The good folks at Fox invited us for breakfast at Event Cinemas George Street today, for the purpose of given the film press an advance look at some of their upcoming big ticket pictures. After coffee and pastries in the Gold Class lounge we were ushered into the cinema, where we were shown some behind the scenes stuff from the PT Barnum musical biopic, The Greatest Showman; then a couple of lengthy scenes from Alien: Covenant; and finally about 20 minutes worth of Logan.
It was a pretty great morning.
Now, here be spoilers. So many spoilers. If you want to hit eject now, just know that they all look pretty great, and Logan actually looks amazing – they are really doing something different and cool with that film, and you can feel the palpable effort everyone concerned is putting in to make Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine something special.
Okay, whoever’s still here, let’s press on.
Directed by former FX bod, Michael Gracey, The Greatest Showman is shaping up to be a big, sumptuous, period musical based – however loosely – on the life of high-end huckster, PT Barnum (Hugh Jackman). What we got was mainly rehearsal and behind the scenes footage, plus a few talking heads proclaiming how excited they are to be finally making this project. The music’s being handled by the La La Land duo of Benj Pasek and Justin Hall, so that should be something special, and the combination of a 19th century setting and the glamour and glitz of the sideshow should reap visual dividends. Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams, Fredric Lehne and Zendaya co-star, with the film scheduled for a Boxing Day 2017 release.
Then onto Alien: Covenant, which was prefaced with a video intro by gruff old Ridley Scott. We saw two extended scenes: one of the titular colony ship getting into orbit above the distant planet they’ve been sent to settle, and a second where an ill crew member is quarantined in the medical bay, and horrible, horrible things happen.
Covenant feels much more like a horror film than Prometheus, and we can only hope that Sir Ridley learned from the poor reception that his last outing into this universe garnered. The second sequence we saw was particularly horrific; a chestburster breaks through a hapless character’s back (which wouldn’t really make it a chestburster, per se, but let’s stick with the familiar nomenclature) before turning on another crew member who is unlucky enough to be locked in with him. Later a burster comes out of a guy’s mouth, and both these scenes are played for maximum queasy tension. The creatures themselves are still not quite the aliens we’re used to, but still differ from the version seen in Prometheus; these are pinkish-white things with sharp dorsal spines, quick and lithe and vicious.
While Katherine Waterston’s Daniels is our nominal hero from what we’ve been told so far, we actually spend more time with Amy Seimetz’s Faris, who has to make some pretty grim choices in the face of alien infection. The cast is pretty great; Billy Crudup brings the gravitas as the Captain, and there’s a direct line of evolution from Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto in Alien to Danny McBride’s slovenly pilot here. Everyone else basically get to scream and/or look horrified in what we were shown, except for… Michael Fassbender as David, the morally ambiguous android from Prometheus. David’s role here is a bit of a mystery; he appears to be integrated into the Covenant crew, but there’s also shots of the alien craft, or one just like it, that he and Noomi Rapace split on in Prometheus, possibly suggesting that’s how he comes to be involved. Also, he has a body again, and his hair is no longer Lawrence of Arabia blonde – could this be a different unit off the Weyland production line? Perhaps we’re seeing the beginnings of the company policy to always have a synthetic onboard.
Alien: Covenant is in cinemas May 18, 2017.And then it was on to the standout of the morning, a good 20 minutes of Logan, culled from the first act. We actually got what appears to be the opening scene: a crew of Hispanic thieves are trying to steal the wheels off a limo, only for the owner to crawl out of the backseat and take umbrage. The owner is, of course, our man Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, who else?), but an older, beat-down version. He’s clearly drunk, he limps, and when the claws come out, one of them seems to be malfunctioning. And boy, do the claws come out. We knew that Logan would be an American R (MA15+ hereabouts), but this opening sequence seems to be a statement of intent; the first word we hear Logan say is “fuck”, and when the action starts, it’s savage, visceral stuff, with the ageing killer just tearing through his opponents, slicing them to pieces.
The second sequence seems to be when the plot really kicks off; we see Logan and the elderly Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in their rust-worn desert hideout, along with Stephen Merchant’s Caliban, a pale wraith of a character who acts as their early warning system with his power to detect other mutants. Also in the mix: Dafne Keen’s Laura, the pint-sized killing machine who functions as the plot’s MacGuffin and Logan’s key to redemption. Laura is being hunted by Boyd Holbrook’s smarmy killer, Pierce, and his army of cybered-up thugs. Of course, as casual trailer viewers and old comic fans alike know, Laura is a clone of Wolverine, complete with her own claws, healing power and killer instinct. We were shown the fight sequence hinted at in the trailer, where Laura comes out carrying the severed head of one of Pierce’s men, and it is, if anything, even more savage than the opening skirmish. The whole thing builds to a fantastic chase/fight sequence, with Wolverine, Laura and Xavier trying to flee in the former’s limo while Pierce’s “Reavers” give chase.
For all the action on display – and there is a prodigious amount up on the screen, albeit with some placeholder FX for now – what really impresses is the sense of melancholy that director, James Mangold is bringing to the proceedings. Forget comics continuity or previous screen iterations (the X-Men movies now make bugger all sense anyway), the obvious point of comparison here is Unforgiven. Will Logan be as good as that worthy Western? Well, to be frank, probably not, but from what we’ve seen it stands a petty good chance of being the best X-Men movie yet made.
Logan is in cinemas on March 2, 2017.