A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Logan (James Mangold, 2017)

Dafne Keen and Hugh Jackman in Logan
Logan / X-24: Hugh Jackman
Charles Xavier: Patrick Stewart
Laura: Dafne Keen
Pierce: Boyd Holbrook
Caliban: Stephen Merchant
Gabriela: Elizabeth Rodriguez
Dr. Rice: Richard E. Grant
Will Munson: Eriq La Salle
Kathryn Munson: Elise Neal
Nate Munson: Quincy Fouse

Director: James Mangold
Screenplay: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Cinematography: John Mathieson
Production design: François Audouy
Film editing: Michael McCusker, Dirk Westervelt
Music: Marco Beltrami

James Mangold knows something that James Cameron figured out on the first two Terminator movies and George Miller on the Mad Max series: that if you're putting together a big action movie with superheroes and sci-fi concepts, it's best that you keep the human scale in mind. That's the secret of Logan's success -- and to my mind the undoing of most of the blockbuster comic book movies, even those in the Marvel X-Men series of which Logan is a part. Hugh Jackman's Logan/Wolverine character is a known quantity, and his performances have stood out through most of the films in which he appears. But Logan has never been a particularly human-scale figure: His adamantium superstructure makes him virtually invincible. But he has a troubled past, and in the beginning of Logan he's also physically ill, making him snarlier but also more humanly vulnerable than ever. Holed up in Mexico with the last of the X-Men, Charles Xavier and Caliban, he's just trying to get by, procuring medicine for the nonagenarian Xavier, who has occasional seizures that, because of his telekinetic powers, endanger everyone around him. All of this is the usual fantastic stuff of the Marvel movies, but the humanizing of Logan takes place when he's faced with saving a young mutant named Laura, who has been created in a laboratory using some of Logan's own DNA. And so the story of the declining Logan, the dying Xavier, and the imperiled Laura develops a human emotional content that actually becomes quite touching -- especially as Logan is not at first inclined to acknowledge Laura as essentially his own daughter. Plot complications ensue because of the attempts of the biotech company that created Laura and a handful of other synthetic mutants, who have escaped captivity, to reclaim them by any means necessary. The slam-bang action stuff is well-done but the whole thing would be just routine without the fine performances of Jackman and Patrick Stewart, and especially young Dafne Keen, whose fiercely determined Laura reminded me of Millie Bobby Brown's work as Eleven on the series Stranger Things. This is evidently a great time for very young actresses.

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