Editorial

Logan Review

BY ZOEY SMITH:

I’m just going to come out and say it.

I hate super hero films.

Well….

No, I don’t….  But like….

I think what bothers me is how staid the genre’s Hollywood presence has become.  Marvel’s philosophy of making ‘safe-but-good-enough’ films rarely leaves me feeling satisfied, excluding the studio’s more adventurous projects like Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy (which admittedly still feel a bit focus-tested, at times).   My expectations for Marvel films are rarely surpassed, nor are they let down.  I’ll always buy tickets for a new Captain America film, but will these thrills always remain the same?  Will I always have to live with this unappeasable anxiety that I’ll never be given a reason to adjust my expectations?

I honestly had no idea what to expect from Logan, the 3rd and final X-Men spin-off film featuring the franchise’s most popular asset, Huge Jackman.  Prior to seeing the film, I felt that the prospects of an R-rated super hero film held interesting potential.  Early trailers revealed what looked like a bit more of a dramatic, serious experience than your typical big-budget comic book adaptation, but with that nice R-rated cherry on top.  This new direction looked very promising!  BUT, if films like Zack Snyder’s Watchmen are any indication, nuance and integrity vital to so many comic-book stories aiming for thematic resonance can be lost on filmmakers more interesting in leveraging the more superficial details and crowd-pleasing spectacle of the super hero story in question.

In Hugh Jackman’s final performance in his iconic role, we see an aged, morose, purposeless Wolverine get roped into helping a young girl with mutant power escape from U.S.-sanctioned mercenary death squads hellbent on eradicating on what was a failed experiment to engineer super soldiers out of laboratory-grown children.

We find Logan at the start of the film as a man that’s all but given up on the world.  With nearly all of mutant-kind has been eradicated, the Wolverine’s days as an agent of good are of no value to the dominant society; shadow agencies have ensured that the status quo remains dominant in society with nearly limitless use of violence.  There is no reason to be good, because there is no thanks, no respect, no acceptance of mutant-kind.  How bleak.

In many ways, Logan dives heavily into tropes from Dystopic and Western fiction; the distant loner is faced with doing the right thing, the ever-present threat of lawless consequence, the torment of knowing that violence his behind every corner, the need for sacrifice to protect those you love.

Nothing about this film is fun; the nerd-gasmic proposition of cool, gritty Wolverine battles are completely displaced by the urgency and bleakness surrounding every encounter.  Every action sequence is undercut with anxiety, a desperate hope that our heroes will have enough time to get the heck out of whatever nasty corner they’ve been backed into.

Hugh Jackman’s pitch-perfect performance is accompanied by Patrick Stewart’s astoundingly tragic performance as Charles Xavier/Professor X.  Dafne Keen’s performance as Laura Kinney, code-named X-23, is simply arresting.  Child stars rarely measure up to the performances of those around them, which makes Keen’s unnaturally adept presence even more striking.

On a technical level, the film is marvelous.  Even with a 137-minute run time, there is not a wasted moment on screen, as every encounter steers the plot into interesting and unpredictable directions.  Every exchange is expertly crafted, every line of dialogue one adding character depth and tension.  Back this up with a suitably evocative (if unmemorable) score and you have the perfect recipe some of the most effective drama to take place in an action film in a long time.

I was not prepared to see such heart and emotion in what I dreaded was going to be one of the first cynical cash-grabs in our post-Deadpool world.  Instead, we got a seriously somber, poignant film about loss, violence, and survival in the clutches of a cruel, callous world.  Absolutely see this film.

Phoenix Comicon Volunteers

BY ZOEY SMITH:

In case you’ve never seen it, the tragedy of Old Yeller was that (spoilers?) the fate of the titular retriever’s was inevitable ; after being bitten by rabid wolves, Yeller’s beloved family waits until he fully succumbs to his illness. Then they shoot him.

It’s tragic, but there was no other way.

Same can be said for Phoenix ComiCon’s decision to replace its wildly popular volunteer program with paid full-time staffers.  As a person that has volunteered for the past 3 years, I can say that this change is both heartbreaking and for the best.

Yes, the cries and angst of the passionate PCC volunteers should not be ignored.  Yes, volunteering at PCC was a wonderful experience (for me), allowed affordable access to an otherwise pricey Con (for me), and gave individuals a chance to peek behind the curtains and see how a con is run (which is really only cool if you’re into organizational/IT planning and logistics).  Volunteering was really the only option for people like me (read: poor), and its absence will definitely guarantee that some can no longer go.

But, from a business perspective, volunteer staff was a mixed blessing for PCC; while it meant that they could always fill their 1000+ man requirement with ease, it did not guarantee that the ground-floor presence would adequately serve the needs of both the Con and its customers. PLUS, factor in that changing state laws are essentially forcing the Con to adopt this business model, and there you go: the volunteer program was taken out back and shot.

From my experience, it basically boiled down to a small handful of paid managers struggling to direct untrained, unprofessional volunteer staffers who lacked professionalism.  Work load distribution among volunteer staff was extremely inconsistent within the two separate departments I worked for (Information Tech Services and Line Control), resulting in a few volunteers carrying their department for 5-6 hours.

Again, these are my own personal experiences, and not a reasonable metric for judging the effectiveness of the volunteer program at large.  But I can’t help but feel that stories of confrontational staffers insulting con attendees, mismanaged lines, disorganization, and cross-department communication issues at least gave PCC’s CEO less pause when making the decision to nix this program altogether.

Personally, paid staffers sounds wonderful.  A contract with an organization gives that company more control over its operations and more leverage to assure that staffers are responsible for their actions. Paid staffers have to give a shit, and they have to keep the con running.  Even if the affair is still chaotic, paid staffers could yield better results (friendlier staff, more efficient work processes).

The switch also benefits employees as well: they get paid, have better assurance that their coworkers will give a shit, and hopefully have sane working hours (I can’t tell you how many times I saw managers devote extra time and energy to keep things running, despite having worked HOURs prior).
While it’s arguable that the volunteer work force COULD have possibly been spruced up and modified to better serve the convention, there was a rather nasty legal issue that forced the con’s hand into action.  Apparently, Phoenix Comic Con for-profit status made having volunteers a serious legal issue, as the con itself could have legal action levied against it if it didn’t either merge with a non-profit group (which required $20 from volunteers) or outright ditch the program altogether. While the $20 option definitely ensured that the Con would have plenty of staff positions open, social media backlash helped cement the change.

Even if the Con winds up spending more money on wages for employees, the value proposition of a professional staff is definitely there, and as heartbreaking as it is, PCC pulled the trigger on that decision.

It’s tragic, but there was no other way.

Sources:
http://www.abc15.com/entertainment/events/phoenix-comicon-moves-to-all-paid-staff-for-future-conventions

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