23 March 2017

LOGAN Review: the success of R-Rated 'Superhero' films & the rise of the low-budget blockbuster

Ah, Logan. The Wolverine. One of my favorite childhood memories is when my siblings and I were all playing an X-Men game on the Playstation one afternoon. X-Men was the first superhero franchise to hit the big screens back in 2000. Hugh Jackman's portrayal of the iconic mutant was a huge success from the offset. With an already established comic book fan base, Jackman's portrayal only elevated the characters popularity in the world of Pop Culture, whilst launching Hugh Jackman's Hollywood career in the process.

LOGAN is the third and final Wolverine stand-alone film. The first two weren't exactly award-winning and critically acclaimed, but the loyalty of the fans and the popularity of the character allowed the studio to finish the trilogy. And thank god they did.

LOGAN is the most personal, intimate, tragic and heart-felt X-Men film to ever grace our screens. We have seen Logan at his strongest, at his wildest - this character has appeared in almost of all of the X-Men films, (sometimes only having a one-line cameo) allowing us to see him in various situations and states. This final film, however, shows us an entirely new side to Logan. He is old, and he is vulnerable.

  • The first ever R-rated X-Men movie

When Deadpool was released, there was a lot of talk about R-rated films within the Superhero genre. There has always been an audience for R-rated films, but most studios would consider making a superhero film R-rated to be too risky - understandable when you consider how many kids are part of the fanbase. Choosing to make an R-rated film is a risk because you do loose a large chunk of the audience, especially when the central character has already established him/herself on screen beforehand like Wolverine. That being said, with the huge success of Deadpool & Marvel's Netflix hit Daredevil, we now know that making such a decision isn't that risky after all. 

Choosing to make a film R-rated instead of the general PG-13 opens up lots of doors in terms of dialogue & character development. Like many others, my main concern was that the rating would allow a hideous amount of violence to be shown on screen. There is an important question you have to ask yourself when seeing a violent, bloody film: is the violence being glamorized?
 In this case, it definitely is not. The audience's response to some of Wolverine's actions were gasps and horror, not cheers and hell yeahs! Violence in superhero films is something that I find quite fascinating, a superhero film can have both glamorized/glorified fights scenes and non-glorified fight scenes. In LOGAN, having that rating made sense: This is Wolverine we're talking about here. Wild, slightly unhinged and dangerous. There were some truly gruesome shots in this film and a fair share of swearing - but not so much that is was overpowering.

  • A personal and human touch to the trilogy

This film has a completely different tone to any other X-Men or Wolverine film. Partly because of the R-rating, but also because of the plot. It's a rather straightforward story, which makes the film more character-driven than action-driven. Instead of focusing on mutants and their god-like powers, we see the humanity, the mundane actions of the characters that are so often neglected on screen.
 It doesn't matter how much action you cram into a film, what fans crave the most is good dialogue.
Sometimes all we need is a dinner sequence in which the characters interact with one other instead of constant fighting. LOGAN offers us a deeper insight into his character: it's tragic and moving in ways that we simply haven't experienced in previous films. It's also a chance to see the relationship between Logan & Charles Xavier: reflecting on how much their friendship has grown since the 1st X-Men film - it's heartbreaking yet beautiful.
  • The rise of the low-budget blockbuster

Another topic I wanted to expand on in this review: it's no secret that big budget film  critical & financial success. We've seen it time and time again, studios pouring money and big names into a film, expecting it to be the recipe for success when it simply isn't. Having a big budget does not guarantee a film's success. It helps in the art direction sense as it opens lots of doors that smaller budgets simply can not do. It's incredible to see how many directors are foregoing green screens and CGI for real sets and locations. The problem with the over-use of CGI is that it can make a film appear dated in a matter of years. The Avengers, which came out in 2012, has a very heavy CGI alien battle sequence that already appears dated because of how much CGI has improved since. 

LOGAN is a low budget film: there is very little CGI, unlike X-Men Apocalypse or Days Of Future Past. There is no huge out-of-this-world green screen action sequences - it feels more realistic and believable. It's a journey in both the literal sense: a road trip to Eden - and a psychological journey for Logan. The strength of this film relies on the script and the characters, a perfect blend that gives the Wolverine franchise an end we can be immensely proud of. 
  • MINOR SPOILER ALERT: theories, 4th wall breaking and the future of the X-Men franchise
Please do not read this unless you want to be spoiled!

First of all, I want to discuss the breaking of the 4th wall in this film. Unlike Deadpool, the breaking of this wall is subtle and contributes to the plot: Logan holding an X-Men comic book, a child holding a Wolverine X-Men figurine in the final moments of the film - so subtle that they can only loosely be considered as such.

Now to talk about the timeline - if you've seen all the X-Men films, you'll know that the timeline was reset in Days Of Future Past : Logan's mind was sent back in time, stopping something that would have eventually caused the end of mutant kind in the future. This film ultimately allowed the X-Men cinematic universe to reboot itself without actually rebooting itself. So, in this sense, anything that happened during X-Men 1, 2 & 3 is now inconsequential.

 However - in LOGAN, it doesn't explicitly state which timeline they're in - the original timeline (post X-Men 1,2,3 + the Wolverine franchise) or the new timeline set forth since Days Of Future Past ( DOFPX-Men Apocalypse onwards) Yet, there are a few elements which may suggest it's part of the original timeline, therefore there is another timeline (the newly established one) in which everything that happens in Logan may not happen at all. Still following me?

So following that previous mind-boggling topic, there could potentially still be a chance for a Wolverine/Deadpool crossover film if Hugh Jackman is willing. Not only because LOGAN was set in 2029, but because of the new timeline, things could be a going a little different for Logan. I, for one, hope so.

Now to finish this review, have a listen to some of Henry Jackman's music from the X-Men franchise. You won't regret it.


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