I realize today is International Women’s Day. And I will get to that in a bit, I promise. But first, an introduction: in determining a topic for this week’s post, it occurred to me that I just saw the new Wolverine movie, Logan, two nights ago. And prior to that, the last movie I saw in the theater was John Wick: Chapter 2. There are certain similarities to the two films, so that seemed as good a thing as any to write about.
The biggest similarity that comes to mind is the ultra violence. According to the Internet, the total body count in John Wick: Chapter 2 is 128. I think that’s like a 50% increase in kills from the first John Wick. I couldn’t find a total body count for Logan, maybe because the crafty Internet denizens who spend their time counting such things haven’t gotten around to it yet. Suffice it to say, it felt pretty high. And with an “R” rating and an extra set of adamantium claws in the movie, it gets really bloody.
There is always some part of me that feels I need to apologize for my love of action movies. To those folks who feel action movies glorify violence, or only reinforce certain gender stereotypes. Since my affinity for action movies has not diminished over time, my justification is pretty much the same as it’s ever been: it’s the stories that I love, not the violence or the macho-ness for their own sake. When it’s a great story, the actions of the characters serve the plot. Sometimes those actions can include lots of killing and questionable choices.
And I might be able to offer an argument against the gender-stereotyping claim. Today being International Women’s Day, I’d like to focus on the females in these two movies. To be sure, there aren’t many, but they are crucial to the story of each, especially Logan.
But first, John Wick: Chapter 2. The most memorable female role (to me) was assassination target Gianna D’Antonio, played by Claudia Gerini. She was a powerful woman who showed no fear, who appeared to live as she died—by her own rules. The other main female role was one of John Wick’s chief adversaries, Ares, played by Ruby Rose. She never uttered any great memorable lines because she never spoke—she communicated via sign language.
And as I recall, many of the contract killers who go after John Wick (there are a lot of them) are female. I can’t go so far as to say John Wick: Chapter 2 takes great steps to further the cause of equality; but as far as the story goes, it was very enjoyable. It took itself even less seriously than the first, and played up its arch elements to utmost effect. (I love the whole concept of the criminal underworld’s Continental hotel chain, which allows no “business”—read killings—on the premises).
Logan was also enjoyable, but in a more heart-breaking way. And I definitely could make a case for how equality is at the very heart of the entire X-Men series—of comic books and movies. So I feel there is less need of a defense on that claim. In Logan, for female roles, there is Gabriela, a nurse played very effectively by Elizabeth Rodriguez, who seeks out Logan and sets the whole story in motion.
But finally, there is the character of Laura. Dafne Keen plays her to indelible effect. There would be no story without Laura, and it would be a very different movie with a different actor in the role. It feels condescending to say Dafne Keen is “one to watch,” so instead I’ll just say I was consistently amazed by her portrayal.
In a very short span of story time, and with no words spoken, I was totally convinced of the connection she forged with Charles Xavier. (I could go on about how phenomenal Patrick Stewart is in this movie, but since today isn’t International British Knight Day, I won’t). And Laura’s relationship with Logan is immediately intense, and complex, and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by calling it heartbreaking.
I’m getting long-winded, so I’ll wrap this up. Some final similarities between Logan and John Wick: Chapter 2—I think each improved upon preceding films in the series. And neither did anything to lessen my love for action movies.