Logan — Don’t be what they made you

Logan’s shaking feet come out of a rented car from which some thieves are trying to steal the chrome plating on the tires. His beard has gone grey and his body posture is slouched. He throws himself in front of the car because he knows his body can take the bullets but he doesn’t wanna explain holes in the car. He has a limo service which he works on in order to buy medicines which keep Ex Professor Charles Xavier’s mind freezing seizures in control.

Logan has become a caretaker for a cribbing, unapologetic, cranky grandfather-figure in a rusty big iron chamber locked away from the world.

Charles remarks, “You’re waiting for me to die.”

His own eyesight has gone weak. His body feels tired and he keeps an adamantium bullet alongside in case he feels like shooting himself without healing back. A mysterious Mexican nurse wants to pay him 50k dollars in order to help her drive over to North Dakota. There is this little girl as well. Dressed in Denims, playing with a ball bouncing in the compound of a motel. Bad men want to manufacture kids without souls and train them as soldiers for war. But now have to seize this little girl and the rest of the kids who escaped with the help of the nurse.

The films taps into the essence of the best bits of Hugh Jackman’s 17 year old run as the X-Men character. The fact that he is an animal. Always has been. Prefers to work alone because he has trust issues. The people he cares about get in trouble which further reinforces his beliefs that he should be alone. That leads to a fucked up history from which you wanna run away. In the world of Logan, all the X-Men are gone. He is depressed but has the responsibility of taking care of Charles. He feels indebted to him for taking him when he was a nobody and desperately needed some guidance.

“I gave you a family.”, reminds Charles.

“They’re all gone now…”, retorts the depressed Old Man Logan.

He would have fired that bullet a long time ago had Charles been not around. So in essence this film is all about a family that you didn’t get born into but rather chose to be a part of despite the many flaws of people comprising them. While travelling to their destination, they decide to help out a family stuck on the roadside and like all elderly people who embarrass the young ones, Charles happily accepts their invitation to stay in for dinner and then the night itself. Logan’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of the lab made X-25 mutant who is his look alike but 20 years younger. His rage is designed by the bad guys.

He kills everyone in sight but Logan and Laura (his Daughter) escape. His wounds aren’t healing as quickly now and he resists to go anywhere neither can he stop because he continues to run from habit.

The X-Men comic in the film plays the role of the mythological text. Something that the inhabitants adhere to as religion and it is a matter to faith whether or not they should follow its every word or not. That’s where the location of Eden comes from. A safe haven where the new generation of mutants will be safe. Logan doesn’t believe in all this. But upon his rebellious daughters insistence, goes ahead just to prove her that he was right all along.

He is shocked to find that something like Eden even exists. Not in the pristine impossible form that the comic alluded to but something more real, grounded and very practical. The medicine that they use helps them with their powers in small doses but can also be lethal if overdosed with. When he wakes up he wishes to leave but Laura wants him around. He reasons with her and tries to explain that…

“Bad shit happens to people I care about…”, says Logan.

“Then I’ll be fine.” says his sarcastic daughter.

The film hits the right balance between reality and adventure. Decaying souls and bodies with aggregated energetic bursts. Nature and Nurture with the desire to control and manufacture products for capitalistic gains. What the world wants you to be and what you really want to be. For someone who was an outlaw all his life and hardly cared about what anyone thought of him, Logan gives a non constricting piece of advice to his daughter on his deathbed after saving her. Dont be what they made you.

Logan beautifully deconstructs the superhero genre and apart from the slightly repetitive action hits feels fresh and raw like the western ‘Shane’ which also plays in one scene of the film. This form of story has become a classic now. The retired/old war general who is called back for one last mission which involves him because something very personal is at stake. But Logan does it better than most in recent memory. It’s final act is also a testament to it’s strength as it sways away from blue laser beams pointing to the sky and instead keeps everything on the ground and under it infact.


What The World of DC Films could have been

My pitch for the perfect balance between what the studio would have liked and what Zack Snyder was good at. And we’re gonna assume that only Man of Steel exists as it is in our analysis.

The idea for Ben Affleck to love Batman was to play a more fucked up older version, who’s intent on going to any level (even brand them) in order to stop crime. He has had a torrid 20 years in Gotham. “How many good guys are left and how many stayed that way?” — Bruce Wayne line in Batman V Superman 2016.

And now he doesn’t even care about his own life. So the opening sequence in the actual film; Bruce runs towards a falling building while everyone else runs away from it does what the opening car crash scene, in the DC animated film The Dark Knight Returns Part-1, does in its opening. Bruce doesn’t care about his life anymore.

Gordon is about to retire. He reveals, just like in the animated film, that Commissioner Gordon knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. We’ve never done it in the films! And imagine the dynamic between Ben Affleck and J.K.Simmons as fine actors throughout the series. Now obviously everyone is losing their shit that an alien with god-like superpowers now lives on earth. Imagine how such a discussion would manifest itself in the real world with the political climate today? The moral question of the world of the film is one line from that news world montage featuring real thought leaders of the modern world, “Must there be a Superman?”

But this thread goes from here into things being slightly different from the movie that was released. Let’s completely get done with the Africa – Lex Luthor bullet subplot. Stay with me here.

One ex-military person who has lost both his legs during the battle in Man of Steel starts to become a force in the media that questions his free will and might. While the senator is under a lot of pressure to impose some restrictions on Superman. Or try to find out who he is. She requests him on LIVE TV to make an appearance at a public hearing and answer some questions from the people. Clark Kent meanwhile contemplates this with Martha Kent and Lois Lane.

Lex Luthor’s thugs are smuggling Kryptonite into Metropolis. It’s revealed that Lex has been trying to get a license for months but now he doesn’t care to do it legally anymore. Some Bat figure shows up in the lightning (First reveal of this Batman) and steals the Kryptonite. #BecauseIamBatman #BadAssActionSequenceWithJunkieXLScore.

Bruce Wayne meets Clark Kent at the Lex Luthor Gala. Where we’re introduced to them all, a mysterious woman steals a sword at Luthor’s exhibition. In this scene, we make it absolutely clear that Bruce Wayne finds out he is Superman. A shot of Clark cleaning his glasses as he puts them back on while nobody except Bruce Wayne was watching. Clarke suspects him knowing about his identity but can’t read his mind (even though he is Superman).

Batman: “So the question is, who wants to eliminate me?

Alfred: “That line is forming around the block, sir.”―Batman and Alfred discussing an attempt on his life from Batman, the animated series.

Batman then threatens a criminal for information on who is branding everyone else by branding him. Then Superman shows up, asks him to control his outings as a masked vigilante and Bruce Wayne realises that he has figured it out. Superman on the other hand now having seen Bruce’s face fears that he might reveal his identity.

He asks him with a smirk, “Do you bleed?”

Superman says consider this mercy and flies away.

Bruce Wayne starts to get a lot of emails from an unknown source. They show a series of photos of people he hasn’t even branded. Petty criminals Batman would normally not even care to get involved with. Small time thugs. And he gets a picture of his mother’s pearls and the old story of the Wayne Murder. Whoever sent these pictures to him knows about his identity. He suspects that these are threats from Superman asking him to stop branding criminals or he will eliminate this vigilante who everyone is terrorized by. Bruce discusses this with Gordon. Gordon reluctantly says he will look into this.

Clark Kent goes to a public hearing, the senator asks some really tough questions on the god-like will he imposes on people. Superman doesn’t seem to have any answers and just then he notices a man without legs in the front row of the people. His chair is made out of the lead, which Superman cannot X-Ray like he normally does. We make it clear visually what happens and then it all blows up! Superman is blamed even more by the people.

Batman decides he must stop him. Even if it takes his life that’s fine. He says his father would have been proud to have died for something like this. He prepares to fight Superman with the armoured suit and Kryptonite on his side.

Lex Luthor gets crazy on his company’s rooftop on a rainy night and calls out to GOD. Superman shows up. He blames Superman for all the chaos in the world and mentions the world is right in blaming him. If he has the power of a god then he cannot be all good. That’s why he lets Batman operate and terrorize people. He shows them the pictures of the people Batman hasn’t branded in real. The audience gets it clearly now that it’s Lex who’s sending Bruce these photos. Under pressure from Luthor’s allegations and unable to give any answers about the operations of the Batman, he goes to reason with him and probably take him down. They fight. For a much much longer time as the fans get exactly the visuals, they need to wet their pants.

Superman doesn’t want to show his full power. Batman resists capture by the use of the Kryptonite and starts hurting Superman. Superman wants to now use all his power and stop Batman. Just as he is about to pierce Batman with his Kryptonite armour, Woman Woman shows up and stops him. She reveals what Lex did to make you too go against each other and then reveals about the mother boxes and the Doomsday plot. Gordon confirms Lex Luthor’s hand in this.

Batman realizing his mistake tears through Luthor’s science facility (practical effects action sequence) in an anger/rage to catch him. Luthor releases Doomsday as he is about to be caught. The Trinity fight Doomsday. Superman dies because he sacrifices himself. Aliens are coming. We must make the Justice League says Bruce by revealing other metahumans exist based on information stolen from the Lex Luthor facility.

Wonder Woman the film stays the same more or less. Maybe even Suicide Squad with the exception of the Joker being the villain and the Harley-Joker relationship being the main thread. Wonder Woman could have transcended the genre by establishing that Ares was something inside mankind rather than being David Thewlis with a real moustache but with CGI smoke in the background. Wonder Woman would have grown up with the realisation that the enemy is perennial. It’s inside mankind and it could manifest in many forms so she must fight and protect the innocent.

We enter Justice League and establish a more determined Batman. Wanting to right his wrongs in BvS by assembling the league.


Why Justice League became a bad Marvel movie

When the opening scene of the film happens to be something that wasn’t in the original vision for the film, the patchy nature of the film really begins to show (Upper Lip). I’ve been a big fan of Man of Steel but since then have been consistently disappointed by where Zack Snyder and company took the story. He chose a niche for these super beloved characters, He was going for a very specific and niche tone. But then something happened that really messed with that original vision. MOS, BvS and Justice League were supposed to be a part of a trilogy which Zack Snyder wanted to tell. Each bigger in ambition than the last.

The ‘something’ that I refer to is the involvement of Chris Terrio. He was brought into re-write parts of BvS. I don’t know why critics or general people don’t consider that as one of those bad hires that really spoiled the films. As far as I know he isn’t a comic book nerd and he took the steering away from Zack to redirect it into that god awful Martha Scene who everyone makes fun of now. Sure, he won Best Screenplay for Argo with Ben Affleck but this these films won’t ever be remembered as his best work.

Let’s get into Justice League. It’s a mess. Structure wise, Joss Whedon had an impossible task especially with the mandate by Warner Bros CEO to bring the film to under 2 hours to enable more theatrical screenings. They wanted money to be made from the most expensive super-hero film ever made. With a 93 Million dollar opening being the lowest ever for any DC film we all know how that turned out. It feels like vignette after vignette and skims over the origins of each of the new characters. You’re left wondering where do these people come from exactly? What do they feel about being who they are? And how do they reconcile with the fact that they happens to be gods now with these invulnerable super powers? The flash, Aquaman and Cyborg just happen to walk into scenes fully costumed and ready to fight. Another problem is the fact that most of the good moments were included in the trailers but that happens with most of these films now. Why do these films feel like extended trailers nowadays?

Danny Elfman was brought in to score the film after Junkie XL was fired from the project. He chooses to go backwards and not forwards with the choices he makes. Only Wonder Woman’s super popular theme is retained (in a weak fashion) and everything Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL did was all thrown out of the window. This score is mediocre at best. I think the score for Man of Steel is so nuanced and emotional and it still resonates with me. Anyone who has ‘an eye’ could see the reshoots and the change in the way scenes injected witty lines and characters started making self aware jokes. Maybe Zack wasn’t at his best when we was conceiving this epic plan but his vision was tampered with from the start. He needed a cohesive screenplay to support his grand visual storytelling instincts.

It was meant to be an epic on paper with a wasted cast like JK Simmons, Diane Lane, Amy Adams and Jesse Eisenberg who barely make it past two short scenes or less. Steppenwolf was always planned to be a part of a two part epic perhaps where the real baddie Darkseid tests the League to their limits. Everyone online has mentioned about the weak fully CG villain and I won’t get into it again. The death of superman is perhaps his motivation to return to the world again. A couple of scenes between Diana Prince and Bruce Wayne work and one with Jason Momoa when you look at them in isolation. A couple of scenes do make you smile with The Flash and Superman as well. But the razor thin plot, I don’t think, will make them stick. Now let me examine the crux of my feelings here. The twin director problem.

WB took a massive critical hit after BvS so they looked for what makes other films in the genre work. Everybody knows they looked at Marvel. Everybody knows they hired Joss Whedon to rewrite scenes. And Everybody knows he injects these godlike beings down to earth with humour to make them relatable. That’s fine but that was the foundation he built for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the first two phases of films and culminating in the Avengers films. He was asked to do that again here. But what makes DC films different is the grit and realism with which it treats its worlds. That’s what made TDK movies and Man of Steel work for me. Both those films involve a story treatment by Christopher Nolan. That’s what these films don’t get now. A unique voice which has the confidence of what story it’s trying to tell and then going ahead with conviction. Unfortunately DC are trying to be like Marvel now for the approval of the general public and its moving towards mediocrity to say the least. That’s not what I’ve come to expect from these films.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded… And everybody knows that they’re in trouble.

War For The Planet Of The Apes — A Retrospective

A great story can come from anywhere. The protagonist doesn’t even have to be human.

When Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel invades ‘the Ape Society’ and kills Caesars younger son, he is pushed into a hell of vengeance. A test he has never really faced so far. A test of dealing with the loss of someone his own. His revengful mindset even distracts him from his tribe which was his main focus in ‘Dawn’. Koba visits him in his nightmares and he begins to wonder what he is feeling may perhaps be no different from how Koba must have felt with the years of suffering and torture from the hands of some humans. Yet the vengeance that drives him is strong and personal. He has a reason to seek the death of a human for the first time in his life.

Cinematographer Michael Seresin (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) is excellent with his wide framing of the beautiful landscapes to ground the otherwise CGI world (just apes mainly) in real snow, water and trees. The film then becomes almost like a western and we’re introduced to the brilliantly acted mute girl who is later named ‘Nova’. What felt magical to me was how the film then starts exploring elements of classical silent films in its storytelling. Certain elaborate sequences in the second act feel suspenseful and clarity of story is achieved without ever really saying much. Michael Giacchino, the composer does probably his best work here. Christian symbolism is also embedded into sequences like the X tree (instead of a typical cross) where Caesar is captured and punished.

And then we also have Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), another genius subplot in this amazing series, an ape who learns to talk by mimicking bad humans and then lives in isolation for years apparently. He provides the required comic relief in an otherwise grim setting. Woody Harrelson has another couple of amazingly paced and purposed expositional scenes with Caesar. Maurice develops as someone who’s learned empathy from the Ape leader and works to save the mute girl Nova, someone who’s not been corrupted yet. She understands the need to protect anyone or anything with potential.

The film is about loss and the need for people to hold on tightly to what keeps them going. When our support systems are wrenched away, we respond with anger and violence. And when there are things in the world that we don’t understand, we respond with fear and battles for control. All of this and so much more is woven through “War for the Planet of the Apes” in a way that often doesn’t hit you until hours or days later. When he finally gets hold of the Colonel, I realized looking at that face that Caesar will be an iconic character, one that moviegoers watch for decades to come. And these films will only grow in esteem and acclaim. Greatness always does.

Director Matt Reeves says this trilogy was Caesar’s Arc into becoming a mythical legend among the apes because he transcends his own anger in a prolonged moment filled with hate and guides his tribe into a place of safety where nature also plays its part in eliminating the problems.

He explained it as ‘A Darwinian Biblical Epic’ and I certainly felt so.

Dunkirk — A Retrospective

The opening shot of the printed paper, flying down from the sky (telling the British soldier that they are surrounded on Dunkirk) means this film wasn’t going to get into the ‘whys’ of things. It lives in the present moment. Christopher Nolan has talked about how he saw this as a survival story filled with suspense rather than a ‘War’ film and how his pitch to the studio was Virtual reality without the goggles. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel disappointed at times while I was watching it. Maybe my expectations were unrealistic or the fact that this is a film based on real events is a drawback. But like all of his previous films, I’ve loved them more exponentially on multiple viewings later on. This film does not disappoint on ambition though. Like Interstellar which “people” don’t love (but I do because of its ambition and optimism), this film wants to be basically more than the sum of its parts. I think it succeeds in being just that in the end. For me, the first half was riveting. I couldn’t take my eyes off from the screen. I knew I was in the hands of a storyteller I can trust. It’s giving me all this visual and audio information to remember and is asking me to make sense of them. He is not feeding information directly even about the characters, but is asking you to take a leap of faith and is hoping that you will take what you need from the film.

“Dunkirk” isn’t about the individual but rather us as a collective being transcending national boundaries (or beaches), ominous water bodies and vast skies. It doesn’t concern itself with the War much but rather focuses on the evacuation situation as a poetic representation of society, or a species struggling and fighting to live. All we need to know is that we all want to go home and don’t we all? After what life does to you outside your own protective walls? Now imagine a War in the middle of all that. We can’t because we’ve never really seen it except on screens where the bullets can’t hurt us. Nolan does use some specific perspectives and moments typical of war. Like the sound of a spitfire plane slowly approaching from a distance in the vast skies and you see it from a ground level perspective and how those proportions look and sound like. Or how hungry soldiers would bite onto anything eatable after being stuck without amenities for days. Or how a spitfire pilot would not see/hear anything except what’s in front of his tiny confined cockpit or wind shield. Dunkirk is a very experiential film but is also painfully foggy at places. You don’t really know who’s who and what’s going on at some times but isn’t that what happens in chaos?

At times I did wish that the film would ‘show’ more but then the film is asking you to come and meet it midway to make it whole. I wished some scenes would be better framed or framed from a God’s eye view which would better compose some actions scenes and it wouldn’t be so shaky or half under water. I wish the soundtrack didn’t overpower some moments like when the one plane crash lands in the sea and the Pilots seems to be stuck inside his cockpit as the water starts to rush in. Maybe some moments with just the sound effects without the score, that seems a little too on the nose, can generate greater impact.

Kenneth Branagh’s Commander Bolton, the highest ranking English officer on the scene, seems to be just as unsure of how to manage the situation as the thousands of soldiers, who’ve lined up on the dock (or thrown themselves into sea because they cant stand waiting anymore) ducking each time a German plane passes by while casually dropping a few bombs and vanishing from sight. Fionn Whitehead as Tommy is a young kid who clearly has been thrown into a fight started by older men. Harry Styles as Alex develops a genuine friendship sparked by a common path with Tommy which ends with a we ‘survived’ beer.

What Nolan does though with structure is quite intriguing and that’s what brings more value in a re-watch. Told in different timelines and physical locations (land-sea-air) during this one overarching event is something to hold in your brain for some time to come. What I was expecting perhaps was more of a culmination into a singular event which didn’t come as such instead there was an end to the different tales. Some of the people on the land and the sea survive while Tom Hardy’s pilot has to surrender on the beach in spite of an aerial victory. The shot of the plane set on fire is a nice metaphor for annihilation.

War is chaotic. That’s the point maybe.