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Tag: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

‘The Wolverine’: A Lot More Good Than Bad

I’ve been thinking about The Wolverine, which I caught at a morning screening — it’s what you have to do when you have a toddler! — on opening weekend.

There’s a lot to like in this movie, but it’s far from perfect. The movie’s been out a few weeks now, so I’m going to talk about stuff that qualifies as spoilers, so consider yourself warned.
Here’s the pro side:

  • This is the most faithful adaptation of a Marvel comic-book story to come to screen so far. There are deviations from the 1982 Wolverine miniseries it’s based on, but I was surprised by how much of that story was kept intact. 
  • I liked that the female characters were interesting. Yukio in particular is a favorite of mine from the original comic. And while she’s not quite the same character here, she played a major role in the story and held her own quite well. Mariko didn’t fare quite as well. I never fully bought the romantic connection between her and Logan. The comic version, despite its hokey elements, is a bit more convincing. 
  • The end tag previewing next summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past was terrific. Patrick Stewart is back! So is Ian McKellan! I am now very much looking forward to that pic and find myself hoping Bryan Singer can really pull off an amazing movie that not only heals some of the wounds left by X-Men: The Last Stand, but also unifies the whole franchise and gives it an exciting way to go forward. My biggest concern is living up to the impact of the original comic book story, which has to be significantly fleshed out for a feature film.
  • I liked that there was a lot of Japanese spoken in the film, both with and without subtitles. 
  • While Viper was probably the least necessary addition to the movie, I really liked Svetlana Khodchenkova in the role. She had just the right amount of sexy sinister for a character like that.
  • The posters with the Japanese style artwork are great.
Here’s the con side:

  • After a very satisfying and interesting set up, the final act is so conventional as to be boring. The Silver Samurai, as done in this movie, was far less interesting than in the comics. The big reveal of Harada as being inside the big robot suit is just plain dull and has almost no emotional impact.
  • I wish more had been done to play up the love triangle of the original comic, with Yukio being an obvious and very willing match for Logan, who just can’t get over Mariko. That was a nice touch in the comic that this movie could have used a bit more of.
  • Viper is not well integrated into the story. She seems pretty unnecessary and her power is oddly portrayed and never explained. I don’t recall Viper having any powers in the comics. But I do remember she somehow convinced Wolverine to willingly marry her for some reason. (I remember it was in Chris Claremont’s return to the character in Wolverine #125-128 or so, but not the reasons behind that twist.) That might have been a more interesting element to play with here.
  • I hate the ripping out of Wolverine’s claws. The bone claws, in a word, suck. I always thought the bone claws were the lamest thing ever done to the character. My problem with it is it makes absolutely no sense. We were told for decades that the claws were housed in some kind of bionic mechanism, which must have been confirmed by all the medical exams done on Logan by everyone from the Sentinels (as far back as The Uncanny X-Men #98) through the Shi’ar and onward. Even in the original Days of Future Past storyline, when the Sentinels burn off Wolverine’s flesh, you can see the manmade mechanism that operates his claws in his bones. Of course, that’s a future timeline Wolverine, so it’s easy to explain away. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not a stupid idea.
  • No credit whatsoever for Chris Claremont, Frank Miller or Josef Rubinstein for coming up with the original comic-book story. Even more interesting, it appears Claremont doesn’t get even a token payment, while Len Wein, who officially created Wolverine but had little to do with the character as he exists today, did.   
The Wolverine looks like a solid but not spectacular hit. So far, it’s made about $113 million at the domestic box office and about $195 million overseas, for a decent total of $308 million on an estimated budget of $120 million. Anticipation for X-Men: Days of Future Past is running high, and it’s clear Fox is going to continue to develop and release X-Men movies on a regular basis, thus preventing the rights from reverting to Marvel. The series appears to be on the upswing, with the well-received X-Men: First Class and now The Wolverine getting fans past the disappointments of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I would love to see the franchise move past prequels and into new, fresh territory with new characters, new villains and new scenarios. After The Wolverine, it’s looking more likely than before, and I think fans of the comics and the movies can be glad of that. 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine lacks passion, vision

X-Men Origins: Wolverine can be taken in two completely different ways. Taken one way, it’s a decent little bit of B-movie action entertainment. Taken another, it’s a disappointing movie that unfortunately adds nothing essential or even interesting to the character and fails to have even a basic answer to the question of why anyone should care.

Those who know Logan only from the movies will like this survey of his life more than most. The film does a decent job of covering all the bases, from the days of young James Howlett, through his ongoing rivalry with Sabretooth, the Weapon X program and his eventual struggles with memory. That the movie manages to pack all that in, reinventing it as needed, shows an effort on the part of the filmmakers to digest and do something interesting with the source material. And the story does follow a sort of logic and makes sense all on its own if you’re not too picky about it.

But there’s no getting around that there are some major problems with this film, which is just not very well made. The biggest problems are in the script, which for all its efforts to incorporate comic book storylines fails to transfer the character of Logan or his motivation for doing what he does in any way.

Admittedly, this has always been the problem with Wolverine comic books. Yes, the original 1982 miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller is a classic and you have to wonder why they didn’t go that route for a Wolverine solo movie. But pretty much everything from the time Logan got his own solo comic in 1988 has felt in a lot of ways like a place holder. Wolverine comics have always sold well and the character remains popular, but few of the hundreds of Wolverine stories have made as much of an impact on him as anything that happened in one of the X-Men titles. What’s weird is there’s really no reason Wolverine comics couldn’t be better, aside from the fact that really sticking to the core elements of what makes this guy tick results in a character that’s too violent for Marvel to market to kids. So they always have to hold back and even create nice guy versions for the cartoons and so forth — leaving anyone older who might be interested in seeing this guy truly unleashed with not a lot to hold on to.

This movie doesn’t seem to really know who Wolverine is. The guy they’ve come up with is definitely not the cool guy fans first came to know and love in the early days of the new X-Men.

So, my take on the character has always been that he was a mutant with a healing factor and bone like claws (even though I hate that idea, added in during the early 1990s) who was experimented on against his will and given adamantium bones and claws that made him near indestructible. The event was so painful and traumatic that he suffered severe memory lapses and, more importantly, struggled to retain control of his sanity in the face of his tendency to fall into animalistic berserker rages. It was always his struggle to hold on to the little bits of humanity — his few friends in the X-Men, Mariko Yashida, the idea of one day having control of his dark side — that defined him. The ultimate Wolverine action sequence was one in which he faced alone a giant horde of enemies who couldn’t beat him no matter how much they shot, cut or punched him. Every blow hurt him and he’d walk out of it enraged and bloodied, waiting for his power to painfully knit him back together.

The movie Logan, however, is a real moper. Here he’s cast as a good kid who did something bad, became a soldier in a lot of wars and did a lot of nasty things alongside his brother, but really always wanted to live a peaceful life away from it all. But it turns out he can’t do that and when his past comes back to haunt him, he seeks revenge and willingly submits to the Weapon X procedure in order to get it. That’s what you’d call a major change in your character’s motivation, and you can argue based on it that the movie Wolverine is not Wolverine at all.

The procedure itself is described as terrible, and we have to take everyone’s word for it because it seems to give Logan little more discomfort than a root canal before he’s back out in the woods and using his newfound claws to chop up military vehicles. When he learns he was sort of tricked into getting the procedure, there’s a bit of teeth knashing and distant stares, but not much more. The memory loss comes much later via a deus ex machina that I’ll leave a surprise.

Along the way to that ending, there’s a lot of action sequences — some of them fairly cool, though nothing especially exciting or innovative — and a whole bunch of cameos from various mutants, some welcome (Gambit, John Wraith), some not (Blob, everyone else). There is a cool, Die Hard-esque final battle against an interesting version of a popular Marvel character that’s too little too late, and a terrible cameo from a CG Patrick Stewart as a walking Professor X.

In the end it’s hard to get too worked up about anything in this movie because nothing about it conveys any kind of emotion. Wolverine should be about rage unleasahed, but nothing here is really all that interesting enough to get even slightly mad at. It’s all very rote and routine, with no passion for the character or the story coming through in any of it.

On top of that, this movie is just not well made. This movie looks muddy, the editing does no favors for the action sequences or the performances, the score has no subtlety, and even though there’s a lot of good CG VFX there’s also some truly awful effects in there too.

In the end, I’m not sure the quality of this film matters much. Fox will keep making X-Men movies in order to hang on to the rights as long as possible. And their track record will likely continue to falter as long as they keep micromanaging the property instead of finding a filmmaker like Bryan Singer who can bring some passion and vision to the project and just let him do his job.

Wolverine Reactions Trickle In

I’m seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine tonight, so I’ll post my thoughts tomorrow. I’d largely been avoiding watching clips or reading too much about the film in buildup to its release.

But I have read a few reviews as they’ve come out: Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have little love for Logan’s solo outing. David Poland at The Hot Blog says it’s not great, but not bad either. And L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan, whose review last week of The Soloist I couldn’t have disagreed with more, likes the film.

I also think it’s interesting that there is no ad for the movie’s opening in today’s Calendar section of the L.A. Times. Perhaps Fox feels the shrinking number of newspaper readers are not the target audience for this movie, which will surely score a nice large take at the box office.

Sweeping up after the Watchmen

Watchmen did a respectable number at the box office this weekend, grossing $55.7 million domestically and $27.5 million overseas for a grand total of $83.2 million. How high the number goes will help determine whether any of the studios make any money off the film. Costs are high due to an immersive advertising campaign and the legal dispute between Fox and Warner Bros. that will spread around the money that does come in. It’ll take another week or so to see how well the film holds up business wise.

But the reaction to the film is the most interesting part. It’s all over the place from both fans and non-fans calling it everything from an absolute disaster all the way up to an undisputed masterpiece.

I think it’s all in what you’re looking for in this film — people interested in the plot are pleased to see so much of it in the film, while those who go in looking for the tone, meaning and underlying themes of the graphic novel are coming out disappointed.

What’s undisputed is this all makes for some great debates and discussion. This film has so far brought out (mostly) thoughtful and intelligent comments on all aspects of the film and the comic, indicating that the movie has at the very least succeeded in engaging people’s brains in a way few other movies of this type ever have.

What’s really fascinating is the way even the slightest changes or omissions are noticed and felt by people who read the book. Whether it’s wishing for a scene that better explains how Sally pushed Laurie into being a superhero, to wondering why we don’t see Seymour the intern before the film’s final shot, it’s a testament to the book that almost nothing can be removed or altered without being noticed. It’s also a testament to the film that even critics are willing to admit that even when these elements come up short that the filmmakers’ intentions were such that they’d have put it in if they could.

Many of the discussions have softened my previous position on the film a bit. With a bit of distance, I too am quite impressed by just how much of the book got onto the screen. It certainly could have been a lot worse, and there is hope to be had that the director’s cut will put back in just enough to push this one over the top.

So, what will Watchmen’s impact be on the superhero and comic book movie genre? Unless Watchmen has incredible legs and the box office begins to creep into Iron Man or Dark Knight territory, probably not much. It definitely fits in well with the trend toward more sophisticated fare those two films established last year. But since this is not a franchise that will produce sequels that would extend its influence, it’s unlikely we’ll see a lot of Watchmen imitators. That there’s also not a lot of comic book material out there that stands up to the quality of Watchmen means the film should remain its own, self-contained thing. Instead, look for a slight turn away from the darkness, which X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the potential Green Lantern movie are likely to deliver.

‘Mutant Cinema’ in Previews! Arrives in stores April 29!

“Mutant Cinema: The X-Men Trilogy from Comics to Screen” is coming at last to comics shops!

The book is in the new edition of Previews, which arrived in comics shop this week, as a Featured Item! You can check out the solicitation online here. If you want to make sure to get a copy, ask your local comics shop to order you a copy using code FEB094600 by Feb. 14. The book is currently scheduled to ship April 29, which is perfectly situated right before the May 1 release of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” on May 1 and Free Comic Book Day on May 2.

So the publicity push for the book is in high gear and I’ll post all the relevant details here. First thing to watch for is an interview I did with Timothy Callahan for CBR. (And if you haven’t read it yet, go grab a copy of his book, “Grant Morrison: The Early Years” for a great read.) An excerpt from the book should be coming soon, as well as a few chances to win a signed copy.

In the meantime, if you’re on Facebook, check out the product page for the book, become a fan and learn even more about the book.

There will be more to come in the next few week — and if you’ve got a website, podcast or column, and want to talk to me about the book, please feel free to contact me via the email or AIM link on this page and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

‘O Logan, Where Art Thou?’, a.k.a. another Fox-Marvel movie misses the point

A few days of thinking about the new trailer to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” that officially hit the web Monday have me downgrading the clip from my first impressions. In case you missed it, here’s the trailer:

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE HD

There’s a lot going on in this clip, but this appears to be a great example of how movies sometimes try really hard to be faithful to the comics and yet somehow still get it completely wrong. These clips show interesting bits and pieces of the character’s comic book history, starting with “Origin” and progressing to the pivotal Silver Fox-Sabretooth story that first appeared about 20 years ago in Wolverine #10. So far, so good.

What’s most problematic is the introduction of William Stryker and the implication that Logan turned to the Weapon X program intentionally to get back at Sabretooth. Stryker was made part of Logan’s past in the franchise-best “X2,” but this particular change is a major one for the character that significantly alters his entire motivation and points out just how much the character has changed (and not necessarily for the better) in his nearly 35-year history.

The first real definition of the character came at the hands of Chris Claremont, who wrote Logan almost esclusively from 1975 to the early 1990s, and evolved Logan from a wild man whose instinct for mayhem won out over brain power to the famed “failed samurai” of the Frank Miller-drawn 1982 miniseries. Much of the character’s appeal to fans came from Claremont’s resistance to nail down an origin or a past for Logan — in retrospect, a great idea for the way it teased fans used to having every aspect of a character’s life and motivation fully laid out before them. Logan himself stated on many occasions that he cared not a whit for who was responsible for what happened to him or for digging up his lost memories. He lived in the present, and eventually a little bit for the future.

But Wolverine’s popularity couldn’t keep writers from trying to fill in Logan’s past. Barry Windsor Smith’s “Weapon X” was the first, but while it portrayed the event of how Logan got his claws it was wisely light on the details of who was responsible. What was definitely clear was that this was done to him against his will — and the trauma it caused largely responsible for his lack of control over himself and his lost memories. This still worked within the overall X-Men universe, as the forces that experimented on Logan against his will was another example of the mutant-human conflict.

So having Logan turn to Stryker and willingly undergo the Weapon X procedure and join Stryker’s special team is a radical change. Instead of a wild loner, or victim of experimentation, Logan’s now motivated by his desire for revenge on Sabretooth. This is a more conventional character, but that’s not surprising given the direction the comics (and the movies) have been taking for years now. Fox could have made a much more distinctive movie if they’d gone the Japan route — but it appears that’s the last thing the studio expects from its superhero franchises.

Looking at the rest of the trailer, the sheer number of mutants appearing in this film is impressive, though in danger of treading on the comics’ unfortunate tendancy to connect everyone to everyone else at every opportunity by throwing in Emma Frost and what looks like a young Storm. (Young Scott Summers is apparently in the movie, too.) Gambit looks good, though I’m still not sold on Liev Shrieber as Sabretooth. And the final line Jackman delivers just lacks the kind of aggression you’d expect from the character.

In the meantime, we’ve got “The Spirit,” which is increasingly looking like niche fare (I haven’t seen it yet), and “Watchmen,” which is becoming so big a movie that it likely will affect how Hollywood treats superhero movies for years to come — for good or ill.

Bits: Jackman hosts Oscars; Kahn and Eastwood; VFX contenders

Deadlines and holiday travel have limited posting this week, bur here’s a few tidbits that I came across:

* I haven’t seen if the trailer for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” that’s supposed to be running before “The Day the Earth Stood Still” has been made available online yet. But Hugh Jackman’s all over the place, having been named the host for this year’s Oscars telecast.

* Looking at the newspaper ads for Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino,” I spotted a name in the credits familiar to comics readers of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s: Jenette Kahn. An exec producer on the film, Kahn was publisher and/or editor in chief of DC Comics for something like 25 years.

* No fewer than four comic book movies made the cut for the Oscar’s visual effects semifinals: “The Dark Knight,” “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk.” That list of 15 contenders will be pared down to seven for the famous VFX bakeoff in January, with the top three from that event getting actual nominations.

* And Bettie Page, queen of 1950s pinup girls and inspiration for countless comic artists, has died at age 85.

‘Wolverine’ pic: Overstuffed or lean and mean?

New pics from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” show up seemingly every week, presumably because a trailer is imminent with the release of Fox’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” on Dec. 12. The film, which isn’t out until May 1, will be the first big test of how well Fox can handle the X-Men franchise in the wake of “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

The first major concern is that this film is trying to bite off too much. The photos and cast list on IMDB indicate that we’ll be seeing Logan fighting as far back as World War II, his relationship with Sabretooth (unhinted at in “X-Men”), a whole bunch of mutants making their first film appearances and possibly elements of the still-controversial “Origin” series from 2001. All of which just makes this thing look way too crowded, what with Deadpool, Beak, Silver Fox, William Stryker, Agent Zero, Gambit, The Blob, John Wraith and, apparently, Scott “Cyclops” Summers all set to show up. You have to wonder if there’s room left in such a film for Wolverine, especially with Fox actively talking about a spinoff for Deadpool. Alternately, charges of not giving each character their due are sure to come up, as is a question of coherence and clarity for folks who don’t know all these folks’ backstories. That kind of storytelling is the sort of thing that could turn the general audiences away from superhero pics, much the way they frustrate the casual comics fan.

On the plus side, the pictures look interesting. Jackman’s really bulked up his physique and looks as good as ever in the role. The much-leaked Comic-Con footage shows a lot of action, which could go a long way toward overcoming story weaknesses. And Fox and Jackman have a lot on the line with this, so you can be sure they will do everything they can to avoid disaster. I also like the idea of having an actor like Liev Shreiber play Sabretooth — he’s the sort who can give it the kind of depth it needs. Not being too much of a Deadpool fan, I still think Ryan Reynolds is good at that sort of wise-cracking hero thing and another good choice. Gavin Hood remains an unknown quantity — “Tsotsi” was acclaimed, but rumors of troubles on the set last year and the dispatching of Richard Donner to smooth things out is less than encouraging.

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