Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wolverine Review

So I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine today and I have to say that I think it kicked ass with an adamantium-laced boot. Spoiler alert!: I will be discussing both plot points and character development below that will probably not bother those who are relatively uninitiated within the X-Men universe beyond the movie franchise but may very well ruin many interesting revelations for those who are. All comic-fanboys like myself would do well for themselves to stop reading here and just go see the flick, and then of course come back here later to read my stunningly analytical and profoundly accurate review

While I won't run down a plot-point for plot-point retelling of the movie here is the basic premise: it details Wolverine's life from his birth in the mid 1830's to about a decade before the events that took place in the first X-Men movie. The opening scene with his sickly appearance and revelatory yet iconic bone claws was taken pretty much straight from the Origins comic arc, although the inclusion of Victor Creed as his brother deviates from the comic lore (yet I thought that it worked really well for the character development in this telling).

We then jump to an opening montage of Logan and Creed fighting in multiple wars from America's past, including every major conflict from the Civil War up through the Vietnam Conflict where they are then discovered and recruited by one Major Stryker. The montage itself is both brutal and beautiful, giving the uninitiated a sense that both characters are virtually invulnerable to injury without explicitly stating so (I personally found it very reminiscent of many scenes from the Highlander television series).

I thought the film progressed fairly well from this point except when Logan decides that he's had enough of government ordered killing and leaves the special forces mutant unit Stryker has assembled. I personally felt that the background and character development was a bit tedious for a while but I had to keep telling myself that not everyone in the theatre had read countless accounts of his past in graphic novel form. And my buddy Intrepid Californio (not a fanboy like myself) made the remark that a lot of information and background was relayed to the uninitiated viewer in a fairly succinct fashion, so maybe I was just a little anxious to get to the obligatory *snikt*ing.

OK, enough of relaying the plot; let's discuss the obsessive details: I thought that Sabretooth could have been a little bigger (I had the same complaint, although much more warranted I think, about Juggernaut in the third X-Men flick) but I would rather have a great performance from an average sized actor (and it was just so) than a mediocre one from some hairy professional wrestler as in the first flick (and mediocre is being overly generous). And not to nitpick, but Jackman is way too tall to play Wolverine although it's a shortcoming I've been happy to overlook in the past because his portrayal is just so spot on. I also thought that Sabretooth wasn't quite brutal enough in his predilections for gory violence but they were adequately referenced numerous times by other characters, and one must remember that anything more than a PG rating would be anathema to a summer blockbuster such as this.

Speaking of those other characters: Scott Summers' relative helplessness to his powerful and dangerous mutant abilities was depicted quite well; Emma Frost retained her diamond form but apparently did not possess psychic abilities or was unable to use them at the time; I thought that it was a fairly interesting take on The Blob. I've never been a fan of his character, probably because he just seemed like a couch potato version of the Juggernaut, but I thought it a curious revelation that his mutant abilities were in no way attached to or influenced by his eventual weight gain. And Gambit was all kinds of Southern cool but I felt that he was a bit too powerful considering the abilities that he is purported to possess, and this seemed to be a running theme with many of the characters in the flick but I excuse it because I realize that movies are a much different dynamic than comics and must therefore be a bit over the top in their portrayal of action sequences.

The one character I was happy to see included yet who's evolution I was also disappointed to witness was Wade Wilson, aka the merc with a mouth, aka Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds was the obvious casting choice for the sarcastic, fourth-wall breaking mercenary (especially since he has even been mentioned by name in describing the character in the comic series) and I loved the few scenes he was in before his first apparent death. I however hated that he became the seemingly all-powerful Weapon XI at the end. An enhanced healing factor, solar-powered optic blasts, teleportation, and how the hell does he scratch his own ass with an inflexible, full length katana blade sheathed up each arm? It's a logical yet confounding question Deadpool himself would ask, and rightly so. I realize that the movie needed a climactic battle scene with a seemingly undefeatable foe at the end but being too bad ass makes for an extremely uninteresting character (see = Superman, and Sylar from Heroes just before his second season fall), plus just having his head lopped off was so reminiscent of Darth Maul's own equally punk ass exit at Obi Wan Kenobi's hand.

One more complaint: I'm just not sure if I buy the whole "the adamantium bullet wipes out all of his memories" plot point. The human brain is a bit more complex than that and when you consider that Wolverine has (one would assume, given his prolific battlefield experience) suffered innumerable brain injuries in the past with no long lasting ill-effects, it just seems like another tired, Hollywood amnesia plot device. Yes, his memories are stolen from him at some point in the comic narrative but I just think that the process would be a bit more complex than a bullet wound. Oh, and we see that he has obviously gained weight from the skeletal adamantium bonding process when he sits on the bike yet he is able to swim in two subsequent scenes. In the comics he is 5' 3" and weighs 300 pounds with his enhanced skeleton; where I come from that means you sink like an adamantium-laced stone, yo.

Having bitched about all of that, I have to say that I was quite happy that they decided to drop the ridiculous, pointy Elvis bouffant hairstyle from the other X-Men flicks for something a bit more relaxed and stylish. I also loved that one of his new found mutant abilities was that of looking like a totally nonchalant bad ass whilest walking away from extraordinarily crazy explosions over and over again. He did seem to be a bit of a goody two shoes for a kick ass anti-hero who constantly wrestles with the savage animal within himself by applying lethal force to almost any situation but the Superman III-esque ballet he constantly danced with Sabretooth throughout the film filled that bill quite nicely whilest leaving him with the relatively squeaky clean hero persona most studio execs and movie goers are expecting.

After all is said and done, I would have to rate this movie pretty high on the kick ass action scale whilest giving it fairly good marks on the hyper-critical, "Hollywood better not fuck up one of the best comic book characters ever conceived" fanboy scale. In short, go see Wolverine and expect to have a hell of a good time. It's the best movie there is at what it does, and while what it does isn't very nice, it's highly cinematic and extremely entertaining.


shannon said...

My comments do not come as a fanboy, because I have never read the comic books. Keep this in mind. I freakin' loved it!! A guy that we were with made the same Highlander reference that you made. I never even thought about the butt scratching and the swimming. Good point. I loved all the fight scenes, and the way Wolverine came out of them. I would see it again in a heartbeat! Glad to know that we can enjoy the same things at different levels. I have not read your blog in a while, but loved this post!

JBW said...

Thanks, sis. I hear that Star Trek is supposed to be even better; hopefully I'll have a review of that one up some time next week.

shannon said...

Not sure if I am going to see Star Trek. Do you have to have prior knowledge? I do not really have any in regards to the show.

JBW said...

Not having seen it yet I can't say for sure but I watched an interview with the director the other day on Colbert and he said that he wasn't a fan prior to this, so I assume that he made it so newbs like yourself will dig it while including little winks and homages for nerds like me. It's the fine line you have to walk when adding to an established franchise.