Trying Something Different

I had written an entire post on my thoughts on Logan with a compare/contrast with the Last of Us, but WordPress accidentally deleted the entire thing, so here I go again. Spoilers to follow. 

Since I don’t have any money to buy games at the moment, I’m doing something different until I can grab a new game to review, so we’ll see if it works. 

So I went to see the film Logan and I really enjoyed it. But it’s not as good as everyone says. It’s one of the better X-men films, the action is enjoyable, both Hugh Jackman and  Sir Patrick Stewart give two of their best performances in their respective roles as Wolverine and Professor X, and the film keeps the social commentary subtle enough that it doesn’t detract from the rest of the film. Imagine Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino but replace  a grizzled war hero with one of the last superheroes alive in hiding and disenfranchised with the rest of the world and heroism as a whole. Logan is trying to save up enough money to buy a boat for him and the aging Xavier to live on free from an America that now hunts the last remaining mutants. That is until he’s tasked with delivering a little girl, X-23, revealed to be his daughter/clone, to the Canadian border and the three set out in hopes that once this job is done, Xavier and Logan can live in peace. The action is enjoyable, the soundtrack is excellent, and the ending is a worthy send-off to more than a decade of X-men films. So what keeps it from being great film rather than just very good? One key element: character development. 

Throughout the entire film, Logan and X-23 are consistently at odds with each other, and that doesn’t change until the last half hour. To the films credit, despite the fact that these two don’t connect until the last five minutes of the film, it’s an emotional finale that kept some of the audience  around me from holding back tears. But it could’ve been so much more effective if there was true progress in their relationship throughout the film. So where could Logan have drawn some real inspiration? 

The Last of Us is regarded as one of the best games of all time, with a narrative so well written its transcended the video game medium and even carved its way into popular culture. Some have argued that Logan draws heavy inspiration from The Last of Us and they might not be wrong; Swap a borderline-fascist America with a post apocalypse and some “infected” (basically zombies) and there’s a striking similarity. Joel is a man who’s lost faith in humanity since his daughter died at the beginning of the outbreak 20 years prior. But he’s given a job to smuggle a 14 year old girl Ellie, who’s immune to the virus, from Boston across what’s left of the United States and the two are forced to get to know each other. 

What separates the film from Logan is what allows any very good form of media to achieve the status of great: genuine character development. The game is stretched out over four acts, labeled as seasons such as Fall, Winter, etc. with each season bringing a new phase of Joel and Ellie’s relationship to a new height. It’s a familiar plot device so why do we keep using it and how does it still work so well? The Last of Us has an answer. The first big thing is chemistry. Troy Baker and Ellen Paige are both incredible actors in their own right, but the two find a way to play off of each other early on that allows for comedic banter from Ellie and a much more solemn tone from Joel. But what the game does better than many other stories that attempt to replicate this same formula, is give the viewer time to know the characters before they actually like the characters. If the two leads don’t like each other, then the viewer likely won’t appreciate them either, unless the intention of the film is to see how the two will comedically attempt to undermine each other, such as in HBO’s “Vice Principals” or Bryan Cranston’s “Why Him?” The game lets you learn who these characters are so that when they develop a sense of loyalty and love for the other you can believe it and beyond that, you actually love bothof the characters because you know them and want their relationship to go farther, which it does with each passing season. By the time the shocking and truly unbelievable ending hits, you’re left with a game that’s burned into your memory if not for the ending, at least for the memorable characters and relationships you come across. 

There’s hours of time that could be spent dissecting a game that’s so simple and complex but my point is this. Despite Logan’s excellent ending, the entire film would have been more effective if it took the time to let its characters grow on each other and not shove all of that growth into the last half hour. I’d still reccomend Logan to anyone because again, it’s a very good film that’s impossible to dislike. If it learned how to disguise it’s all-too-familiar plot device like many of the greats, it could easily be ranked among some of cinema’s best. 

But if for whatever reason you haven’t heard of or checked out The Last of Us, do so because it’s a truly stellar work of art that’s a fantastic look at human relationships, purpose, and hope or the absence of it. 

Advertisements

One thought on “Trying Something Different

  1. What a fantastic review. You hit on something crucial. Writing is a craft but storytelling is an art. It sounds like one of these was each, but one was also both. Thanks for the insights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s