With the opening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine last weekend, the summer movie season officially kicked off, and I won't lie to you, it's my favorite time of the year... cinematically speaking.
I'm a child of the '80s (my formative years, anyway), and let's be honest, my preference of film is one of spectacle. This weekend I get Star Trek, and a couple weekends from now, Terminator Salvation. The latter I particularly can't wait for as it looks like the first legitimate (in terms of quality) sequel to The Terminator and T2.
Wolverine was the character that got me back into comics. It was spring break of my ninth grade year. It was raining, so my buddy James and I spent most of the day in his room, him playing the guitar, me reading his brother's massive collection of X-Men comics.
The issue's cover showed Wolverine being taken over by the Brood. He's on his knees, arms down, palms up, with his claws extended, his mouth full of long, razor-sharp teeth. If I remember correctly, the cover was drawn by Marc Silvestri, and it's still my favorite depiction of the character by any of the by this point hundreds of comic artists who've drawn him.
My second favorite depiction of him was in the mini-series Meltdown. The art was done in watercolor and inkwash, and Wolverine was drawn as a short, wife-beater clad, jester-haired, ruddy faced drunk, which is pretty much what he is.
I mean, I know Hugh Jackman is six-foot-two, but in the comics, Wolverine is about a foot shorter than that and extraordinarily ill-tempered. Still, I wasn't completely put off by Jackman's portrayal of the character in the first two X-men films. My gripe about Wolverine in the movies comes from how much they sanitized him.
Wolverine in the comics has lived a long, long time. He's at least 150 years old or older. He's lived as a samurai, trained as a spy. He's complicated.
And, historically, he's always had the memory loss, so his origin was something of a mystery. Marvel did the definitive Origin story on him a few years back, and to say it was less interesting than anything we could've imagined is an understatement.
Still, there are a plethora of Wolverine stories in Marvel's catalog, and any number of them would make for a good Wolverine movie. His origin... not so much.
Basically, Fox made a misstep from the go with this movie and then just kept making them.
It's more or less what I expected after watching X-men 3, which was (here's where I'd drop an f-bomb) awful.
At least when Bryan Singer was at the helm of the franchise, the effects were handled well and there was some small attempt to keep the cores of the characters and the comics' established relationships.
The third film threw all that out the window, killing off Cyclops early and going into whatever nonsensical mutant apocalypse thing they had. I barely remember it. I watched it once, wrote it off for what it was and moved on. The first two films, while not perfect, are at least a good time to watch.
X-men Origins: Wolverine comes in somewhere behind the third one. There's so much wrong with it that I don't even know where to start.
The film opens with a young James Howlett sick in bed and being watched over by a boy named Victor. There's a commotion downstairs and then a gunshot. James rushes to find his father has been shot. In that moment of anguish, he's overcome by anger. Bone claws shoot from his hands and he attacks his father's murderer. It's only as the man is dying does James learn that the man he's just killed is his real father.
That, in a nutshell, is Wolverine's movie origin.
What follows is a hackneyed account of how Wolverine got the metal in his bones and how he lost his memory. Those two things are vital to who Wolverine is, in the comics and the movies.
The film carries on from that vignette to a montage of James (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber), who we now know are brothers, fighting in one war after another up until Vietnam, at which point they're conscripted into a top secret unit called Weapon X.
The brothers grow apart, mainly on account of Victor's becoming a sociopath. James leaves the unit, moves to the Canadian Rockies, finds a girlfriend and sets about living happily ever after.
Then Victor shows up and kills said girlfriend. James, in a fit of rage, goes back to the Weapon X program and lets them fill him full of metal so that he can better kill Victor the next time he sees him. General Stryker wants James to embrace his "animal side," and become the super badass no-conscience killer.
That's pretty much the "plot."
They keep talking about how Wolverine is supposed to embrace his animal side, but there's no precedent for it. It's as though just because he has claws in his arms we're supposed to take the fact that he has animal-like tendencies for granted. Again, this is a well-established nuance of the character in the comics, but in the films, it's largely ignored or glossed over. Here, he's just a dude who has claws and metal bones.
Wolverine's classic line is that he's the best he is at what he does, but that what he does isn't very nice. Basically, he's the best killer in the world. Jackman even delivers the line in the film, and it sounds ridiculous.
Again, there's just no precedent for Wolverine being a badass. Sure, he's tough. Sure, he has claws coming out of his hands. But where does the reputation come from?
One of many problems with the movie.
You want some that don't have anything to do with the poor translation from comic to screen?
You don't really know when the movie takes place. If you do the math, it sort of has to be set sometime during the 1980s, but there's nothing to communicate that. It might as well be set in the here and now. No effort is made to date most of the film's events.
There's also no plot to speak of. There are just sequences of events linked tenuously together to facilitate either the blowing up of things or the cutting up of things.
Worst of all, the special effects are second-rate. There's a scene where a helicopter blows up behind Wolverine and it looks like a scene out of a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, the flames badly shopped in behind Jackman on a green screen. Hell, a better job was done in The Rundown on a very similar scene and that movie probably had a quarter of the budget Wolverine did.
And finally, there's the matter of Wolverine's memory loss. Like I mentioned before, this is a vital component of who Wolverine is. So, what's the answer to that biggest of mysteries for this character? They shot him in the head with an adamantium bullet... no, seriously. That was the plan to steal his memories. Shoot him in the head. Because, everyone knows, gunshots to the head always cause memory loss. It's a fact.
Holy crap. Where did they get that one? Out of some crappy romance novel?
And there's more. For instance, once they've established that his real name is James, and that he voluntarily takes on the moniker "Wolverine," they still fail to explain where Logan comes from. It's just magically on his dog tags.
There aren't characters in the film. There are just actors playing people with assigned names and the odd generic superpower. Something similar can be said about the movie itself. Sure, it features Wolverine, but it's really just a bunch of random crap tied together by a guy who can heal from just about anything and happens to have claws that pop out of his hands.
I hate the film more now than I did when I walked out of the movie theater. At that moment, I was just sort of let down and annoyed. The more I think about it, the more it festers.
Worse still, I know now there will never, ever be a good Wolverine movie made. What a monumental waste of fantastic source material.
Thanks for nothing, Fox. Enjoy your millions.
There's nothing worse than a preachy animated movie, and that's exactly what The Battle for Terra is. Hollywood has apparently decided the best way to push a global political agenda is to present it to the masses in the form of an animated movie.
The word for this technique as exhibited in Battle for Terra is heavy-handed.
The story goes something like this...
There's this planet called Terra. On that planet, the Terrians live in peace. As a race, they have big cute puppy dog eyes and float as if by magic as a means of locomotion. They sing songs and fly around in their Da Vinci-like flying machines.
And then humans show up. The last of mankind has fled Earth after destroying it, Mars and Venus, and has set its sights on colonizing Terra. To do that, the humans plan on first wiping out the Terrians, and then second, using a terraformer to convert the planet's non-oxygenated atmosphere into something more human friendly.
Representing the Terrians in this narrative is the rebellious, inventive teen Mala (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood). Representing the humans is Jim Stanton (voiced by Luke Wilson). They meet when Stanton tries to shoot Mala out of the sky and she outsmarts him, resulting in him crashing. She then rescues him (with the help of his little four-legged robot buddy), and the two form an unlikely friendship (though that does nothing to head off the coming war between the Terrians and the Earthlings).
Basically, humans are the bad guys and the Terrians are the evolved species that has seen the error of its ways and mended them.
Yes, I get that if we don't change our way of life drastically, our species is not long for the planet. I get that. I get that we're planet Earth's bad guys. I don't need some silly ass 3D cartoon telling me that.
Sure, it's kinda, sorta pretty to look at, though again, as before, the 3D stuff is nothing more than a pretty gimmick. All in all, we've seen stories like this done better before, and even then, they weren't that good. There's a reason Battle for Terra didn't make the Top 10 box office last weekend. It's just not any good.
See you next week.
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