much different and way more grounded, but there were just a few moments where I got some chills of the past. Also, the adamantium bullet as the Wolverine killer is only ever established in Origins.
- Let me clarify Zander Rice real quick. Contrary to what you may read on TIME.com, whose globally reaching research resources are nothing compared to this nerd mind, he is NOT the son of William Styker. He mentions that Logan killed his father. That was during the events of X-Men Apocalypse, when Weapon X is set free and kills nearly everyone in that facility. Rice is also NOT Mr. Sinister. It looks like they punted on Mr. Sinister being the gene splicer that created the Wolverine clones in order to have a more grounded movie. A more grounded movie with Wolverine clones, guys with cybernetic arms, telepathic nonagenarians, and kids who can control grass.
- RIP Munson Family. You guys did nothing wrong. It bothers me in movies when our characters bring all the trouble with them. World War Z is the most ridiculous, where zombies seem to wait for Brad Pitt to be somewhere before attacking. Professor X is the culprit here, not realizing that they are putting the family in serious danger by staying with them. And do NOT tell me it was just because he didn’t realize the Reavers had X-24 up their sleeve. The regular Reavers could have done just as much damage in that scenario.
- I am oddly emotionless about X-24. I did not love him or hate him. It is nice in today’s blockbuster world to have a genuine surprise in a movie, one that is not given away in the trailer. It was pretty well telegraphed that the adamantium bullet would eventually be used on him. In the end, the tide was turned so much in the favor of Logan and the kids, that I did not really feel the impact of X-24 entering the battle. It was just a countdown to when he was going to get dispatched by the bullet. Sure he ends up giving the death strike to Wolverine, but as with the Munson family, Logan was vulnerable enough at that point for any Reaver to take him out.
What did you think of Logan? Let me know in the comments below!
Footnote: Something I never want to do on this blog is a traditional, spoiler-free movie review. These are a dime a billion on the internet. If I cover a recent release, I want it to be discussion worthy, as if writer and reader have both seen the film and are discussing it over drinks, diving into what was good, what was bad, plot holes, connections to other movies, etc. I enjoyed my “Free Form” piece last week, which also covered something current in Hollywood, so I think for now I will stick to that when a big release comes out. I will try to keep it centered around some kind of point, but it may go in several directions.
2 thoughts on “Wolverine by the Sea”
I’m wondering how much of the hype about Logan being a film that transcends comic movie world is just overzealous publicity from the studio and its stooges. Obviously, I can’t watch the film as someone who hasn’t seen the previous films or read the comics so I can’t comment on it like that. But honestly, who would watch Logan who *hasn’t* seen an X-men film at this point? The more I think about it, it just feels like a last ditch effort to hump the cash cow that is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. But honestly, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. My bet is he’ll cameo again someday soon. Just glad we have Deadpool! The crown has been passed to America’s new favorite bad-boy comic antihero.
Maybe it’s the part of me that goes to movies solely to escape and be entertained, not to try to find some deeper meaning, but I had the opposite reaction to Logan and Manchester. I hated Manchester by the sea. I thought it was atrocious. Sorry Academy, but I thought Casey Affleck’s performance was so incredibly dull. I don’t understand why doing a Ryan Phillipe impression for 2+ hours wins you an oscar. There was no arc. There was no emotion. There was no range. It was a sour guy from beginning to end. All he did was act depressed the entire movie. I found no emotional reaction to it. Was the scene with the fire brutal to watch, yes. Was the scene in the police station great, yes. But otherwise I thought it was a whole bunch of boring. I honestly got more emotional connection watching Amy Adams in Arrival with what goes on with her issues. As opposed to Manchester, I found Logan to be emotional. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a 30 year love affair with Wolverine and I’ve seen all of the Hugh Jackman turns as the character so I am emotionally invested in him. But I loved it. The story of a guy who is trying to do right, but always seems to be put in positions that make him do wrong. Being emotional scarred from all of the loss in his life to the point where he hides and drinks waiting to die, only to find one last thing to live for with the hope of cleansing his past sins. I loved it.
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