Movie Franchises or Inside Jokes?

Lately it feels like the film industry have been coming out with some truly remarkable productions; Hidden Figures, Moonlight, La La Land, Lion, Moana… the list goes on. These Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning titles are bucking the trend that Hollywood has lately been following of churning out remake after remake, not to mention the deluge of prequels, sequels and spin-offs that have been saturating the films listings for the past few years.

But despite these award-winning originals, franchising is still the biggest thing in cinema, evidenced most recently by the critically acclaimed Wolverine movie Logan

I’m gonna buck the trend here and have an unpopular opinion: I didn’t like it. A lot of people are going to disagree with me – my boyfriend included – but just hear me out.

I am not an action movie fan. Nor am I particularly an X-Men fan – I’ve seen a couple but I never read the comics and the over-arching plot lines of the series are a little lost on me. From that you’ll be wondering why I went to see it in the first place, and probably be pointing out that my ignorance lack of appreciation for the franchise as a whole is probably why I didn’t enjoy it.

x-men
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in the X Man frnachise

But that’s not it.

I went to see the last Captain America film, Civil War, without having seen an Iron Man or Captain America flick in  my life, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Similarly The Avengers, Deadpool or The Amazing Spiderman are productions you can watch without ever reading the comics or knowing anything about what has come before. Marvel movies can still be good in themselves, despite character references or inside jokes that may go over your head.

But Logan felt like the whole production was an inside joke. Actually no, not a joke, more like a pretty crucial therapy session where you actually got to care about the characters.

Because I didn’t care about the characters. Go on, call me heartless, but no matter who died the film did not make me feel anything. It was like watching the body count on a first-person shooter; just numbers and more bullets spent (or more accurately, more chests skewered by metal claws). If I had already been familiar with Wolverine and Professor X’s past it may have been a different story, but you should not have to go into a movie already invested in the characters in order to care. And if you don’t go into this already invested, you won’t be by the end of Logan.

professor x
The Fantastic Patrick Stewart as Professor X

There was no build up – the film did not move. It rushed straight into violent attack after violent attack, what little plot there was in between just another excuse for a fight scene. It lacked catharsis; mainly because there was no emotive turmoil that warranted a sense of closure. It was cold and gritty and dark, but also stagnant; there was no humour to break it up, no real warm moments or emotional connections, the characters lacked chemistry even at the most basic level of companionship. Admittedly, I think light and touching moments were attempted between Professor X and Logan on a few occasions, but these attempts felt half-arsed and relied so heavily on events that had taken place elsewhere in the franchise that they just flopped, unfunny and tenuous.

This could have been a great movie; Patrick Stewart was fantastic despite the muddled script writing, as was Stephen Merchant and Elizabeth Rodriguez. The peripheral characters were far more entertaining, far more emotional than the wooden and solid Hugh Jackman. In fact, in my opinion Wolverine was unnecessary for this movie; I would have gladly watched an entire feature on the children’s hospital Laura (Dafne Keen) came from. Or the struggles of Caliban and the albinos. I would have watched any of the other characters follow plotlines that were far more intriguing  but were demoted to background noise and brief exposition to make room for Wolverine to slash someone through the chest yet again. And again. And again.

logan-trailer
This encapsulates the entire movie

Feel free to disagree with me, but I think a film should be able to  stand alone, even in a franchise. It should have peaks and troughs and contrast of tone; it should have a soundtrack that makes you feel something (Logan was severely lacking in that department too); and it should not rely on you doing a court case worth of background reading before a trip to the cinema.

We are a culture of franchises; Harry Potter, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, DC, Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent…. there’s now to much to catch up on, and too much to rely on. A film cannot simply work on the merit of its predecessors, and I for one think Logan was lazy and heavy in its attempt to lay this particular character to rest – until the next remake.

 

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