Sunday, May 17, 2009


So I finally got a chance to see a summer movie, that being the tremendously awkwardly titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Here's the thing, I think this was a movie that did as well it could given it's severe limitations. Origin movies are tricky business at the best of times. If you're lucky you have a blank slate like Iron Man or Hellboy, where the general public knows nothing about the characters and needs the origin to figure out why they're doing what they're doing. You have a certain freedom to tweak things to still make for an entertaining story.

Even with characters like Batman, Superman or Spider-Man, you still have freedoms. You know certain character beats are going to happen - parents are going to die, Krypton is going to explode, a radioactive spider will bite Peter Parker - but you can still work a fun story after these events happen.

But with Wolverine you know with absolute certainty the following things are going to happen at the end of the movie:
1. He's going to have amnesia and not remember a thing about his life.
2. He's not going to get his revenge against Stryker (because he appears in X-Men 2.
3. He's not going to settle things with his brother Victor (because, as a very different looking Sabertooth he appears in the first X-Men).
4. Things aren't going to end well with the love interest.

And yes, I believe you can tell a good story even if you know how it's all going to end. A favourite writer of mine, J. Michael Straczynski, used to make that point all the time when fans complained he gave too much away in Babylon 5. Just because you see characters in a certain situation doesn't mean you know how they got there. And how they get there is often far more interesting.

So it is possible. It's just that they didn't do it here. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine enough movie. It just could have been better. The pieces were there to make this a top notch movie in the superhero genre. Instead, it's just kind of average. There are enough moments of wasted opportunity there to take away the enjoyment and just make it frustrating.

But that's just from a comic book fan. One of the interesting things about the reaction to the movie has been that genre fans have been frustrated with it (as I am a bit), but women (Cathy's Facebook update after the movie? "Any movie with Hugh Jackman with his shirt off is fine by me) and gay men have loved it. Because there's plenty of buff, good looking guys wearing tight clothes.

So what did I like?
1. The action sequences are fine.
2. Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber are both good in their respective rolls.
3. Deadpool and Gambit were both fun.

What didn't I like?
1. The story was clunky. I wonder if they wouldn't have been better off telling a modern Wolverine story with flashbacks to his origin.
2. They didn't use either Deadpool or Gambit enough. And what they did with Deadpool at the end was a waste.
3. I'm going to roll with the Adamantium bullets causing amnesia, because as a comic book fan, I've rolled with stupider. But I'm saying, for a movie with a $150 million budget, you can come up with something a bit better than that.

So anyway, that's over and done with. It's fine for what it is. Now I just hope they can get onto a real Wolverine story without having to fill in on this cumbersome back story. The rumour mills, if you can believe such things, are saying the Wolverine in Japan story told by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller from the early 80s is likely next. Which would be fine with me. The dirty little secret about Wolverine? There's actually precious few good stories about him in comics. That he's been brutally overused by Marvel in recent years. But that story is one of the first, and one of the best. Ninjas, gangsters, sword fights, honour and much more. It's a great story. It would look fantastic on the big screen. Granted, there aren't as many pretty explosions, but here's hoping they get to make it.

Until then, this is an interesting enough diversion...

Last Five
1. The shadow of your smile - Tony Bennett
2. Ice cream - Sarah McLachlan*
3. Gimme a sign - Ryan Adams
4. Pretty good year - Tori Amos
5. Lost! - Coldplay

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