LOGAN: The Death of the Comic Book Movie (The Birth of the Comic Book Genre)

This is not a review, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants of Gods, X-Men, Destiny, Time, Love, Storm, Rogue, Beauty… Comic Books.

Logan: The Death of a the Comic Book Movie (The Birth of the Comic Book Genre)

…Or this is just me rambling on about movies and comic books as usual.

Logan (20th Century Fox)

Directed by James Mangold

Written by Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green

Starring Hugh JackmanPatrick StewartRichard E. GrantBoyd HolbrookStephen Merchant & Dafne Keen

“I get the feeling this review is gonna hurt, kid. The kind of pain that doesn’t heal. You know what I mean?” “Of course I do. I’m extraordinarily wise for a lab experiment… oh yeah and I can drive.”

Make no mistake, people. Logan is not a good film. It’s not a good superhero film or a good western. Even as it tries to compare its own shit writing to the classic western Shane (SACRILEGE!!!), it is not a good movie, period. But what it is, what Logan turns out to be, is the latest in a welcome trend. A regular movie that just happens to star a comic book superhero. Not a superhero movie. Not a comic book movie. There are comic books in the movie. Wolverine waves them around from time to time, if that helps to put the character in context. But that’s about it. And it does not.

“You see, in this reality they made us into comic book superheroes for their kids but still hunted us down like dogs… because that makes total sense.”

Wolverine, everyone’s favorite X-Man, has had three solo movies. The first and the third have been complete bullshit. The second, however, is one of my favorite comic book movies of all-time. The second Wolverine is an homage to his stand alone title. It is a perfect replica. The pacing. The cinematography. This is The Wolverine. This is the comic that I collected from issue ONE. I say this all the time and I will say it here again. “If you do not respect the source material do not take on the job of bringing it to the screen.” But I was about to tell you what this awful movie Logan means for the industry.

“Awful? Well that’s just harsh. Play that Johnny Cash song again. I think I’m gonna cry.””

The first sci-fi genre was a straight space adventure. Trip To The Moon. The second was The vampire Film. Nosferatu. Since those two, we’ve had tons of space adventures and tons of takes on the vampire. These are tried and true genres that once every decade somebody tries to reinvent and breathe new life into. But also there are other types of movies that aren’t as flexible. They come and go from era to era. They disappear and have resurgences. Like the western or the gladiator movie. These are just types of movies not genres. (in this context anyway. Because words can be tricky)

“I will kill you all with my Star Wars Prequel Yoda-like, physics defying, aerial acrobatics because I am a cartoon character in a serious movie!!! ARRRGH!!!”

In the past, the superhero movie was a type. (type vs genre) It was a costumed adventure. Fight the bad guy. Save the girl. Save the world. Period. End of story. There were a few comedy bits thrown in but mostly it was the superhero’s tale. But these types of movies are coming to an end. Their time has passed. Logan is not a comic book movie. It just happens to star a character from a comic book. And that is awesome. (Even while the movie Logan is not that awesome).

“Say my movie is bad one more time. I dare you… Bub.” *snikt

Logan is not a western either, by the way. I read that somewhere. I disagree whole-heartedly. It thinks it’s a western, but it’s not. If anything it’s a post-apocalyptic survival story like Mad Max: Fury Road. But instead of a global apocalypse, Logan is about the mutant apocalypse. The chase to hunt down the last mutants. At the start of this movie all but three mutants are dead. Professor X, Callaban and Wolverine. By the end of this movie… no spoilers but everywhere you look people are saying this is the last Wolverine movie. This is the last Wolverine movie. So you figure it out. And don’t talk to me about the kids. They were made in a lab (*see note). So not a natural mutation. Logan, the end of the Wolverine franchise, is some dark stuff.

*note: Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton was added in a lab but his mutation, his healing factor (Deadpool has the same thing but that too is from a lab) and Wolverine’s heightened senses (smell mostly) are a natural mutation. Of course the movie Logan all but ignores his sense of smell. It’s almost like the writers never read the comic books… but anyway. What was I saying? Oh yes.

“Wolverine, would you please tell Mel to stay on topic.” “He doesn’t listen to me, Professor.”

The comic book superhero is officially a film genre and not a type of movie now. And I know I’m not using the right words but bear with me. Because the word genre can fit for both of these categories of things and it gets confusing. The way I’m differentiating here is in the ways they can be presented. Some film types are the same no matter what. Different plot. Different characters. But you know the beats. Romantic Comedy. You get the gist. International Spy Thriller. You know what you’re going to get. Gladiator films changed from Roman to Martial Arts but they generally stayed the same. The Comic Book Movie was just like that not too long ago. Dark or Light. Marvel or DC. Nolan’s Batman, Donner’s Superman, Whedon’s Avengers and Raimi’s Spiderman are all the same fucking films. Like the western. It was a box. You could throw whatever superhero you wanted into it and the beats would always be generally the same. I’m not saying they are all the same quality because they are not. And there’s nothing wrong with opening up a box, knowing what you’re going to get and still being pleasantly surprised. It’s hard to like movies unless you’re okay with that.

“Wait… Are you the vampire, Callaban? And does that make me the Zombie? I don’t get it.”

But then you have the full on classic genre that’s not beholding to any style. Vampires. Are probably the best example. There are no rules. You can have a space opera with vampires. You can have a rom com with vampires or a western. Most recently Zombies have become the go to for putting them wherever the fuck you want. If you made a section of vampire movies it would make no sense. There would actually be more types of movies than you could shake a stick at under the vampire genre. Comic book superheroes are now officially crossing into that zone. And I’m psyched. The R rated comic book film with no crime to fight, no world to save… fuck yeah.

“Did somebody call for a super-villain? That isn’t really super or necessarily a villain. Just a misguided corporate stooge who blindly follows orders. Did somebody call for a misguided corporate stooge who blindly follows orders?”

And again I’m talking Sherlock Holmes in space type shit. Not just some detective. I’m talking about recognizable comic book superheroes in all kinds of movie boxes. Not just some generic superhero they made up that’s supposed to remind us of stuff from the comics, but the name-brand heroes from the comics. It’s time for a Batman movie where he never puts on the cape. Just a detective story or a revenge tale. One of my favorite aspects of The Hulk movie (still my favorite comic book adaptation) is the romance between Liv Tyler and Ed Norton. And that’s what the Hulk was for me when I was a kid, a romance. Stop trying to make him into a superhero. He’s not a superhero. He’s a monster in love. Spider-man as a teen drama would be nice. Sure he’s still the spider-man but that’s not the movie. The movie is about a kid trying to finish high school. Stop it with the super-villains. Enough already. We get it.

“Logan, do you remember that Star Trek episode where Captain Picard has a full life and grows old in a simulated tribute to an alien species?” “No I didn’t watch that nerd crap.” “I wish that was what this was. Because this movie is depressing as fuck.”

So anyway, what Logan represents to me is the death of the comic book movie. We saw the beginnings in Winter Soldier… that’s more of a spy thriller than comic book. And Deadpool… an R rated fourth wall comedy, a parody of itself. The comic book movie as movie type, is burning itself out. There will still be tons made, because you know how it takes Hollywood a couple of decades before they get the point, but we’re already getting tired of them. Bring on the comic book heroes in regular movies. These are great classic characters. They don’t have to fight The Riddler every week. That’s just their job. It doesn’t have to also be the movie plot.

“Here Lies The Superhero Movie Genre… I mean Movie Type… May It Rest In Peace… I mean Pieces. – Hugh Jackman.”

So Logan, this mediocre, unbelievably corny and poorly written take on The Wolverine, really wasn’t that great of a movie from where I was sitting (seat L10 right behind the wheelchair section because, you know, leg room ftw). Even though Hugh Jackman is great as Wolverine, here he reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back to play the Terminator one last time… nostalgic. And to tell the truth, I didn’t see Wolverine in Logan at all. I saw the actor who plays Wolverine and a character with claws who references the comic books like that’s enough. That’s not enough.

“Daddy?” “Yes Laura… wait. Did you just call me daddy? Damn, maybe Mel is right. This is some corny ass shit.” “I have to go to the bathroom.” “Hold it. We’re almost there.” “AARRRRGH!!” “Really? Again with the screaming?”

But what I also saw, in the theater, and on the screen, is what it means for comic book movies going forward… a whole new set of rules. The possibilities are endless. Creativity run amok. And that shit was better than the movie. That shit was beautiful.

– Mel

The Comic Book Movie is dead.

Long Live the Comic Book Genre.

Advertisements

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Terminator – Genisys

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Terminator: Genisys (Paramount Pictures)

Terminator Genisys Poster

Directed by Alan Taylor

Written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier  Based on Characters by James Cameron & Gale Anne Hurd

Starring Arnold SchwarzeneggerJason ClarkeEmilia ClarkeJai CourtneyJ. K. SimmonsDayo OkeniyiMatt SmithCourtney B. Vance & Lee Byung-hun

I have to be honest. The first two Terminator movies are among my top twenty films of all-time. I loved the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show and wished Fox had had more faith in it. But having said that, I’ve hated every other Terminator movie. T3, Salvation… garbage. So when I read that this film would be ignoring those others and going back to the original timeline, I was stoked. My excitement was misguided. Terminator: Genisys is a re-write of the Terminator storyline using convoluted time paradoxes and clever call-backs to those first two films. However, Emilia Clarke is not Linda Hamilton (nor Lena Headey). She is awful. The very clever nods to the original film only serve to point out that Alan Taylor is no James Cameron. And for some reason they think they have to stop the action every few minutes to explain the next new time paradox to us. The pacing and direction is horrible. The writing is decent but the performances are so hackneyed they make the dialogue seem stupid. It’s Sci-Fi. You’ve gotta sell it. But then there’s Arnold. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s back. And he is fucking amazing in this movie. The best part of Terminator: Genisys is Mr. Schwarzenegger. Hands down (put your hands down). But it is not enough to save this bland and boring, over-written, action sequel.

Verdict: SPOILED but wait. Don’t go yet. I’m not going to spoil this one. The plot is so convoluted, you wouldn’t believe me anyway. So I’m introducing a third category for bad movies that I don’t actually want to spoil and I’m calling it… UNSPOILED.

Verdict: UNSPOILED

Sarah-Connor-Pops-and-Kyle-Reese-in-Terminator-Genisys

UNSPOILER ALERT <<<<< this means nothing by the way

I wanted so much to like this movie. I really did. Can we talk about Emilia Clarke though? I love my Khaleesi. The woman is gorgeous. And although she makes a rather tiny Sarah Connor, I was hoping she would fill those shoes. Those kick-ass female action star shoes. She does not. She is whiny and she over-acts with her eyebrows. Her performance is clunky and it made me miss Linda and Lena a lot.

Emilia Clarke

Can we talk about the director though? Alan Taylor is a television director who, after working on several successful TV shows (including Game of Thrones), directed Thor: The Dark World. He does not have big theater pacing. He has television pacing. And that’s fine for… television. The early call-backs to the original Terminator film brought a huge smile to my face. “Wash day tomorrow. Nothing clean right?” “What day is it? What year?” I was ready for a respectful return to the early glory days of the series. But the best scenes in Genisys are the ones stolen directly from the original movie (shot for shot). James Cameron’s expert action movie pacing and editing is nowhere to be found rest of the way.

Arnold Schwarzeneggar as The Terminator

Can we talk about the music though? Seriously. The music is awful. Boring. Filled with tension when there is none on the screen. Needle drops of songs that are far too on-the-nose or worse, completely pointless. And creepy orchestral pieces that belong in a cheesy horror movie and not a sci-fi action adventure. More evidence that this director was not ready for this assignment. They keep giving him big-budget blockbusters. After two lackluster outings, he still isn’t ready.

Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor Terminator Genisys

Can we talk about the plot though? Time travel creates problems and there will always be plot-holes. It wouldn’t be time travel without plot-holes. But stop explaining to us how paradox works. At one point John Connor states that the principal characters (him, his mom, his dad, the original terminator) are outside of time and unable to change the future. It is the smartest line of dialogue in the movie but his theory is dismissed quickly. Characters from a future that didn’t happen running around in the past trying to effect change and feeling that very change personally (in real-time) is the biggest plot-hole in the history of time travel. Did you learn nothing from Back to the Future. I get that time travel is hard to write but c’mon you can’t have it both ways. The way they rewrite the Terminator story in Genisys destroys the story, its history and its characters. And they stop to explain Time Travel so often that the movie even ends on a convoluted and unnecessary explanation of Time Travel. “Can you send this message to the me that won’t exist in your future… K. Thanks. Bye.” (not actual dialogue from the movie)

Terminator Genisys J K Simmons

Can we talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger though?  Arnold really shines in this film. It’s the role that made him a huge action star. It’s good to see him back at it and he returns to it with fervor and gusto. Humor and heart. He is really impressive. He is amazing. Also J.K. Simmons does a great job as that cop who encounters our heroes in the 80’s and then again in 2017. The two best things about the film are Simmons and Schwarzenegger. But they are not enough to save it from the other bad actors on the screen.

Arnold being Arnold in Terminator Genisys

Terminator: Genisys is not enjoyable. Actually it’s rather boring. And it reminded me a lot of the other big sequel this summer, Jurassic World. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia. Familiar monsters in familiar situations doing familiar things… but in a pretty terribly made and shitty movie. Sorry. I really wanted to like this one. I didn’t.

Happy July 4th Americans (and you Brits as well but for much different reasons)

Until next time,

– Mel

5 by 5: My 5 Favorite Films by My 5 Favorite Directors (5/5)

Finishing up my 5 by 5 directors series.

I had a hard time with this last one. I had to decide between The Kid and The Big One. Steven Spielberg will always be The Kid to me. And I know he has done a lot of great films (Raiders, E.T.,  Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List) but in the end I had to go with The Big One. The man with absolutely no limit.

James Cameron.

 

FANS: Can we do this even bigger?

JC: Yes.

PRODUCERS: Will it cost an enormous amount of money?

JC: Sure… Your point?

STUDIO: But will it also make an enormous amount of money?

JC: Damn straight.

CRITICS: Okay… But will it be good?

ME: Fuck yeah! It’s gonna be awesome.

Far too many talented directors get a huge budget and immediately forget how to tell a good story. James Cameron does not suffer from this.

 

His movies get bigger and bigger with each successive film. Within the film each action sequence gets more and more spectacular until by the end you’re staring at some insanely huge and respectively kick-ass bit of movie magic with your mouth wide open and your heart racing. (I swear to god he’s going to give me a heart attack one of these films). And the artwork never suffers… not even a little.

At number 5 on my list of 5 great films by 5 great filmmakers is (apologies to Michael Moore) The Big One: James Cameron.

 

True Lies (1994)

I love this movie. This is sort of the precursor to Brad & Angelina’s Mr & Mrs Smith. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis are both funny, sexy and thoroughly likeable.

 

She plays the wife that doesn’t know that her husband is a super spy. And Arnold plays that super spy to perfection. Throw in a great cast featuring Tom Arnold (at his best ) as the partner/handler, a young Eliza Dushku as their wild child daughter and Bill Paxton as a sleazy car salesman who… you know what you have to see it. This is a great action/comedy film.

And did I mention that Jamie Lee Curtis does a smoking hot and comically awkward strip tease that also has to be seen.

You’re welcome.

The Terminator (1984)

The best of the Terminator franchise, this is one of the 3 or 4 movies that I have seen more times than I can possibly count. Excellent in every way. Great cast, great story. suspenseful, infinitely quotable and enormously entertaining.

And for you Schwarzenegger fans out there, this is Arnold at his peak physique, at one point completely nude.

Again, you’re welcome.

Not to change the subject but I’m still mad at FOX for cancelling the Sarah Connor show. That thing was fantastic. (Though it did free up Lena Headey to play Cersei Lannister. [Give her an Emmy now… right now])

summer-glau-terminator-the-sarah-connor-chronicles-33873

Boo FOX just boooooooo

Aliens (1986)

Pure… Adrenaline… Rush. A small group of elite fighters… and Sigorney Weaver are all that stand between an alien race and the earth. Outnumbered and alone on a strange planet. Call it 300 Spartans in space but with automatic weapons, if the Persian army had acid for blood and fangs that extend from the front of their faces… of course.

One of the most exciting movies ever made.

 

 

Avatar (2009)

Yes, I know this film has a very heavy-handed environmentalist message but it also kicks ass. An epic sci-fi action flick with a decent love story and spectacular visual effects.  This movie is gorgeous and needs to be seen in all it’s splendor. Every time someone watches Avatar on an iPhone, the Lumiere brothers weep and Thomas Edison kicks Steve Jobs in the nuts.

Don’t let this happen.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

I almost didn’t include this movie on the list because it may just be a little too action packed for its own good. Aliens is a thrill-ride, yes. But it has a few well-placed catch-your-breath moments throughout. Terminator 2, however, does not. From the moment Arnold says, “Come with me if you want to live.” you’re fighting for air. I remember leaving the theater with a pain in my side thinking “Damn Cameron you just took several years off my life.” But I had to include it, because this is a fun movie.

 

And Linda Hamilton’s metamorphosis into the kick ass Sarah Connor is amazing. Also she is hot as hell.

A great deal funnier than the first Terminator, it also has a bigger budget, so Cameron pulls out all the stops with the action and the effects. T2 is to Terminator what Aliens is to Ridley Scott’s Alien. We go from suspenseful horror film to action packed all out war action. Two very different films; both of them really good.

James Cameron has created some of the most exciting and iconic action film franchises in history. From Rambo to The Terminator. From Avatar to Titanic.

He has advanced film making and technology (now science and exploration) into the 21st century with the artistic blockbuster. The massive movie spectacular that doubles as an art house flick. Just give him all the money and watch him take home all the awards.

…And we are done.

I hope you enjoyed my 5 by 5 directors series even if you didn’t agree with my picks.

I think I’ll do a foreign language 5 by 5 and an animated 5 by 5 next. (This is fast becoming a movie blog… who knew?)

– Envy