Despite its repetitive plot, Logan takes the X-Men franchise in a brutal and exhilarating direction

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Continuity has never been the X-Men franchise’s strongest suit, and Logan is no different. Despite deliberately recalling specific events in previous films, Logan should more or less be treated as a standalone film. This, of course, comes with many caveats. The first is that Logan is in no way meant to be your first introduction to the long-standing mutant franchise. Familiarity with the characters is a necessity to fully appreciate the major character arcs that Logan presents.

Secondly, it’s best to accept that every other mutant we’ve seen in the past films are now dead. For real this time. Although Logan takes place several years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past (specifically the future when Wolverine wakes up at the mansion), so much has changed at this point considering that only Professor Xavier and Logan are left. It’s never explicitly explained, but the film gives out enough information for us to conclude that all those other characters like Cyclops, Jean, and Storm are dead due to the Professor’s deteriorating psychic abilities. Don’t expect any fun cameos in this one, because there are none.

Yes, it’s a hard pill to swallow, and frankly ludicrous. But here we are. This isn’t exactly the first time that this franchise has pulled off something like this, but it’s best to just go with it. Once that’s all settled, then you can begin to really experience what is supposed to be Hugh Jackman’s last appearance as Wolverine.

In terms of plot, Logan is as simple as they come. The mutant gene is now mysteriously gone, so some bad guys decide to make mutants of their own to train as soldiers. But a weapon called X-24 is invented, which is much easier to control than a bunch of violent children with superpowers, so they scrap the project by executing them. Some sympathetic nurses break out the children from the compound. One of them reaches out to Logan to help one of the kids named Laura. Logan and Xavier find out that Laura has the same powers as Logan because she was created with the use of Logan’s DNA. The bad guys come after them and they fight. Death and mayhem occur. Repeat ad nauseum until the climactic showdown. The end.

Logan doesn’t really have many surprises up its sleeves. It’s a fairly straightforward, almost generic action film in terms of plot. But what it lacks in a compelling narrative it more than makes up for with its pulse-pounding, violent action scenes. We’ve never really seen Wolverine quite like this before. Previous films in the franchise have attempted to push their PG-13 ratings to the limit, but it’s not quite the same as finally going all out in an R-18 action film like Logan does. The result is a relentlessly thrilling and entertaining action film.

But even more important, the violence never feels excessive. Director James Mangold and his team understands that violence for the sake of violence can end up being tedious instead of entertaining. Despite being given the freedom to depict the story’s action without any limitations, Logan never devolves into a film student’s wet dream of what an R-18 Wolverine would look like. The rampage is appropriately brutal, but never cartoonish. It also takes the action to a surprising level of intensity. When it starts, it immediately goes into a breakneck pace, assaulting you in a whirl of sound and blood that leaves you breathless in all the right ways.

All in all, Logan is a gritty, exciting ride that brings a satisfying end to two iconic characters. It is appropriately emotional and provides a surprising dramatic weight that elevates it above being just another action-packed comic book movie. At the same time, it strikes a delicate balance between the story’s seriousness and its more entertaining aspects. It might carry a bit more weight than your usual action bockbuster, but it isn’t any less fun as a result. Only time will tell as to just how final the ending of Logan is, but in any case, this is as satisfying a conclusion as we’ll probably ever get.

7/10

Eddie the Eagle is an endearing and uplifting celebration of feel-good movies and optimism

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There is no reason why Eddie the Eagle should work as well as it does. It’s corny, formulaic, and manipulative. Even worse, it’s proud to be all of these things. But at the same time, Eddie the Eagle is also heartfelt, inspirational, and joyous from beginning to end. These are all qualities that, when combined, result in a truly uplifting moviegoing experience.

Eddie the Eagle depicts the story of real-life Eddie Edwards’ journey from underestimated Olympic hopeful to actully competing in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Films in the sports genre tend to follow familiar narrative beats, and this one is no different. First we have a lead character who’s endlessly looked down upon and discouraged from pursuing his dreams. Eventually he takes a big risk and initially fails numerous times at the beginning. However, with enough passion and determination, he finally succeeds at his goal, winning the hearts of those who doubted him at the start. That’s essentially the entire movie right there, which more or less sounds like your average, standard sports movie.

But where Eddie the Eagle truly shines is that it hits all of these familiar narrative beats with such gusto that you can’t help but be swept up in the journey. Director Dexter Fletcher and stars Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman inject the film with so much sincerity and heart that only the most cynical of viewers will be left unconvinced of the film’s emotional climax.

But even more impressive is that you don’t end up simply tolerating the many genre clichés that the film shamelessly presents. Instead, the film encourages you to embrace and celebrate its numerous conventions because it reminds us that optimistic films still have a very important place in our lives.

There are many elements in the film that make it work so well. In particular, the chemistry between actors Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman is a huge cornerstone of the entire film. Contrasting the naïve determination of Egerton’s character with the cynical weariness of Jackman results in a compelling dynamic that raises both characters above their simplistic arcs. Egerton in particular is a joy to watch as Eddie. He plays Eddie’s stubbornness and wide-eyed optimism in a way that makes him feel authentic instead of cartoonishly sentimental, which is a trait that the film could’ve easily fallen into in the hands of a lesser actor.

But most importantly, Eddie is not merely a likeable character in the film. He’s completely endearing, which is his most important trait because the real-life Eddie Edwards was a media sensation during the 1988 Winter Olympics due to his sheer charm and enthusiasm alone. This is actually the most important aspect of the entire story and why the film was made in the first place. Eddie Edwards placed dead last in both ski jumps that he made in the Olympics, as the film accurately depicts. He didn’t become known because he was a particularly exceptional ski jumper. He became famous because of his irresistible charm, which won over so many people. He was loved for his infectious joy at simply being a part of the Olympics. All of this was executed beautifully in the film in large part because of Taron Egerton’s performance, who absolutely excels at being endearing in the film. It’s often said that acting in a drama is easy and comedy is hard, but playing an inspirational, loveable character is possibly the hardest of all.

Another element that makes the film such a joy to watch is its distinctly 80’s soundtrack and score. A lot of film scores have a tendency to go unnoticed in the background, but Eddie the Eagle’s synth music takes front and center, emphasizing not just the film’s time period but its emotional highs and lows as well. Not wanting to settle by just looking like it was set in the 80’s, Eddie the Eagle also looks and sounds like the movie itself was made during this time period.

I’m not sure if I’ve managed to overlook numerous feel-good movies like Eddie the Eagle over the past few years because this one feels like a breath of fresh air. Watching it made me distinctly wonder when was the last time I’ve seen a film released recently that has made me genuinely feel as joyous and upbeat as this one did. There are many movies that have entertained me and made me laugh, but to feel actual joy is a pretty rare filmgoing experience. I won’t go as far as saying that cinema has lately been overtaken by dark, serious, and heavy films, but it’s definitely telling that Eddie the Eagle manages to shine so bright amidst the cinematic landscape.

Maybe all it takes is for one disappointing element to make this film go from being an emotional, crowd-pleasing triumph to a dull, saccharine experience. Perhaps if the writing was just a tiny bit worse, or if the direction was inconsistent, or if the performances were unremarkable, Eddie the Eagle would’ve been another forgettable sports movie. Fortunately that wasn’t the case as Eddie the Eagle is proof that traditional, feel-good films, when done right, can be just as rewarding as original films that break the rules and take risks.

9/10