Book Club / Filled with Empty Calories

old-man-loganWolverine: Old Man Logan
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Steve McNiven

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..


JOEL
Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reachin’ down
When the man comes around

beating

Maybe you don’t remember but there was a point where Zack Snyder was good for like – 15 minutes.

The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead starts slow. Sarah Polley as a nurse. She’s tired. Stressed. It’s been a long day. The beginning of the end of the world is blurry and in the background and she’s too preoccupied to notice. She just wants to do her job and get home to her husband and kid. You know – just normal basic human stuff.

Of course you know what’s going to happen. It’s called Dawn of the Dead. You brought tickets expecting hot crazy zombie action (with maybe a dash of social allegory maybe or is that too much to ask for? Oh well. Whatever).

(Did you know Dawn of the Dead was written by James Gunn?? Oh my god that makes so much sense).

NOTE: It’s all about creators not characters.

Anyway the scene when the shit hits in the fan is Sarah Polley and her husband lying in bed having a bit of a lie in. When the door slowly opens – and you can see the outline of the kid just standing there. Husband wakes up first. He goes up to see what’s wrong with the kid. Kid steps forward. Her face covered in blood.

Uh oh.

And WHAM! Shit hits fan. And shit gets MENTAL.

SMASH!

POW!

BAM! BAM! BAM!

Audience (grabbing on to their armrests for dear life): “Holy fuck! Holy fuck! Holy fuck!”

Cue music: Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around over scenes of worldwide zombie destruction.

is that a prayer

Very cool moves.

(I mean yeah ok: if you wanna be a pedant about it: it’s a little reminiscent of the opening of 28 Days Later which came out a few years beforehand: but whatever. Don’t think you can really complain when someone takes something from somewhere and does it better right? That’s what culture is all about – no?)

Anyway – yes. I think that was the first time I was like. Oh hey. Johnny Cash. His lonesome voice played over scenes of stuff happening is kinda cool no? (Yes).

And well: if you check the wikipedia page for The Man Comes Around it seems like a few people had the same idea:
*deep breath big cut n paste*

In popular culture[edit]

In 2003:

  • The song was used during the opening credits and closing credits of the 2003 film The Hunted.

In 2004:

In 2008:

  • The song was used during a scene in the 2008 in the movie My Best Friend’s Girl
  • The song was featured prominently in the final scenes of the season one finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • The song was featured in the closing scenes of the HBO miniseries Generation Kill
  • The song was used during the opening and closing credits of the film Linewatch
  • The song was used in the opening sequence of the Criminal Minds episode “Elephant’s Memory” (season 3, episode 16)
  • The album Sleepytime Tunes Lullaby Renditions of Johnny Cash, credited to The Lullaby Players, features an instrumental cover version done in a lullaby arrangement for children

In 2009:

  • The song was used on the final episode of BBC’s Being Human in the warm up to what is supposed to be a battle between Mitchell and Herrick
  • The song was used in the opening sequence of the CSI episode “Better Off Dead” (season 10, episode 10)

In 2012:

  • The song was sampled in English DJ/Producer Doctor P‘s, song “Flying Spaghetti Monster” as part of his Animal Vegetable Mineral – Part 1 EP
  • The song was used in the climactic penultimate episode of the first season of the new Dallas series in August 2012
  • The song was used in the trailer and soundtrack for the 2012 film Killing Them Softly[8]

In 2013:

  • The first lines of the song were used in the pilot Sleepy Hollow.

In 2014:

  • The song was used in episode 11 of the first season of The Blacklist

In 2015:

  • The song was the soundtrack for an ESPN promotional TV spot for SEC football featuring each team’s coach.
  • The song was used in the promo for Bray Wyatt vs Undertaker at Wrestlemania 31.

In 2016:

  • Parodying its use in the opening sequence of Dawn of the Dead, the song was used in the closing film of the “Patriotism” episode (series 4, episode 3) of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle.
  • The song was used during the opening and closing of SkySports coverage of the United States Grand Prix.

In 2017:

  • The song was used during the end credits of the film Logan.

Oh – look at that: right at the end there – Logan.

I mean: ok. Yes. Hands up. When I first set Old Man Logan up as the book for discussion I thought it might be a nice little tie-in with the movie. You know: cash in a little on the whole Wolverine madness. And it might be nice to talk a little about films as well as comics no? A little bit of mix and match. That’s fun right? And then well coming up to the release Logan got lucky and picked up momentum and thanks to the trailer and the general dismal state of the movie landscape became the first Big Film of 2017 and all of a sudden I’m seeing things like “Is this is the best superhero film since The Dark Knight”? And so yeah (because I’m a major league idiot) I mosey on over to my local cinema (shout out to the Genesis!) and buy a ticket to you know “see what all the fuss is about.”

im just here to kill you people

Yeah yeah – I mean I’m an idiot. I mean – you would have thought I learnt my lesson with Skyfall. Or Man of Steel. Or The Force Awakens. Or Jurassic World. Or any of the other thousands of shitty films that makes up modern day cinema.

*deep sigh at self*

So yeah. Ok. What the hey. I mean – after reading review after review after review that praises Logan’s hard-hitting “seriousness” (repeat after me: “It’s not like other superhero films!” “It’s not like other superhero films!” “It’s not like other superhero films!”) I thought that maybe I’d write some stuff down to get it out of my brain / you know: trying my best not to feel so alone LOL

(But also I think that the reasons why Logan is kinda boring / but so popular is kinda interesting).

Or in other words:

something is wrong on the internet

Let’s try it this way and start with Old Man Logan (that’s the comic yeah? Please keep up in the back).

I mean – I’m fully prepared for people to start with all the “Mark Millar? URG!” comments because – yes – let’s get this out of the way. Old Man Logan is indeed a Mark Millar comic. And as such is filled with a few things here and there to make most people go “hmmmm” but as much as he gets when he goes FULL BLOWN MILLAR. It’s like the defence between Bruce Banner and the Hulk. I mean – it’s still Mark Millar: but he’s not totally big and green yet.

As Marvel books it’s kinda ok I guess? I mean: it’s all kinda self contained which is nice (*presses finger to ear piece* Oh wait. What’s that? They brought Old Man Logan back and dropped him into the Marvel Universe? Oh wow. Well. Ok. That’s a shame. But – oh well. What do you expect? It’s mainstream superhero comics). And yeah ok – it’s all more linear than a straight line and it’s all just an excuse for “COOL FIGHT STUFF TO HAPPEN” / oooh check out this splash page of this person doing the COOL THING (and yeah again and again: it’s mainstream superhero comics isn’t it? That’s what it does…)

Like: after seeing Logan (and not really liking it that much because well reasons to come) I went into Old Man Logan with wind in my sails because well yeah – there are two main things that it does so much better than Logan. But you know – let’s not full into dialectics here: just because the comic is better than the film it doesn’t make the comic supergood or anything. Like: when I put it down I still feel kinda felt like I had a lunch of Doritos. My stomach was full but I still wanted more. But maybe that just comes with the territory? (once more for the road? It’s mainstream superhero comics).

But hey: here are the two things that Old Man Logan gets right:

Number 1. STORY / The Unforgiven Stuff

Oops. Ok. Yes. I go on a lot about story. But well shut up. Story is important. Story is what it’s all about. And Old Man Logan (maybe because it’s a comic and every panel counts?) is a streamlined motherfucker. It’s like a racing car with go faster strips on the side. You know what he wants (to take care of his family / live a life of peaceful non-violence / get the money go home) and you’ve got the constant tension / anticipation of: well – I know he says he’s not going to pop his claws. But you know: when is he going to pop his claws?? I mean: yeah it’s shamelessly nicked from Unforgiven but come on – that’s what culture is all about. Steal something from somewhere else and then make it better. And altho in a choice between Unforgiven and Old Man Logan – I’d choose watching Unforgiven – credit where it’s due: Old Man Logan is an incredibly effective comic. Even if it kinda nasty and filled with empty calories.

And the second thing it does right? Ah. I’m glad you asked! That’s

Number 2. IMAGINATION / All the Cool Stuff

My own personal little ever-expanding theory is that stories are basically just about information. And how to parcel out that information in a way that the person experiencing the story finds interesting. A murder mystery who-dun-it is probably the purest expression of this. You know – I mean: you could start it by saying who the murderer is and how they did it. But that’s boring. So instead you drip feed out the important stuff with the unimportant stuff in such a way that you keep the audience guessing all the way to the end – where then you (hopefully) reveal everything and make it make sense and have the audience go “oh! of course!” But then you know – it works differently with different stories. With horror – the trick is to give the audience enough information so they know what’s going on but without telling them so much that it’s not scary anymore (The Shining is really good at this – in that it keeps revealing stuff with each scene (so by the end you kinda know quite a lot about The Overlook Hotel) but not enough that it actually makes sense in your mind.

But anyway.

Old Man Logan – the information that the story is built around is basically the shape of the post-apocalyptic “baddies won” Marvel universe: with you know – Hammer Falls and dinosaurs and Evil Mount Rushmore and everything. I mean – you know: Mark Millar could have just wrote a guidebook or done a wiki or something and wrote all of this stuff down. How the bad guys won and how America changed etc. But apart from a few people who lap that stuff up (no judgement here) that would have been kinda boring. So instead the story is built around taking in all the sights and getting a feel for what it’s all like. Showing you not telling you etc.

And ok yes tastes may vary and etc: but hey I thought all the post-apocalyptic Marvel Universe stuff was kinda cool because (and I guess this is my main point?) – it’s all about imagination.

(If I could I’d have “imagination” in purple and pink sparkly letters and have a rainbow over the top of it – but I guess you’re just going to have to – LOL – imagine it).

Because yeah. I know. Extolling the benefits is kinda dumb when you’re not an 8 year old anymore: but here’s the thing – imagination is actually super important and one of the most vital skills (or whatever) we need if – well: we want to make the world a better place for everyone and (much more importantly): make some good goddamn films that I’d actually be happy to watch and won’t leave me feeling ripped off.

I mean: again with the whole “that’s what culture is all about” thing: but yeah Old Man Logan takes all of these elements of the Marvel Universe and combines them together in lots of cool and interesting ways. Most notable (and kinda the totem for everything that I’m saying here): VENOM DINOSAUR

vemon dinosaur

I mean yeah ok: I know that you could say it’s kinda stupid. But there’s also a crazy kind of genius there. Taking two different elements (dinosaurs + vemon suits) and then combining them into an interesting way that makes you go well whatever – “ha!” or “cool!” or however you like. And erm – isn’t that kinda what it’s all about – making new things from the what’s been done before?

(Also man: if I worked for Marvel – forget about giving Old Man Logan his own regular series – I’d start Venom Dinosaur Comics and then watch the money roll in).

TRADEMARK COPYRIGHT MY IDEA 2017

And ok yeah – imagination can be much more than just that (and it’s pretty limited to be like: imagination can only be this because gah – it’s all about being so much more right?) but at least with Venom Dinosaur you get some idea of what I mean right? A bold striking image built around something you haven’t seen before and making it dynamic and cool.

And so – keeping that in mind – let’s get into why Logan (the film) left me cold:

SERIOUSNESS

That’s my one word all-purpose answer why I think Logan’s a boring boring boring film that I won’t be watching again not even if you paid me thanks very much. And that’s the boring stultifying seriousness of it all.

I mean yeah ok I get it (repeat after me: “It’s not like other superhero films!” “It’s not like other superhero films!” “It’s not like other superhero films!”). All the other superhero films out there are silly and fun and lightweight and forth. And Logan is not that – so hooray yeah? Let’s throw a party. Let’s all get on our knees and worship the second coming or whatever.

hammer

Ok gah – are the choices really that boring? You can have a crappy silly superhero film or a crappy serious superhero film. And one is good in relation to the other and that’s the only metric we can judge it on. I mean – not only do I find that massively dispiriting but I also think it’s kinda dumb. It’s like you eat a rubbish meal that’s cold and isn’t cooked properly and when you complain and say it wasn’t that good the reply is: “Well at least it isn’t dog poo you know?” I mean: god – if all we can do is compare rubbish things against other rubbish things then we’re not going to get anywhere you know? (Reminds me of the thing that David Lynch fans say when I ask them why they like David Lynch: “Oh well you know – it’s not like other Hollywood movies you know?” which I don’t know – just struck me as a dead end way to think about things: it’s better than the thing that is bad? Erm ok. Big whoop).

But then yeah: that’s the big selling point of Logan isn’t it? It’s serious. And brooding. You know – listen to the Johnny Cash. Watch him swig back his whiskey in the graveyard etc. I mean – god: why not just do the whole thing in black and white and just be done with it? (*presses finger to ear piece* Oh wait. What’s that? LOL. Ok. Nevermind).

I mean – this is all pretty long already I know: but I feel like I could write three times as much stuff about this deep-seated need we have as a culture or people or fans or whatever to take all of our comic book superheroes seriously that – skip to the end – just makes me wants to scream. Please don’t kick me out of the geek community or whatever: but it kinda sticks of desperation / the inferiority complex that comics as general seems to have as a medium: constantly crying out from deep inside: Biff! Pow! Wham! You know we’re not just for kids anymore right? And Wolverine / James Logan or whatever. I mean: his whole thing is that he’s a guy who has claws that come out of his hands. That’s kind of his whole deal. Like: not saying that it wouldn’t be possible to make something cool with him: but as a starting point – it’s like making something deep and serious staring Tony the Tiger no?

(cut to: White text on a black screen: “TONY”)

And please don’t get me wrong: I mean – I brought a ticket for Logan. Paid with with my own money. So you know I’m in the target market (at least I think I am?). A grown-up serious Wolverine film sounds like it would be cool (especially one based on Old Man Logan: I mean – I defy anyone to read Old Man Logan and not have the voice somewhere at the back of their mind go: “hey you know what? This would make a good movie!”) Like mixing up different ingredients from different places is a cool idea (and is what culture is all about) but gosh darn it: it seems like the whole idea behind Logan is nothing more than “Wolverine” mixed with “Seriousness” but gosh – just the idea of “seriousness” doesn’t really get you that far you know? Like: it’s just a tone. It’s just Johnny Cash songs played over standing in graveyards swigging whisky.

And grrrr. Like: to go back to Johnny Cash thread started at the start: isn’t it old and (literally) played out at this point? Is our cultural imagination really that played out and spent that we’re still picking the crumbs from a Zack Synder film over a decade old? I mean: that’s just really sad no? And yeah yeah: ok it’s the end credits and who really cares about the end credits: but whatever – ask anyone: it’s the Wolverine Johnny Cash movie (find me a review that doesn’t mention Cash go on go on go on): but it’s about as edgy as having Hugh Jackman wear a Che Guevara T-Shirt or whatever. I mean: you know – show me something new.

And especially – I mean at the risk of complete obviousness – the Unforgiven plot was right there. Make a movie where Logan doesn’t want to pop his claws and the rest pretty much writes itself you know – tension and conflict and all the rest of it. I mean: it seemed like the movie wanted to make a point about violence and the toil it takes (all those shots of his bruised and broken body standing in front of the mirror) except erm – that shit kinda gets muddled when it’s intercut with gratuitous shots of him sticking his claws into people’s faces every half an hour you know? You know: scene one. Someone stuffing their face with cake. Scene two. Person saying cake is bad. Scene three. Them eating more cake. Scene four. Cake is bad. Don’t eat cake. Scene five. Yum yum more cake for me. I sure do love cake. Scene six. Cake is really bad you guys. Etc.

You know: it leaves you kinda unsure with how you’re supposed to feel about the cake right?

guts

I mean: it seems like we’re at the point now where superhero movies can just do their own thing and don’t have to be tied down to origin stories or interconnected universe stuff. I mean: the fact that Logan just does its own stuff is kinda cool yeah. But gosh – without an kinda of compelling story to hang it on – it just kinda seems empty.

And you know: to kinda think about what it is I’m missing: like maybe it’s because I haven’t seen the 2 other Wolverine films? So I don’t really care that much about the character? I mean: I know who Wolverine is and I’ve read a few cool Wolverine comics in my time (Wolverine: Enemy of the State is pretty good no?) and like I said I was game going into the cinema: but maybe you need to have drunk the kool aid beforehand in order to get the full effects? And you know: that’s me trying my best to be generous because otherwise I mean: it doesn’t really seem like much more than well: the same drink served in a new glass (before the glass was silly: but now it’s serious and brooding which means it’s good).

And to be generous and admit the one bit that was cool: I mean – those self-driving trucks were damn cool and creepy right? Like wow – imagine a whole movie based around them? Wolverine versus the self driving trucks! That would have been cool! Except – ah – damn it: was just a nice little background detail in a film where the foreground was just well: end to end boringness.

(Speaking of background detail erm – can anyone tell me why Evil Sawyer Mr Metal Hand had a metal hand? I mean – not as in how he got it: but why the story decided to include it? I mean: I could be wrong: but did they even do anything with it? You know: just seemed endemic of the story as a whole: lets do this thing because it looks cool but not because it actually lets us do anything with the story when you know – there are possibilities).

But then: I guess that’s Logans problems in a nutshell: a lack of imagination.

I mean: anyone remember the 3:10 to Yuma remake? No? 2007? Starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale? I mean: it wasn’t very good. It was just a boring western which didn’t do anything interesting at all. All just typical western shapes and moves. I mean: I watched it but don’t remember a thing about it. And yeah – Logan is just kinda that. But with a guy who has claws.

And you know: same director.

And it’s about creators not characters right?

Well at least: I think that’s what it should be.

Except – LOL: I’ve just written a whole massive thing about Wolverine and when we did The Arrival (which is better than both) I wrote hardly nothing. Which I guess says a lot or something? Mostly I guess – maybe we should try and disentangle ourselves from the stuff that’s rubbish and more time focusing and celebrating the stuff that’s good?

But whatever. I’ll stop now. (Praise be!).

And I’ll pass over to you:

What did you think?

Aaah Mark Millar, he writes a Wolverine ‘Dark Knight Returns’ that actually manages some pathos and emotion and then flushes it down the toilet with a final part that his own ‘Dark Knight Strikes Again’. Mark Millar, always prepared to be forgettable.

 


RICH
Bleeding Cool

Because you made me.

>(Speaking of background detail erm – can anyone tell me why Evil Sawyer Mr Metal Hand had a
> metal hand? I mean – not as in how he got it: but why the story decided to include it?)

It binds the Reavers to their boss, it reenforces the idea that he, and others similarly enhanced, are property. Just like the new mutants. They are just mobile weapons, no more than drones in the eyes of Evil Corp.

Also, it was in the comics.

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