Tag Archive: Fan Reaction

Wolverine and Shakespearean Tragedy

Still from the movie Logan

Logan has been out for a while now, and all the reviews have been posted, so I’m very late to the party on this one. I actually saw the film opening weekend, but was too busy to get around to putting my thoughts down until now. While many reviewers enjoyed the story, the action and Hugh Jackman’s last hurrah as the titular character, I noted something a little different. Wolverine is actually a Shakespearean tragedy. Or, at least, very close.

Just as a quick warning to those who haven’t seen it: there are going to be spoilers.

The Shakespearean Tragedy

First, let’s go over the basic plot points of a Shakespearean tragedy. In essence (and I’m glossing over a lot, here), the Shakespearean tragedy involves a character of major social importance. In Shakespeare’s time, this would be a king or a prince. The character has a fall from grace, usually through a personal flaw. This character then undergoes a kind of tortured reformation or redemption that sets the wrong things right, but also kills the character in the end.

Logan fits this almost to a T. It’s established early on that Wolverine’s reputation has survived the death of mutantkind. Even one of the antagonists, Donald Pierce, turns to Logan with a smile and says “I’m a big fan!”. The filmmakers were, in fact, relying on Wolverine’s history not only in the films but in the comics as well. This was a film for fans of both worlds. The audience was expected to come in knowing something about the character.

The fall from grace is slightly more nuanced. In Logan the days of the legendary Wolverine are long gone. Logan has no pride or hope left and is reduced to driving people around while drinking his pain away and buying drugs in back alleys. Logan’s personal flaw, if one can even call it that, is that he’s exhausted. A lifetime of warfare and age in general has reduced his healing factor. The adamantium that made him invulnerable is now poisoning him. There hasn’t been a new mutant born in over twenty years and Professor Xavier, who is now suffering from a neuro-degenerative disorder and generates uncontrolled psychic bursts that need medication to stop. It’s strongly implied that Xavier inadvertently killed the X-Men during one such episode. Logan has lost hope, which means he’s no longer a fighter or a survior; he’s just trying to keep his head above water.

The rest of the film takes Logan on his tortured path to redemption, ultimately killing him as the plot recipe demands. The discovery of Laura (or X-23 to comic book fans) builds to a late-blooming realization that there is something worth fighting for. Broken, beaten and with nothing to lose, he sacrifices his life to set things right just one more time.

The only real deviation here is the ending. In Shakespeare’s works, the character that takes control of the kingdom in the end of the play is the one who truly restores order to the universe. There is no such character in Logan, although spiritually, Laura is his successor. Imbued with the same powers and adamantium skeleton, she is just a younger female version of Logan. Further, in the comics she dons a similar outfit and is declared the new Wolverine. If a sequel to the film were to follow this line, then Laura is destined, one way or another, bring order back to the world she lives in. As it is, she merely survives to become her own person rather than a living weapon.

Logan and King Lear

In addition to its general overall bleakness, one very notable aspect of King Lear is the use of the Fool. In King Lear, Lear’s arrogance and perhaps mental instability result in his daughters throwing him out of the castle. Destitute and driven to insanity, Lear’s only companion is the court jester.

The Fool is important in King Lear because without the Fool, the play would descend in self-indulgent misery. The Fool challenges Lear to pull himself out of his madness and become again the man he was. Professor Xavier is no different in this regard. In Logan he is the Fool both metaphorically and literally. Suffering from his disease, he has episodes that range from absurdity to intense danger. In his lucid moments, however, the old Xavier comes back. Like King Lear’s Fool, Professor Xavier is the truth-teller that Logan needs to drive him forward into a better state of being. He operates as Logan’s conscience, convincing him to help Laura in her desperate moments, but also as a guide, reminding Logan that there is still a path to peace and love if he would just take the time to recognize it. Unlike Lear’s Fool, however, Xavier does not surive to the end. His passing makes way for a darker force that Logan must face.

Logan and Hamlet

Hamlet demonstrated one of the critical tools in Shakespeare’s literary arsenal; the use of multiple characters all of whom mirror each other’s traits. This is most obvious in Hamlet. First, there is Hamlet himself. Hamlet’s father, the former King, was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, now the current king of Denmark. Second, there is Laertes, Hamlet’s friend. Laertes’ father was killed by Hamlet who, once he kills the newly crowned Claudius, will become the king of Denmark. Finally, there is Fortinbras, a prince of Norway. Fortinbras’ father, the king of Norway, was killed prior to the start of the play by King Hamlet, Hamlet’s father. All three swear revenge on those who murdered their kin.

The comparison goes beyond this, however. Their flaws can be compared against each other as well. Hamlet, throughout the play, would rather wax poetic than actually kill his uncle. Laertes, however, seems to act without thinking at all. The moment he’s told that Hamlet has killed his father he accepts the information without further inquiry. He also reveals he purchased poison while travelling abroad even though there is no reason given why he should want to do it or why the audience should think there would be a logical reason to have it. He just kind of does things. Finally there is Fortinbras. Fortinbras swears revenge on his father’s murderer (Hamlet’s father), raises an army, invades Poland at some point and from there moves into Denmark just after Hamlet has finally killed his father’s murderer. Fortinbras is established as a balance between Hamlet and Laertes. He both thinks and acts while the other two are extremes.

Logan fits this model quite well. Laura, Logan and X-24 (Logan’s weaponized clone) are all products of the Weapon X super soldier program. All three sport enhanced senses, a healing factor and an adamantium-laced skeleton complete with razor sharp claws. Just like in Hamlet, the three mutants can also be compared by their differences. Age is the obvious starting point. Laura is just a child. X-24 is a grown adult and Logan himself is centuries old. The differences continue, however. Logan talks throughout the film, mostly in an effort to drive people away. Laura speaks only when it is most important to do so. X-24 doesn’t speak at all. He just grunts, growls and roars. Laura has an active plan that she is seeking to implement while Logan seems to be running mostly off of improvisation and desperation. X-24 doesn’t appear to think or plan at all; he just does whatever he’s told to do. Finally, Laura represents a life almost untouched by the Weapon X program, while X-24 is completed controlled by it. Logan is the uncomfortable balance in between, having to deal with trauma of the program while at the same time having escaped it.

The End

As with Hamlet and Laertes, Logan and X-24 fight and as with Hamlet and Laertes, both die in the process, leaving Laura, who might go on to be the hero of the next generation. As mentioned above, the similarities between Logan and Shakespearean tragedy end here because Laura heads off towards a hopeful but uncertain future. Overall, however, I think adhering this form of storytelling really elevated the film above standard superhero fare. There wasn’t action for the sake of action and the emotional stakes resonated quite well. Not every superhero film can be like this, of course. The film was far too grim to be regular superhero fare, but its adherence to such a classic storytelling structure made it quite a refreshing change. It would be a good thing to see more films like this in the future.

Concerns About Ghost In The Shell

Ghost in the Shell Live Action FilmThe upcoming live-action Ghost in the Shell film captures the look of the anime films, but does it capture the soul? View full article »

Godzilla’s Nuclear Fury

Shin Godzilla Nuclear FuryShin Godzilla isn’t just a monster movie, it’s about one man’s revenge on humanity. View full article »

Doctor Strange and International Politics

Recently, Comic Book Resources broke a story about how Chinese concerns are what led to Tilda Swinton being cast as The Ancient One. The Ancient One, for those not familiar with Doctor Strange mythology, was a male Tibetan monk of ancient knowledge and power who teach Stephen Strange to be come the Sorcerer Supreme (the magical guardian of Earth). For the film, however, a white female (Swinton) was cast. Why? Read on for more View full article »

The reviews have all been written on Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, so it’s almost pointless to go over the film itself. That said, however, the film is a phenomenon. It is a landmark in the making of film. I don’t mean any of that in a good way.

The reason it is such a moment in film history is because Batman Vs Superman is a colossal statement on what happens when a studio doesn’t have a cohesive plan and hands total creative control to someone who doesn’t understand the subject matter or possibly know what he is doing. Also, a word to the wise: spoilers ahead. View full article »

Deadpool Movie Review: Only Deadpool Could Have Done It

There’s a scene close to the middle of Deadpool where Wade Wilson (a.k.a. Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth) has a flashback. He breaks the fourth wall, conversing directly the audience before having a flashback within the original flashback, where he breaks the fourth wall again, insisting that he’s broken the fourth wall twice, which must equate to about 16 walls (4 times 4, see?) View full article »

Where Jar-Jar Binks went wrong

By now everyone has seen the video postulating that Jar-Jar Binks was actually an evil Sith Lord. According to the video, Lucas had hinged the whole Star Wars prequel franchise on the success of Jar-Jar. When the fans reacted negatively, he created Count Dooku in order to continue the story without Jar-Jar as the big villain. The video suggests Lucas “chickened out” when he cancelled Jar-Jar as the one true mastermind, but Lucas did not chicken out at all. Jar-Jar was not working properly and had to be strategically replaced. What happened? Read on for more! View full article »

Star Wars The Art Awakens, Fine Art and Fandom

Damien Hirst, one of the celebrities of the contemporary art world, once remarked that if people went to art galleries as much as they went to the movies, there would be more appreciation for art today. I really wonder if that is actually a desired outcome. View full article »

Writer Travis Beacham on Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

Fans of Pacific Rim got a treat recently as the NuArt featured the blockbuster at one of its midnight movies! What’s more, co-writer Travis Beacham took the stage to answer a few questions! The event was arranged and hosted by Witney Seibold of the B-Movies Podcast. Read on for answers on the first draft, the inspirations for the film and Guillermo del Toro’s contributions!

Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots

Question: Do you hate the “Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots” Jokes?

Travis Beacham: Eh…I don’t hate ’em, I mean, I sort of see where they come from, you know, it’s just… it’s like… You go in and you know you’re not making, like, Chinatown, you know you’re not making, like, A River Run Through It, you know you’re making a giant robot versus giant monster movie. So I don’t hate it, but I’d like to think there is more to it than that, but I don’t resent anyone for saying that there’s not. You know, it’s all totally subjective. We all bring our own sort of baggage to it when we watch it.

On Godzilla and Pacific Rim

Witney Seibold: This is very anime-inspired, very Godzilla-inspired. This is a Legendary film… Legendary also owns Godzilla… Has anyone approached you yet about the crossover between Pacific Rim and Godzilla?

Travis Beacham: I have not been officially approached about it, but it definitely is something that’s been discussed, you know, in and out of the room, you know… I’m not going to say “never”, but as I like to say, I’d like to get a few other Pacific Rim movies out there… you know, lay the groundwork, you know… I don’t want Godzilla to eat my whole baby!


Question: Do you ever see the possibility of a prequel happening?

Travis Beacham: I really hope so. I really, really hope so! At first when we were talking about stuff like that it was like, “Oh, no way! Sequel, sequel, sequel!” but even now behind the scenes we’re starting to talk about prequels more and more. That’s an area of the timeline that’s just breezed over in the movie that I think is really interesting. Because then you can bring the Russians back and you can bring Pentercost back…

Witney Seibold: Yeah, those Russians… fuck you for killing those Russians, by the way, I love those guys!

Travis Beacham: They sacrificed themselves, and you know what? They knew what they were signing up for!

Witney Seibold: They are a noble people! A moment of silence for the Russians!

The Original Draft

Question: One of my favorite characters in the original draft was the Ivo Czerny, the doctor. I remember reading a while back that Willem DaFoe was attached to that role. I was curious what led to that entire arc being cut out?

Travis Beacham: It went through a simplification process. That’s just the trajectory of any movie of this size. You’re developing it, you know, there’s concerns from execs, that “is this too much to deal with”. Originally we went into the Drift and stuff like that in a lot more detail and we’re saving that now for later movies, we have an animated series coming out, we have graphic novels, but it was decided, you know, for this movie, for it to stand on its own, to work on its own, we had to focus on the plot lines that really told the kernel of the story that we really thought was important. And so that stuff was jettisoned for this draft. That’s not to say that this stuff won’t show up in later bits of the mythology.

Witney Seibold: Will you bring the character back?

Travis Beacham: I’m not gonna say! I’m not gonna say! If you’ve read the first draft, there’s things you might recognize later on.

Witney Seibold: I feel like the monsters in this one get a little bit short shrift. You watch the old Godzilla movies and they’re really overly explained and that’s kind of one of my favorite parts. Did you write more of the monster personalities in the draft or just sort of in a bible?

Travis Beacham: The first draft had a very lengthy… at the beginning where there’s a montage there was actually a very lengthy kaiju voiceover… I’m just kidding!

The Kaiju

Question: I noticed that there was really sort of a plot thread in the movie about Kaiju Blue that doesn’t really get fleshed out a lot. Did you intend to do more with that, or intend to do more with it in the future?

Travis Beacham: We do intend to do more with that in the future. The whole idea there being that Kaiju Blue, you know, where the Kaijus bleed, it’s really poisonous. I can’t remember how much detail they go into that in the movie, but it’s in the mythology and the [movie] bible. The idea being that even if you were to beat one of these things, they’re dangerous in death. So you can’t even blow it up without, like, without killing a bunch of people. So on every level the Kaiju were designed to be sort of the perfect weapons that you throw at a civilization and there’s nothing they can do about it. EXCEPT BUILD GIANT ROBOTS!

Question: What is your favorite Jaeger and your favorite Kaiju?

Travis Beacham: My favorite Jaeger would probably… it’s the boring answer, it’s the generic answer, but probably Gipsy Danger? Because it’s the first one that I named, the first one that I thought of… and I look at her and some many things like the little nose art of the scantily clad lady riding the bomb on the chest and the fact that she’s blue… I just remember so much of that description from the first draft and it’s rewarding to write something and to just see it on screen like that. Especially for feature writers where your drafts go through so many changes that by the time it gets to the screen it bears very little resemblance to what your wrote.

Guillermo del Toro

Witney Seibold: You’re only credited as co-screenwriter on this movie. It was sort of your idea, but Guillermo del Toro took a lot of it and added a lot of his own stuff. What did he add?

Travis Beacham: He adds a whole sensibility that I think he brings to everything that he does. And I think there’s a sense of fun that wasn’t necessarily there in my first draft? My first drafts tend to come out very long and dour and serious. It was pretty long. It was pushing like 150 [pages], I think… yeah. See, I had a lot of fights, but they were short fights. And Guillermo, I think quite wisely, said “No, let’s only focus on a few fights”. That moment where Gipsy Danger takes the oil tanker and smacks the Kaiju with it, that’s the perfect example of what Guillermo brought to the table.

Writing The Movie

Witney Seibold: Were you inspired by any movies specifically, because I see a lot of “Robot Jox” in this movie. There’s a lot of Godzilla in this movie.. I know this is just sort of an homage to all of that but were you thinking of any one film in particular?

Travis Beacham: Never any one in particular, I was just sort of moving back and forth between them, just depending on what the scenes were. I think, when I was watching Godzilla movies as a kid, I was always frustrated with that thirty minute chunk before Godzilla shows up, just people in suits, like, talking to each other.

Witney Seibold: All Godzilla movies are like 90 minutes long. First 30 minutes, no monster, next thirty minutes, monster shows up, next thirty minutes monster fight. That’s every Godzilla movie.

Travis Beacham: And I knew if we had a giant monster thing and it wasn’t tied to any brand that couldn’t be a boring part. The people had to be interesting, you know, they had to be just as interesting as the monsters. So that’s really what we tried to do.

Question: Were there any giant fighting robot anime that were an inspiration or just giant fighting robots in general?

Travis Beacham: It was both. I really like Evangelion, was always like a touchstone, I think, and it was so serious. When I was a kid I remember, like, Voltron, you know, that was sort of like my first, you know, “Oh yeah!”. When you see these latter-day anime takes on it, they’re more tailored for adults. I think that really opened my eyes to… I really liked Big-O on cartoon network! Art Deco giant robot, yeah! Fantastic! I could go on and on and on, but it was like a general sort of love of it all, I think.

Witney Seibold: Is the upcoming animated series anime designed or is it American?

Travis Beacham: It’s somewhere in between. It’s sort of like the American-slash-anime style, you know. But the stuff I’ve seen looks really great. But it focuses on characters and tells a part of the story that I think is going to be surprising to people.

Question: I wanted to know if it was a conscious decision and if it was a fight that Raleigh and Mako don’t kiss?

Travis Beacham: It was a conscious decision and it wasn’t a fight, really, though. Because we kept going back and forth on the development of the screenplay. Like, “Should they kiss? Should they not kiss?” and there were times when it took place over a longer time. There were drafts where the movie took place over the course of weeks, or months even, and they had time to develop a relationship, but as we developed the story and it got more and more compressed, there just wasn’t… there was no believable amount of time to pass for them to develop that sort of relationship. And so we thought, instead of force it and have this obligatory sort of romance, to have it naturally develop and then it ends wherever it ends. I think that’s the non-patronizing way of doing it. I’m not, in general I’m not opposed to romances between lead characters, what I’m really opposed to is when you have the female character who seems to only be there to reward the man at the end with a kiss.

Witney Seibold: With this one, the reward is “Monster” and “Punch”

Question: I have to say that “Tonight we’re cancelling the Apocalypse” is probably one of the best motivational speeches since, I don’t know, Bill Pullman in Independence Day… Was that you?

Travis Beacham: Thank you! Thank you! Yes, yes that was my line. It was around the time, I can’t remember, it was like 2012 or something… I just got sick of people always talking about the Apocalypse, talking like the end of the world was near, that kind of thing. And through all these arguments and discussions I was having with these people, this line just poured out of me, just like, it was like, “We’re fucking CANCELLING the Apocalypse! You know what? Our footprints are on the fucking moon, you know? We’re not just going to sit down and die! We’re canceling the Apocalypse!” Yeah, I wrote that line.

Witney Seibold: Were there other zingers that you were proud of that didn’t make it into the final one?

Travis Beacham: I think all the zingers, all the really good ones, the whole thing about fighting a hurricane, that was one of my favorites, cancelling the Apocalypse… no, I think all of my favorite-favorite lines are basically in there. I wish I could say there was some golden speech or something that you’ll never see, that was lost like all volumes in the fires of Alexandria, but no, it’s all up there, so…

Thanks for the memories

Audience Member: I just wanted to say, thank you for the thought you put into it. So often, these action films, they’re so thoughtless, so I really appreciate not only, visually, it’s such a visual orgasm, but the thought that goes into the story line. So thank you!

Travis Beacham: Thank you, thank you! No, that means a lot to hear! Thank you so much!

Witney Seibold: I would love to see the phrase “A visual orgasm” on the poster!

Travis Beacham: Yeah, that’s the pull quote!

And with that, Travis and Witney got off the stage and the movie began! And it was indeed a visual orgasm… Until next time, folks!

Late in the film, one character declares that the nice thing about dystopia is that no one has to work for it. This, almost accidentally, bookends with a repeated analogy about two wolves. One represents light, the other dark and both are fighting each other. The one that wins is the one you feed the most. It’s a serviceable piece of trite fast-food enlightenment.

Now that Tomorrowland has been released to the world, there seem to be no end to the critics who enjoyed the film, but shredded the ideas behind it. Many felt that this was director Brad Bird’s least accomplished work, while others pointed out that the dream of “tomorrow” in Tomorrowland is more dystopian than it first appears.

The Deconstruction of Tomorrowland

Adam Rogers of Wired is quick to point out that virtually everything promised to us at the last great World’s Fair has been accomplished. We have jetpacks, albeit not for the general consumer. We have flying cars, but no one wants to see what happens when a drunk driver gets behind the wheel. We have robots to clean for us and transnational corporations to make it all at an affordable price. In order to get that, he points out, we also have to put up with things like pollution and heavily implied fascism. Not to mention the fact that we must exploit Third World workers to achieve the cheap prices that make all of this possible.

Steve Rose of The Guardian continues on the theme of fascism by pointing out that Walt Disney’s vision for the future came at a cost of enforced transience and dictatorship. Disney’s original vision for Tomorrowland included renters who could only stay for one year. Further, there were no voting rights. It was Disney’s way, all the way. In an sense, Disney was the Steve Jobs of his time. He pulled together many successful ideas and packaged them into something that seemed new and exciting. Once the vision was realized, however, it was “perfect” and he wanted no deviation from his masterpiece.

These discussions, I think, miss a bigger issue. The bookends I alluded to earlier are important to remember. The reason for this is that they are both inaccurate views of the problem. There isn’t a light and dark side fighting for the future, and no one is sitting back and letting it happen. Further, the critics have so focused on the failed illusion of the film, that they haven’t noticed the important issue that is accidentally brought to light. Everyone is fighting for a Tomorrowland. Everyone. The problem is, everyone’s Tomorrowland is exclusive to the others.

Tomorrowland as a Battle Royale

When Adam Rogers ended his article with “To get the future you want, you’re going to fight the one you already have”, he missed the fact that our world exists precisely because of this sentiment. Boko Haram and ISIS are not trying to create a terrible future. They have a utopian vision and they’re fighting for it. It’s just a utopia that no one else wants, so they’re going to subjugate as many as possible to get it.

When Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye discuss the importance of science in general, or climate change and evolution in particular, they are fighting for a future of science. Those who oppose them, the creationists, climate change deniers and so on, fight for a future where they are allowed to continue as they please without scientists telling them how to live their lives.

The Koch Brothers fight for a future where government is all but non-existent while others fight forĀ  a future where government regulates businesses to keep them from getting out of control. Anti-vaxxers fight for a future where vaccinations are akin to child abuse while doctors fight for a future where people actually listen to the medical advice that they are given.

The list goes on. Everyone fights for a future that is, more or less, exclusive to the other. That’s why the world is the way it is today. The importance of a film like Tomorrowland is the hope that we can create a better tomorrow. No one seems to realize, however, that the game is not to actually create a better tomorrow, but a question of who can defeat each other’s vision first. The king of the hill, so to speak, is the one that dictates the rules of the future. That’s a problem.

Building Tomorrowland

There are two ways to build a future, a new Tomorrowland, so to speak. One is to destroy what exists now. The other is to build what will exist then. Both require a certain flexibility. When we look at extremists causing acts of terrorism or social justice warriors harrassing people off the Internet, we see attempts to create a better tomorrow by destroying today. When we see chatterbots like Siri, or robots to take care of the elderly, we see attempts to build a better tomorrow by improving today. The missing element is adaptation. In all cases there needs to be the understanding that this perfect envisioned utopia is not going to solve all the problems the world has. Further there is always the possibility of making certain things worse. This is why any utopia is an unattainable goal. The problems are constantly shifting and changing with time. If this understanding can be baked into the vision of a better tomorrow then perhaps there would be more overall coordination to realize it.

At the end of the film, recruiters are sent out into the world to bring in people from all walks of life. People who are dreamers and will work together to create that better future. It’s a good start. If we could arrange something like that in the real world, perhaps we could have that hope for a better future come back to us. Until then, however, it’s basically a battle royale deathmatch. It will be for quite some time.