Posts Tagged ‘wolverine’

Review: The Wolverine

July 26, 2013

Rating: B

Before I even begin the review of The Wolverine, I need to point out that the film you will see could not have been made possible without Len Wein, John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe (the creators of Wolverine) and specifically Chris Claremont and Frank Miller who wrote the 1982 four issue limited series this film is based on.

Overall it was not a bad film and there seems to be a level of quality control with this film that was not there with the first Wolverine film (see my review).  X-Men: First Class has become my favorite of the X franchise and the pendulum seems to be swinging towards quality.

That said, I did have issues with this film.

When this film followed the story laid out in the limited series, it was great, and that’s even with some of the subtle character changes (like with Yukio) that I thought worked and made sense.  I also liked the opening sequence which was extremely well done.  I am not someone who says that films need to be slavish to the source material.

But it is important to keep the spirit of the piece intact.

Where this film runs aground is when the screenwriters decided to grow a brain and add in things that just really didn’t make much sense.

For instance, the villain is both a copyright curiosity (does Fox own the rights to her?) and just took the film in directions that stunk of generic super hero movie.  There is also a huge part of the plot that deals with mutant powers that is a MacGuffin meant to create “manufactured danger”  that is extremely transparent (hint: if the actor’s name is the first billed on the poster, they’re not going to die).

Fox is trying to build a franchise out of the X-Men properties that they have the license to and that’s a good thing.  There’s even a great teaser in the credits for the next X film.

Typical of Hollywood however is that they learn the wrong lessons from their successes.

The lesson from X-Men: First Class was that if you build a great film first (in that case, a period spy piece) you win.

The lesson is not to build generic super hero films.  That’s X3 and it nearly killed the franchise it was such a mess.

Speaking of which, there is a heavy reliance on knowing what happened in X3.  So if you didn’t see that and aren’t familiar with the X-Men comic books, you might be scratching your head on a few scenes.  But more power to them for trying to build their universe.

The source material is not a super hero comic book.  It’s a samurai tale.  It’s very simple.  Very A-to-B.  And it works.  It’s stood the test of time.  Which is why, for instance, it is mind boggling that in addition to all of the crap they piled on the film they also made the decision to make it where Logan does not speak Japanese and has never lived in Japan.

It takes away a huge part of his cool factor and puts him in that generic super hero cookie cutter.

It’s also bizarre that so many of the divergence from the source material pull out some great set pieces (like running through Tokyo with Yukio).  That said, I found it interesting that they really tried to recreate some of the Frank Miller imagery in the film.  In some places they get close, but it really shows how different the mediums are where what you can do on the page doesn’t always work on the screen.

To that point, voice over almost never works in films, but works amazingly well in comics and I’m thankful they knew that and opted to not go with a voice over.

Overall, it’s not a bad film.  But it had so much potential.  Read the source material and you’ll understand what I mean where if they had stuck with the vision and the tone of the comic book the could have made a film that was better than Iron Man.

But like I said, they decided to try to get “clever” and “creative” and we all know that when it comes to Hollywood that’s usually not a good thing.

[Update: Sean Howe interviews Chris Claremont about his thoughts on the film on Vulture, and Claremont does a great job of articulating some of my issues with the film]

Wolverine #2, Page 27 by Frank Miller & Joe Rubinstein

Wolverine #2, Page 27 by Frank Miller & Joe Rubinstein

Wolverine

May 3, 2009

Rating: C-.

In the movie The Zero Effect, Daryl Zero has a great line:

Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.

This quote sums up how I felt about X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The movie is a hammer in search of a nail.

Writers David Benioff and Skip Woods feel the need to make every single thing in this movie have a direct A-to-B significance in how it shaped Logan’s persona.

And it gets tedious, very quickly. And it’s all so heavy handed and rather boring.

Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.

The “plot,” if you can call it that, was really a string that tied together some rather kick-ass action scenes but with twists that were extremely contrived and felt like an 80’s action movie (have we not evolved from that?). Writer Skip Woods other credits include Hitman and Swordfish.

Which should have been my first giveaway.

This movie is not a Marvel Studios movie, which means that Editor in Chief Joe Quesada and the rest of Marvel’s writers did not have any input into this film (see this week’s MyCup O’ Joe).

Which should have been another giveaway.  

It shows because at times, this movie was boring. How do you make a movie with Wolverine in it and have it be boring?

Exactly.

This is where the hammer and nail come into play.  The backstory with Mariko in Japan (from the Claremont/Miller mini-series) is far more interesting then that of Silver Fox in Canada. But the writers felt the need to directly tie Wolverine’s love life back into the “origin” and so we’re stuck with some rather slow scenes as a result.

Samurais and ninjas versus lumberjacks.

Again. That should have been a giveaway.

There was no Stan Lee cameo, which as nerdy as it sounds, is kind of a slap in the face to comic book viewers. I didn’t look, but I don’t think there was a Len Wein creator credit (or any creator credits for any of the main characters). If I’m wrong, someone please let me know and I’ll correct this point, but it’s a simple matter of respect.

This movie had a number of reshoots, another giveaway. I can honestly say that they become pretty apparent as you watch the film.

Hugh Jackman goes from berserker rage intensity to fun loving guy’s guy from scene to scene. He’s a great Wolverine, don’t get me wrong. It’s just a bit too schizophrenic.

Liev Schreiber is fantastic as Creed. But he’s fantastic at whatever he does. Ditto Taylor Kitsch who plays Gambit.

I will give credit to the director keeping the movie set in the late 1970’s (so the timelines work out with the X-Men films).  That said, I hate to be a nerd here, but the Humvee was built by AM General two years after the final events of this movie.    

 

I feel its important to point out three things here.

1) Joe Quesada, Editor In Chief of Marvel Comics, deserves credit for saving Wolverine before this movie was even made. As many readers know, the draw of Wolverine was always the mystery surrounding his origin. In 2001, when Marvel announced that Paul Jenkins would be writing “Origin: The True Story of Wolverine,” fans went out of their minds. Quesada though stood his ground and pointed out that with the success of the X-Men movies, Hollywood had arrived and they were looking to tell this story; with or without Marvel. While I noted above that Marvel Comics had no input into this movie, they did directly lift elements from this and other existing Marvel Comics stories.

2) Marvel (and DC) writers sign “Work For Hire” contracts, which in the most basic terms mean that their work product is the property of the publisher. I point this out to let you know that any of the things you did find to be innovative or original in this movie were probably not written by David Benioff or Skip Woods. They were no doubt written by comic book writers like Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Grant Morrison, Len Wein and the others who have worked on the character for thirty five years.  And yet they do not receive credit nor compensation for that work.  It’s the contract they signed, but it doesn’t mean it’s right.  

3) The highest asperation of any comic book is not to be a movie; it’s to be a great comic book.  So, while comic book movies are fun, they’re never going to replace great comics like the Claremont/Miller mini-series, Wolverine attacking the Hellfire Club in The Dark Phoenix Saga, Barry Windor Smith’s Weapon X, Mark Millar’s Wolverine, Jason Aaron’s new Weapon X comic or the countless great Wolverine stories in comic stores.  Don’t let the movie put you off.  While the movie might be a C-, the existing comic book material is A+.  

Anyhow, at least they got it right that he’s Canadian.