Film review – Logan (James Mangold, 2017)

THIS ARTICLE IS FULL OF SPOILERS

Hugh Jackman is, in the superhero film world, a living legend. There has never been a single actor or actress that has achieved relentless success across so many different films in this genre, making a character his own and developing it into one of the big guns instead of just part of a team. Like the character Wolverine, the actor behind him seems like he’ll play the part forever.

And yet we come to Logan, a wisely-timed and fitting ending to the franchise and Jackman’s input into the character. It’s hard to believe it but this is the tenth time we’ve seen the character – seven X-Men films have now been made, along with three Wolverine-focussed standalone films. It seems impossible to think anyone will fill the role, meaning this could be the last time we see the character for many years, possibly ever.

It could well be the best superhero/mutant-hero film ever made.

Set in the world 2029, the film finds Logan worlds apart from his former self. Hiding out in a disused smelting plant in New Mexico, he is working as a chauffeur whilst hustling for prescription drugs for Professor X (Patrick Stewart), whom he lives with alongside Caliban (a surprisingly sincere Stephen Merchant). He is tracked down by a mysterious woman named Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who is trying to get him to take a young mutant girl named Laura (the brilliant Dafne Keen) to specific co-ordinates in South Dakota before Transigen finds her to either kill her or take her back into their shady mutant development programme. The company, which we have previously glimpsed in X-Men: Apocalypse, is headed up by Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), whilst they are hotly pursued by head of security and leader of the Reavers Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).

Jackman reportedly took a pay cut to ensure this film received an R-Rating in USA. The result is certainly the most brutal cinematic portrayal of Wolverine yet, with no holding back on any of the gruesome details. It is certainly not a kids’ film. Jackman looks battle-worn from the start, the reasoning given that the adamantium is now poisoning his body and losing its regenerative abilities. His best cure is to drink alcohol, which may mask the pain but won’t cover the endless scars across his body.

The perfect muse for Jackman’s final turn as Logan is Patrick Stewart, reprising one last time his Professor X character. Now in the midst of a horrific battle with dementia, he struggles to keep control of his telepathic abilities. What is really interesting here is that it is a study of people at the end of their life who are losing their usefulness to society. Okay, this is shown in the most extreme manners when someone has superpowers, but the poignancy is still there for everyone to see.

To add extra emotional weight to the film, the young girl is revealed to be the kind-of-daughter of Wolverine, in that she shares some of his genetic make-up. In the greater comic book storylines she is X-23, who first appeared in 2003. Whilst not strictly his daughter, this is a clever plot device as it means the two characters are immediately drawn to one another, despite their tendency to mistrust those around them.

It may be masquerading as a film about mutants but this is so much more – a character-driven drama about old age and retirement.

Inevitably, the ending is upsetting, as we see our titular hero sacrifice himself to ensure the safe passage of his daughter. The final scene, especially the final shot, is absolutely perfect.

A fitting end to one of the greatest film characters of our time.

Advertisements

Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 – Day 2

Day two at the Star Wars Celebration was far more busy than the first. A sold out ticket allocation meant that queues were slightly longer, walking from A to B was slightly more stressful and events were slightly more over-subscribed. That didn’t really matter though. Because Star Wars.

The day kicked off with the familiar dash for wristbands for the headline events in the Celebration Theatre. If you’ve never experienced this at a convention before, it is my understanding that this is about as mellow as it gets. You just need to be there on time and know what you’re looking for.

Panel – ‘The Creatures, Aliens and Droids of Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Chancellor Villecham, Wollivan and Quiggold


The first port of call was the panel discussion titled ‘The Creatures, Aliens and Droids of Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. Hosted by Warwick Davis (who acted as Wicket and Wollivan, amongst others), this was truly spectacular. Where else would you get a chance to hear an hour-long discussion with several members of the team behind the practical special effects in Episode VII? The panel included Neal Scanlan (Creature Effects Supervisor, Force Awakens); Brian Herring (BB-8 puppeteer, The Force Awakens); Vanessa Bastyan (Supervising Animatronic Designer); Chris Clarke (Animatronic Designer); Maria Cork, (Hair Department Supervisor).

The key moment here was the reveal of a new character from Rogue One, provisionally called Space Monkey. Portrayed by Nick Hennings, he had a bit of fun misbehaving on stage and throwing some of Warwick Davis’s Ewok paraphernalia around.  

There was also demonstration of some Force Awakens characters, including Wollivan, Chancellor Villecham and Quiggold. The intricacy of the animatronics involved were easy to be missed in their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances just didn’t do them justice.

Exhibition – The Costumes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Three Shoretroopers line up in the costume exhibition

There is an exhibition all weekend featuring the costumes of Rogue One, which was fascinating for anyone keen to get more of a glimpse of the new film.

Moon?

The detail in the costumes is something missed when watching films anywhere but in a cinema so getting a chance to take my time with them was a unique experience that was only really afforded due to the close proximity of the venue to the recently-wrapped filming at nearby Pinewood Studios.
Panel – ‘Anthony Daniels: Without Protocol’

Anthony Daniels provides a reading from C-3PO: The Phantom Limb

‘Anthony Daniels: Without Protocol’ was a wholly different and bizarre experience. It started off like any other Q&A session before quickly descending into chaos, with Daniels and Warwick Davis trying to direct audience members on stage in a recreation of a scene from A New Hope. He then gave a reading from the recent C-3PO comic book that finally explained the red arm that has been on everyone’s minds since the film was released. 

Exhibit – Star Wars High-Performance RC Experience

The RC Experience was, in all honesty, not worth checking out. It was something a bit different, but unless you’re a huge fan of remote control helicopters it will pass without any wow factor. Sorry guys!

Panel – ‘The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The concept artists behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens


The final panel of the day was a discussion between some of the concept artists behind the development of The Force Awakens. This was a really interesting one hour that I’m glad I attended. Hosted by, there were several artists involved in the discussions, including Doug Chiang (Executive Creative Director, The Force Awakens); Rayne Roberts (Lucasfilm Story Group); Phil Szostak (author, ‘The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens’).

There were a few revelations. One image seemed to reveal that Rey used to be called Sally in an early stage of the film. It was interesting to hear how many ideas were scrapped along the way, but the artists didn’t seem to care about that and were candid in explaining their thought processes around each of their drawings.

There was a surprise visit from Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, who were spotted looking uncomfortable in a Stormtrooper outfit throughout the panel. He asked a ridiculous question in a very broad northern-England accent (I think) and laughed as the panel looked on nonplused. A great moment!

Gareth Edwards creates a storm


Mark Hamill?

Stop! Hamill Time!


Mark Hamill surprised fans as we left by appearing on the Star Wars Show stage and entertaining guests until we were all ejected. A nice surprise given we were heading for the exit anyway!!

Star Wars: Shattered Empire (Marvel Comics, 2015)

There have been quite a number of Star Wars comics released by Marvel over the last few months, all in the run up to the release of The Force Awakens. First came the Jason Aaron and John Cassaday Star Wars series, which focuses on the original series heroes in events after A New Hope. Then there was the Darth Vader series from Kieron Gillan and Adi Granov, following a similar time period. There was also the five part Princess Leia series from Mark Waid and Terry Dodson, which is a neat addition to the story.

The one I picked up first was the Shattered Empire series, written by Greg Rucka and pencilled by Marco Checchetto. It covers the time immediately after Return of the Jedi and follows the main characters of the original Star Wars trilogy as they attempt to rid the galaxy of the last remnants of the Empire.

Single page from Shattered Empire

 

The biggest appeal for this is that it begins to bridge the gap between the last film and the one we’re so excited about seeing next week. Indeed, as the panels above show us, it is actually a backstory of sorts for Poe Dameron, the fighter pilot portrayed by Oscar Isaac in The Force Awakens. What we learn here is that his parents were part of the Rebellion with Han, Luke, Chewbacca and Leia. It’s perhaps not a revelation but it paints a broader picture of the situation he’s in and the relationship he might have with Han and Chewbacca when they interact.

The story is neat and the artwork is high quality, with plenty of detail afforded. Exactly what you’d expect from a Marvel comic these days.

The trade paperback also comes with the first issue of the Leia comic at the back, providing a flavour of what to expect from that series. Overall well worth a purchase.

The Walking Dead: Weird and Wonderful Merchandise

As with any hugely popular TV series, there’s always a big attempt to get its fans to part with their hard earned money by any means necessary. The Walking Dead is no exception. Check out these weird and wonderful items that could be yours if you have more money than sense.

Bland Officially Licensed Socks

Why wouldn’t you want to put some cool images from The Walking Dead on your feet? Imagine the heads of zombies exploding as a bullet impacted on their undead skulls. What about the mixture of fear and anger Michonne has when seeking revenge on The Governor? Or, maybe you’d prefer a picture of Andrew Lincoln portraying Rick Grimes pensively looking out into the distance whilst crouching in the middle of nowhere? No? Oh… Pick them up here.

Shit socks? Yes please.

Shit socks? Yes please.

The Walking Dead Comic-Con Exclusive Zombie Burst Guitar

Yours for just ¬£329 plus shipping, this guitar will make you the envy of all your friends who will sit back and think “I wish I was so rich that I could blow so much money on a terrible-looking guitar and think it was a good idea.”

“This would look great alongside my CSI: Miami saxophone”

Michonne Sword Letter Opener

If you’re asking yourself “Why?”, I say to you “Why not?”. Then I laugh and say “No seriously, why?”

Available for just $89.99.

His success had gone to his head.

His success had gone to his head.

Rick Grimes Resin Deluxe Boxed Statue

Clearly the $350 asking price on the official website didn’t put many people off. It has to be said, this looks spectacular. It’s a lot of money to spend on something like this, but of all of the comic book range of toys and collectibles, this is up there with the best.

A collectible as bad-ass as the man it portrays.

A collectible as bad-ass as the man it portrays.

The Walking Dead Plain Logo T-Shirt

Another stylish piece of merchandise is this, a nice, plain and simple logo t-shirt that really works in the charcoal grey colour. There are plenty of other options with catchphrases and other gimmicks, but if you want something more subtle then this is what you need. It will set you back $19.99.

Simple and stylish clothing for fans of the comic.

Simple and stylish clothing for fans of the comic.

Stern Pinball Machine

Not much to say here, but if you’re sitting in the middle of a Venn Diagram that consists of the categories “Loves The Walking Dead”, “Loves Pinball”, “Has too much money” and “Had no sense” then this is the product for you.

Yours for just $7495. I would if I could.

SUCH A SUPPLE WRIIIIIST!

SUCH A SUPPLE WRIIIIIST!

The Walking Dead Battle Scene Wallet

This may be more within your price range. A mere $20 will get you this stylish wallet inspired by the All Out War story arc of the comic book series. It will be cool to get hold of it now and then when the story kicks in early next year in the television show you can say “It was much better in the comics” as you whip out your cool wallet and pay for a mug of smug.

Both cool and practical.

Both cool and practical.

Check back tomorrow for a review of the first episode of Fear The Walking Dead, the new series that premieres on the BT-exclusive AMC channel.