I didn’t want to like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When it was announced the movie was in the works, along with X-Men Origins: Magneto, I cringed. I cringed because it reeked of gimmick. What Marvel Comics does (to be fair, DC Comics does the same thing) is create an “event”–a rather long and convoluted storyline–that is spread out over every title published by Marvel Comics. The reader is almost forced to buy every single comic in Marvel’s lineup in order to understand what is going on in the story.
At $ 3.99 a comic, the gimmick pays off quite well for Marvel. It was also announced, around the same time, that there would be a Captain America movie (Captain America: The First Avenger), followed by a Thor movie, and then another Iron Man movie (Iron Man 3 for those of you keeping score). After all three of these films are completed Marvel Studios is going to start production on an Avengers movie. The Avengers movie will star all the players from the other Marvel movies, including Edward Norton as the Hulk. I can only assume that the major players signed contracts stating that they would do an Avengers movie.
According to information at IMDB.com, Samuel L. Jackson has already signed on to do all these movies and a Nick Fury movie. It seems that Marvel Studios is bringing the “event” gimmick to the movie world. These movies, in and of themselves, are not bad news. A Captain America movie, in keeping with the origin and done a little grittier, maybe something along the lines of Saving Private Ryan than previous Marvel movies, would be fantastic. It was a stroke of genius on the part of Marvel Studios getting Kenneth Branagh to direct the Thor, movie.
His previous directing experience and award-winning, Shakespearean acting should bring an element to the superhero-movie genre that has not been seen before. However, I think that a Branagh directed Thor movie may have more in common with the Ang Lee directed Hulk viewers may have to think and your average superhero audience doesn’t want to think.
Seeing Marvel Studios trying and pull the same gimmick in the movies left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I already had a biased view of the movie. I knew that it wasn’t going to be any good. There was no way that this was going to be any good. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the ending credits. I started enjoying Wolverine.
It isn’t an Academy Award winning movie by any stretch of the imagination. The movie has its fair share of problems, but with these kinds of movies you have to expect some problems. For instance, after only one mission we are suppose to believe that Logan, Victor Creed and the rest of the commando unit are a tight knit group. I can buy that the rest of the group became a tight knitted group because we are told how they went on more missions after Logan left. But, how the whole group was tight with Logan is a mystery because they were only on one mission together. What sets the movie in motion is the death of Logan’s girlfriend, Kayla.
Of course, she never died. It turned out that she was given a drug that slowed her heart down so that it appeared that she were dead. It’s a pretty bad story device, but Shakespeare did the same thing, right? However, when he wrote Romeo and Julietit hadn’t been done a million times. But this isn’t Shakespeare it’s Wolverine. As far as storytelling is concerned, using the fake death ploy is not only played out, but it’s a device used by weak writers. What makes her “death” even more ridiculous is the character of Wolverine. Wolverine is supposed to have heightened senses–smell, vision, taste, the whole nine yards–he would have known that Kayla wasn’t dead. I watch enough TRU TV to know that dead bodies don’t give off heat. Of course, it would take some time for the body to grow cold, but he would have felt her body growing colder.
It gets even worse when we see Victor Creed pouring blood on her to “further” the illusion. Maybe I am going out on limb here, but wouldn’t fresh blood smell different than blood that has been stored in a refrigerator somewhere? And why wouldn’t he have noticed that there wasn’t a mark on her? In Wolverinewe finally learn how Logan lost his memories and the reason is just as cheesy as the faked death. It turns out that a bullet– an adamantium bullet- in the brain is the reason. But, we’ve seen Logan take a bullet to the brain before and nothing happened to him.
I need to point out that when we saw him get shot in the head in X-Men 2 the bullet was in his head. It didn’t ricochet off his adamantium skull; the bullet went into his brain. We even see it pop out when he heals. So, why did one bullet take his memories and the other one didn’t?
Now I’m not a brain surgeon or a metallurgist, so I am only guessing when I say that any type of metal shot into your brain is a bad thing. The writers and the director could have chosen any number of ways that his memories could have been erased. For instance, they could have said that the process of grafting adamantium onto his bones was so painful that his mind shut down as a means to cope with the pain. There could have been some sort of malfunction to the equipment that resulted in the memory loss. An even better reason would be that his memories were erased on purpose.
Think about it. If you were the mad scientist creating the ultimate killing machine wouldn’t you have wiped his memories? When he learns what you did to him and his girlfriends don’t you think that he would be a little ticked off? Think of your own reasons. Anything would have been better than the reason that we were given. I hate to say it because I like Ryan Reynolds, but there was zero reason that he should have been in the movie. Well, I guess there is one reason–Reynolds had already been cast to play Deadpool (A movie spin-off of a movie spin-off. Yeah, there’s not gimmick there) in the upcoming movie.
He delivers his lines in his trademarked sarcastic tone, but you get the feeling that there is somewhere else that Reynolds wants to be. I know that it sounds like I just tore the whole movie apart, but I still found things in the movie that I enjoyed. The staples of superhero movies are well represented. Things blow up, guns are fired in ultra-cool ways, and bullets are sliced in mid-air. The special effects are great. The stand out scene is when Deadpool’s head, eyes still blasting lasers, falls down one of 3 Mile Islands cooling towers and cuts it to pieces. Watching it crumble to the ground was a visual treat.
The fight scenes were well choreographed with no restrictions on cable work. In the opening credits we follow Logan and Victor as they move through history one war after another. Each war, beginning with the Revolutionary War, (I think. I’m not a history major, but it would make more sense that they were in the Revolutionary War than the Civil War) seamlessly flows into the next war finally stopping during the Vietnam War. Not only do the opening credits show the audience that the two characters have been around for centuries, it also manages to show what turned Victor into the monster that we see during the rest of the movie.
Wolverine is just as good as, if not better than, other superhero movies. Which to some people is not saying a lot, but if you look at the three main roles Wolverine does have a lot more talent than some other superhero movies. Hugh Jackman is a talented actor. To say that he is not a talented actor is simply not true. If you don’t want to watch him sing and dance (which he has received a Tony Award for) then watch The Prestige, The Fountain, or Deception for proof that he has talent.
Jackman gets to a do little comedy to lighten the mood. Liev Schreiber, as Victor Creed, and Danny Huston, as William Stryker, compliment Jackman’s performance perfectly. Before he came to the attention of mainstream audiences as Cotton Weary in the Scream trilogy, Schreiber starred in independent and small budget features. However, it has been in movies like The Hurricane, The Manchurian Candidate and Defiance that Schreiber has made a name for himself. He’s often cast in good guy roles. As Victor Creed, he gets to show us that he can do mean and nasty too.
I have a list that I call “You May not Know the Name, but You Know the Face.” I’m always adding names to it, but rarely am I taking names off. Danny Huston is easily in the top ten. If it weren’t for the make up, that made him almost unrecognizable, fans of the comic genre would recognize him as the head vampire, Marlow, in 30 Days of Night. Others may remember him from The Number 23, Children of Men, and in the critically acclaimed HBO mini-series John Adams.
A lesser actor would have portrayed William Stryker as a crazed maniac, a Dr. Frankenstein screaming “Its alive!”, but not Huston. Huston plays Stryker with more reserve that manages to bring out the character’s obsession more than any over the top acting could do.
There is a bigger reason why I liked Wolverine. What’s that reason? I turned my brain off. Maybe not completely off, but definitely down several notches. You almost have to when you watch a superhero movie. For the most part, superhero movies are garbage. If you try and tear them to pieces, as critics like Ebert and Roper do on a regular basis and that I have briefly done, you won’t enjoy them for what they are– good, mindless entertainment.
Do you have to be a comic book fan to enjoy Wolverine? No. In fact, you will enjoy the movie more if you aren’t a comic book fan. You won’t get bogged down with the things that will perturb your average comic book reader. Just be a fan of good action movies, turn the DVD player on, your brain off and enjoy the movie.