Wesley Baines on God and “Logan”

Posted on March 19, 2017 at 11:57 am

Copyright Fox 2017

I didn’t like Logan much. But I am very much in the minority among critics and audience members and I have really enjoyed reading the thoughts from people who were able to see more in the film than I was. Wesley Baines has a lot of insight on the spiritual qualities in the film in his essay on Beliefnet, “Finding God, Redemption, and Purpose in “Logan.”

This is the point where much of Christian art fails. Too much of the time, it tends to zoom in on the aftermath of a life touched by God, and even then, only on the stories that continue to go well after this point. The abusive father gets saved and is re-accepted by his family. Or the promiscuous guy gives up his sex life for God. Everything’s okay. Everything continues upward.

But these aren’t truthful stories, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find God there. No—God is most present in those stories which start at the bottom, and sometimes return there over and over. Look at the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament. Really—go look at their story as a whole with open eyes, and you’ll see a natural patterns of ups and downs, of falling away from God and drawing back to Him, of rock-bottom death to beautiful life.

That’s actually a pretty good description of Logan. This is a world of negatives. This is a world that allows room for heroism, and depicts it as the beautiful rarity that it is.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Four Very Different Movies Out Right Now Ask the Same Question

Posted on March 12, 2017 at 3:31 pm

SPOILER ALERT! This post discusses important plot surprises in four films.

They could not be more different in genre, budget, and intended audience, but four movies now in theaters have one important central theme in common: they are all about someone at the end of life, looking back and trying to see what it all meant. They all deal with meaning and purpose.

In The Sense of an Ending, Logan, Before I Fall, and “The Last Words” characters discover that their life is not what they thought and not what they wanted when it is almost too late to make a change. That’s one film based on a literary novel with top British actors, a complicated plot that goes back and forth in time and elegant, understated dialog, one conclusion to a comic book franchise with references to classic Westerns like “Shane,” one movie based on a YA novel that’s like a sad “Groundhog Day,” and one is a heartwarming story with a beloved Hollywood Oscar winner playing an irascible woman who wants to control her own obituary. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that these all come at the same time. But they seem to be in conversation with each other in a way that makes these existential conundrums even richer.

And they pretty much agree on the answer: loving and being loved, and doing good in the world.

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Commentary Understanding Media and Pop Culture

MVP of the Week: Stephen Merchant

Posted on March 3, 2017 at 3:29 pm

The 6 foot 7 inch talk Stephen Merchant, who appears in two very different movies opening this week, is also the creative talent who co-created the original British version of “The Office,” as well as “Extras,” “Lip Sync Battle,” and his own series “Hello, Ladies.” This week he appears as Caliban the mutant tracker in the Wolverine movie “Logan” and Walter, the ex-con in the romantic comedy “Table 19.”

His lip sync battle with Joseph Gordon-Levitt is unforgettable. And I also recommend his interview on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron.

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Posted on March 2, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Very intense and graphic peril and violence with many disturbing and bloody images, many characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: March 3, 2017

Copyright Fox 2017
Copyright 20th Century Fox 2017
A lot of Wolverine fans love the elegaic final chapter, “Logan,” but I do not. Perhaps if you are deep in the weeds of the MCU, you will see meaning and closure in “Logan,” but for me, even as a Comic-Con-attending fangirl, it was slow and depressing, and not in a good way.

Wolverine fans know that he is a loner, only intermittently joining forces with the X-Men, and his stories often show the influence of classic western sagas. “Logan” is set in the west, and its dry, dusty terrain fits the somber tone of the story. Logan/Wolverine is old and tired. His legendary powers of healing are slowing, and so is he. He and Caliban (Stephen Merchant, looking like Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family”) are caring for Professor Xavier, who is also losing his powers and near the end of his life. The time of the X-Men seems to be ending, too. No new mutants have appeared.

Or, so everyone thought. Logan is threatened by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who says he is looking for a woman who is looking for Logan. And she finds him, and offers to pay Logan a lot of money to transport a little girl to the Canadian border. He does not want to do it, but he needs the money to take care of Professor X, and when the woman is murdered, he feels that he has no choice.

Professor X, who struggles with dementia, keeps insisting that the girl has some special qualities, but Logan refuses to believe him…until the tough guys show up and she dispatches them with some very familiar-looking adamantine claws that pop out from her knuckles. Time for a road trip, including an encounter with a sweet farm family and with many perils and threats along the way.

The action is well-staged, though brutal even by comic book movie standards. Jackman and Stewart are always watchable, but the story drags (the movie is well over two hours), and we know where it’s going at every step. One big plot point has to do with Logan’s belief that the story in the comic books cannot be true. He may be persuaded otherwise, but we never are.

Parents should know that this film includes constant and very graphic comic-book/sci-fi peril and violence with many disturbing images and many characters injured and killed, and brief non-sexual nudity.

Family discussion: How does this movie show the influence of classic westerns? Why does Caliban stay loyal?

If you like this, try: the previous Wolverine and X-Men films

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