Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"Trust me I've been through worse"

Mes Amis

Been a while since I posted a movie review up here. Shame cos I do enjoy them, especially when it comes to bad, mediocre or films that make next to no sense.

So in honour of these traits, I proudly prevent my thoughts on the most elegantly titled movie in the last thirty years: X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Oh, and if you care about such things: SPOILERS AHEAD, BUB! (like it matters?)

If the film had been titled plain Wolverine, I don't think I'd have been so worried. But that X-Men: Origins tag sounds more like a computer game (and indeed, seeing the game's trailer in the cinema, I'd rather play that) and that's got to be a worrying sign.

Wolverine (let's pretend the tag never existed) starts with an homage to the comics series that inspired it. I remember reading the Wolverine Origins comic many years ago and rather enjoying all the stuff set in the 1800's with a sickly little boy discovering he had a berserker rage and bone claws. It was cheesy but handled well.

In the film, this is all relegated to a cheap five minute sequence which even includes the plot twist of Logan's dad* not actually being Logan's dad (served a purpose in the comics, but here is just superflous). Now all of this would be fine except... Logan's dad looks EXACTLY like Logan will in around one hundred years time. Now I'm no scientist, but the odds of you growing up to look like your adopted parent are.... ooo... I'd say pretty slim.

This scene isn't helped either by the fact that they got the most ridiculous kid they could to play the young Logan. Yes, he's mean to look sickly as his powers kick in (if you had bone claws growing inside you when you hit puberty, you'd feel a little poorly too) but when he goes into a "beserker" rage, its one of the funniest things you'll see in cinemas all years. The kid yells and runs like a girl towards the man who's killed his father. Well, even runs is too generous a word. He kind of flops his limbs about to achieve movement. This kid is going to be the most bad ass superpowered anti-hero ever to spring from the comics pages?

Anyway, its all over mercifully quick and then Wolverine: The Movie starts ripping off Watchmen: The Movie with a long credits sequence that shows Wolverine and his brother (did I mention that the villain Sabretooth, whose power seems to be having very long nails and leaping about in swiftly assembled CGI leaps and bounds, is Wolverine's bother? I didn't? Well you'll have to keep up) fighting in every major US conflict they can think of including a laughably brilliant swipe at Saving Private Ryan that feels more like an accidental piss-take than something that was actuall thought through.

Chalk this up as Wolverine's major problem: the script is incoherent in tone, plot and character. Seriously, its like there were two scriptwriters sealed in a room who had each read three Marvel comics as research and then decided to play a game of Consequences rather than write an actual script with, ya know, a plot and characters.

Anyway, once all the backstory is quite unnecesarily established, Wolverine and his brother wind up in some Government backed program for Mutant Mercenaries run by William Stryker, whom we last saw in X Men 2 bering played by Dundee's own Bryan Cox. Stryker doesn't hate mutants at this point so much as see them as lab rats and quite what he is doing leading this team is unclear.

Anyway his team of rag-bag mutants need to fill ten minutes screen time, so they get to show their powers on some secret mission. Only two of these guys are recognisable from comic books. One of them is the villian called The Blob, who is a big fat guy who can absorb any kind of shock. In the film, he's a super strong chap who will later on develop an eating disorder so that everyone can mock him.

The other is Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, aka The Merc With The Mouth. Now, I'm not a stickler for them sticking to comic book origins, so if they want to make Wade a mutant** and not some ordinary mercenary who signed up to be experimented on then that's cool. But I do have a major problem. One of Deadpool's major characteristics is that he never never never shuts up. He's chopping off guy's heads and making wisecracks while he does it. Its a major appeal for the character. Now if they had just a guy named Wade Wilson, I wouldn't have cared. Doesn't have to be the same character on screen.

But... and here's the BUT

Every character in the squad talks and talks incessantly about how Wade WON'T SHUT UP. To the point where later in the film, THEY STITCH HIS MOUTH SHUT. But here's my problem: Wade doesn't say anything. He makes one crack about Sabretooth's girly nails ("You got nails like a baglady") and a joke about elevator music AND THAT'S IT. The rest of the time everyone tells him to shut up EVEN WHEN HE ISN'T SAYING ANYTHING. And yes, I'm shouting, but it is an absolutely unforgiveable screen writing sin. There are many opportunities here for an actor like Ryan Reynolds to simply improv his lines and steal nearly every scene he's in. I think he could do it, too. Reynolds career has been a big waste of screen time but that's more due to his scripts I think than him. I think he was fine casting as Deadpool, but not with this script.

So anyway, these guys go on a mission. It goes out of control. Logan goes off to shack up with a schoolteacher. And years pass.

Until the team starts dying. Did I mentioned that one of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings was in the team? I didn't. Yeah, well I forgot too until he was killed ten years after the team disbanded. I think he makes the lights turn on. Something like that. Does it matter? One of Stryker's mutants seemed to have the mutant power of being able to shoot guns real good.

Irrespective and irregardless, the light bulb hobbit's death gets the ball rolling, reveals that Sabretooth is randomly killing off the old team and brings Logan back to his animal instintcs as he hunts for revenge, reams up with Stryker and is given his admantium skeleton which makes him nigh on indestructible.

After this, the movie descends into anarchy. Any pretence at plot goes out the window as everyone double and triple crosses everyone else for no good reason. The climax of the film takes place on Three Mile Island, and when Wolverine finally confronts his tormentors, for NO REASON AT ALL he just WALKS AWAY FROM THEM. They drop a bombshell on him that, if his character was consistently written, should have sent ol' Wolvie into a bloodthirsty rage. But no, he decides to take a stroll instead until someone has to actually remind him that he's there for revenge and justice and all that good stuff.

Seriously, this is a film with no internal logic at all. It has two saving graces. Liev Scrheiber, as Sabretooth, somehow manages to get across all this primal rage and anger through lines that sound like they were written for subpar Saturday morning kids TV. And Jackman is clearly committed to the character of Wolverine. Through all the script inconsistenies, he somehow creates a convincing performance that grounds the movie with some sense of watchability beyond the car crash feeling of "what the hell are they doing now?".

Afer Iron Man and Nolan's Batman movies, there was a feeling comic book movies could be internally consistent methods of storytelling, that maybe the stories and characters were finally getting respect from scriptwriters who understood that comic book storytelling is not some subpar form of entertainment designed for clueless morons. And hell, considering this movie comes from the series that helped make the comic book movie near respectable (Bryan Singers first two X Men movies, love em or hate em were the first since Burton's Bat Man to even attempt to treat film goers with respect) that's a major dissapointment.

Sadly, aside from two solid performances from Schreiber and Jackman, X Men Origins : Wolverine is a loud mess that sometimes feels as though even the effects have been scrimped on (how can Wolvie's claws look cheaper now than they did back in Singer's films?). I don't demmand much from my action movies, but internal consistency and a sense of danger would really, really have helped matters move along.

Oh, and did I mention Patrick Stewart has a cameo as a younger version of Charles Xavier? They've digitally de-aged him in a way that looks like they stuck clothes pins to the back of his skull in order to tighten the skin. I just hope he got a damn good paycheque.

Au revoir


*For those not steeped in comics lore, Wolverine's real name is Logan.
**His ability seems to be swinging around his swords really really really fast.

1 comment:

Jitters said...

i wondered sometimes (like during any of the explosion scenes) if the producers were trying to make fun of their own movie, or maybe the superhero genre in general