Summer Movie A-Go-Go: “Wolverine”

Posted: May 19, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: ,

wolverine 1Well, that slow Sunday afternoon I was expecting came along, and so away to the movies I went. And I bring good news! Despite what you may have heard, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not that bad. Of course, when we talk about a “bad” Marvel movie, we’re thinking of Daredevil, Elektra, Ghost Rider…y’know. BAAAAD movies.

Wolverine’s just Not Very Good. Which may in fact make it even worse. I’ll explain in a second.

So what does it get right? Well…Hugh Jackman is in it, and even at his most dour and weepy (and yes, there is the “cradling a dead lover and shouting NOOOOOO!!!! at the sky” moment), it’s still Jackman. So Wolverine’s got both the swagger and screaming that you expect. And the introduction to two potential spin-off characters, Gambit and wolverine 2Deadpool, works pretty well, even if Deadpool rather arbitrarily becomes a fifth-act mega-villain who’s not the least bit interesting but does manage to destroy Three-Mile Island (yeah, that’s what did it, apparently). And the action sequences are really lovely – elegantly choreographed and not-choppily-edited fight scenes and explosions, which is often, sadly, a lot to ask for from an action movie.

But ultimately, it’s just not much FUN. It aims for operatic drama, but mostly tacks convoluted plotting, half-assed quasi-Indian symbolism, and silly melodrama onto what really should’ve been a tough-guy military/revenge thriller (living weapon quits army life; is drawn back into it through duplicitous means; goes for revenge – simple, right?). It also absolutely murders its pacing by trying to explain everything in the Wolverine mythos, needed or not.

For instance: before getting to that scene from the trailer of Wolverine riding a motorcycle towards an attacking helicopter, there is a whole sequence revealing why he likes motorcycles, and where he got his rad leather jacket. These aren’t even the same motorcycle and jacket he had in the first X-Men, because they’re both abandoned by the end. So an extended bit of this movie offers the secret origin of a couple of throwaway props.

The fourth-act introduction of a mutant internment camp is there only so they can be rescued by Wolverine and mentally directed to safety by a weird, plastic CGI stand-in for Patrick Stewart. Why? Presumably to explain  an old throwaway line about Xavier maybe knowing more about Wolverine than he admits – while adding a needless subplot to an already overlong movie.wolverine 4

And oddly, one continuity glitch that really should be addressed – how did Sabretooth go from being a vendetta-minded sociopath to the savage near-mute who barely seems to recognize Wolverine in the first X-Men? – never gets touched on. Maybe Liev Schreiber will show up bigger and hairier and dumber in the next movie, I dunno.

Which might explain this one’s flaws. After all, it’s not just a movie in its own right – it’s a prequel/sequel to the X-Men franchise, the set-up to a Wolverine franchise, AND a seeder for potential spin-off movies for Deadpool and/or Gambit (both played ably bwolverine 3y Ryan Reynolds and Taylor Kitch for five minutes apiece). That’s a lot for one movie to live up to – hence the overblown aims of importance.

But “importance” is a dangerous aim for a superhero movie. You might get a Dark Knight…or you might get a Superman Returns. “Fun” should really be the goal of a superhero movie. At best, you’ll get Iron Man, which succeeds because entertainment is its real pursuit. At worst, you get Ghost Rider, which is utterly silly and occasionally bizarre, but it doesn’t for a moment take itself seriously, so can still bring a smile to a jaded face (well, mine, anyway).

Even the Bad Marvel movies have a kind of madcap spirit (Punisher shooting a guy out of the air with a rocket launcher; Nic Cage laughing as his skull combusts; Bullseye killing an old lady with a peanut). By only being Not Very Good, Wolverine goes into the same box as the Ang Lee Hulk movie, the first Fantastic Four, and the third X-Men and Spider-Man movies. They’re better crafted than the crap movies, but too self-serious to be all that entertaining.

Save your money for the rental, is what I’m saying.

  1. threatqualitypress says:

    Why would you need to explain why anyone likes motorcycles? Motorcycles are fucking rad.

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    See, there was a nice elderly couple that had a dead son that was exactly Logan’s size and also had a motorcycle in the barn that was just collecting dust. Or something. These old coots were just weird.

    What’s funny is they never actually came out and said he was dead. I kept wondering if this guy was just gonna come home from college at some point: “What do you MEAN you gave my clothes and bike to a naked drifter?!”

  3. Moff says:

    It seems like there should be a guy in Hollywood whose whole and only job is to remind directors not to film scenes where a dead body is cradled and “NOOOO!!!” is screamed at the sky. Like, they’d do it and then the guy would come along and they’d say, “This is beautiful and moving, no?” and he’d take an iPhone out of his pocket and cue up a YouTube of that scene from fifty different movies, and everyone would go, “Ohhhh…

    And I think the third X-Men movie is pretty good, certainly better than Not Very Good. And this is an absolutely defensible stance, I will maintain, unlike my long-held enthusiasm for Daredevil.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    I too have indefensible love of Daredevil. always wanted to see the director’s cut, that adds a whole subplot back into the movie. Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t carry it, and that’s really not something you can buy in good conscience.

  5. threatqualitypress says:

    The thing about superheroes is, everything that they like or have or think about has to be the product of some significant EVENT.

  6. matt says:

    @threatqualitypress yes, motorcycles are RAD! No need to justify it with 15 minutes of bad movie.

    @Jeff Holland what, no mention about the stellar performance of Will.I.Am? His acting was as good as mine…which is to say, not very good. Also, I think you can download the directors cut of Daredevil. That you can get behind. Not that Threat Quality Press would endorse such a thing, nor I for that matter. I would never, ever do that.

  7. Jeff Holland says:

    Yes, to say a brief word about the third-tier characters: as far as musicians-turned-actors go, Will.I.Am is…gosh, he tries his best, but this is pretty beyond him. Not like Watchmen/Maylin Ackerman out of depth, but…not so good.

    And you might not have spotted him but underneath all that fatsuit was Kevin Durand, who so awesomely played the mercenary Keamy in season 4 of “Lost.” Watching him as this wholly pointless character, all I could think was, “Didn’t they know they’d cast MOTHERFUCKIN’ KEAMY in their movie?”

  8. Jay rogers says:

    Is it me or seems like there is so many movies that flop these days. Unless you like transformers…. I loved it!

  9. Jeff Holland says:

    Jay, my feeling on Transformers 2 is this: Michael Bay got my money for the first one, and for that, I take full responsibility. I wanted to see giant robots fighting; he gave me that. Contract complelted.

    But I’ll be DAMNED if he gets another $10.50 out of me just so he can give me the same thing except louder and harder to visually track.

    If I still have HBO by the time Transformers shows up there, I imagine I’ll get to watch it twenty times, just like I did the first one, and at that point, god knows I’ll have something to say about it right here.

    May I ask – so I can be prepared for the inevitable HBO accidental marathon viewing – what you loved about it?

  10. […] like the big, goofy, enthusiastic spectacle – often at the detriment of story logic or coherent editing, I’ll admit – that summer movies do well. And hey, sometimes you get a real […]

  11. […] happen (a movie that also worked really hard to patch up some continuity issues the initial trilogy didn’t address but nobody cared about, such as “Where did Wolverine get that cool leather […]

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