Monday, 12 August 2013

The Wolverine Review


I never really understand how X Men movies keep getting made. The first two films were surprisingly good superhero film, given the fact that they were made back in the pre-Spiderman era where most licensed superhero films had been pretty damn shabby for the last few decades. Most superhero movies before this had really gone for all out spectacle, black vs white morality and pretty repetitive origin stories centred around cardboard, rice flavoured protagonists.

Obviously, that's just a blank overview. There were a few good ones, but since a lot of people see the world in shades of Dark Knight being the greatest superhero of all time, an achievement on the scale of the Gardens of Babylon that nothing can compete with, then why should I not be as dismissive and sum up periods of cinema as swiftly and lazily as any other critic.

But I was a fan of the first two X Men films. Hell, even the third one, although a lot stupider and louder than the previous entries on account of its bigger budget and newer (not at all) creative team; it wasn't a terrible attempt. I sat down and watched it, enjoyed some of the action, but mourned a little that it had taken some of the subtle, but at least present subtext within the first two movies about society's incapability to adapt and accept those who are different, instead simply breaking it down to injections and Vinnie Jones yelling. In fact I miss David Hayter as lead writer of the first two so much that I refuse to even call the third X Men team a creative team. They're not creative and there was so little consistency in that film, it shows no teamwork took place. They were just a bunch of blokes. Dead head blokes who managed to kiss enough ass to make an X Men film.


Well from there things didn't get much better. Like everyone else I hated X Men Origins: Wolverine, aside from ironically when slightly drunk, and in spite of public opinion, I also didn't like First Class. I didn't like that the film had a boring antagonist who stood very weakly in the shade of Mckellen's Magneto. I didn't like that the film was filled with a lot of sassy teenagers, who were similarly uninteresting. This especially didn't help in the case of beast, who was covered in hilarious make-up and took me out of the film every time he tried to be angry.

I thought it looked cheap and it was lazily written, squandering whatever chance it could have had to explore the origins of the Xavier and Magneto relationship, and instead pushing it aside for a lot of the film to simply concentrate on its cheap looking action and dull character sub-plots.

And now we have The Wolverine. Now don't get me wrong, I loved Wolverine in the first two X Men films. Aside from Magneto and Xavier, clearly he is the best character of the films and if anything, a Wolverine film seems slightly pointless because in those films we already had two Wolverine movies. Those movies are his movies. He grows as a character, and even though his growth is pretty generic, lone ranger finds family type stuff, at least it's pulled off well and Jackman plays it brilliantly. He's very understated in his role. I'd even put him up there as playing his role on par with how Heath Ledger played The Joker. But Jackman will go unpraised since his character isn't as wacky and the actor who played him didn't die soon enough after the release of one of the films for people to applaud out of shock and overreaction.

But for The Wolverine itself, I must say that I really didn't like it. I've seen it, read a lot of reviews by fans (not so much critics who really hate it a lot), all of whom have said that this film changed their opinion on the franchise and made them love Wolverine. But I just can't see it. This film made me hate Wolverine a little more and also made me more despondent about watching Days of Future Past, which is set to smash together those two non-canon film series just because 20th Century Fox don't have enough movie rights to create their own Avengers.

But please, if you haven't stopped reading already, please let me tell you why I didn't like it and then maybe you can go and disagree with me, or you'll take my word for it and won't finance the movie. Either way I'm going to start opinion spouting, but about this particular movie, now.

So I'll give a run down of the events of the movie and try and give as few spoilers as possible. In vague terms, the story starts off showing Wolverine saving a Japanese soldier from the Nagasaki nuclear bomb drops of WWII. We then see Wolverine living a solitary life in the mountains, post X Men: The Last Stand and minus one Jean Grey. He sits around, buys batteries for his radio and is altogether falling apart, which is subtly shown through him telling the dead Jean Grey how he's feeling.

I wasn't entirely sure if her life force is
still around because the third X Men was so vague about what her powers were that she could've just coughed up the batteries Wolverine needed for his radio out of her glowing corpse that comes to visit Wolverine every night and it wouldn’t have surprised me. But I guess this is just his imagination of her, so although it's a lazy way of showing character struggle, I went with it.

Then there is a series of events involving a bear dying, that Wolverine has a strange and I must admit, comic attachment to, that kind of took me out of the movie. He goes to avenge the bear when a Japanese woman turns up, who is also a mutant who can tell the future, and tells Wolverine that he has been summoned by a man asking for his thanks, who obviously turns out to be the Japanese man who he saved all those years ago. A man who Wolverine remembers even though he lost his memory after his adamantium installation.

Okay, now I've seen a lot of people do this, where they hate a film and don't know how to express it. So instead they just take small plot holes that really don't change anything and then spout them in defence of what they think. “Oh my God Star Trek Into Darkness sucked because Khan's blood bought Kirk back to life and yet wasn't used to resurrect the entire rest of the ship's dead crew”. Yes, it's a poor plot hole in a bad movie, but still nonetheless the least of that film's problems. I'm fine with plot holes. They're stupid and avoidable, but if they happen and are minor to, at worst, just a bit stupid, then I will let them go if the film manages to achieve some other goal such as building a good character study, exploring some kind of theme well or just being plain entertaining as hell.

The Wolverine doesn't achieve any of these and even worse, has major plot holes. And these plot holes aren't just annoying and used to get characters from place to place cheaply, but in fact are so profound throughout that they make predicting and understanding the story impossible.

It's not until the very end of the film that you even discover who the antagonist is, but not only that, once you discover who it is, you can't even work out what his plan was. It genuinely makes little to no sense, with things just happening to Wolverine whenever the film wants to create tension, and then apparently being part of the villain’s plan.

To help my point, I'll make it less subtle. Basically, if you wanted to keep Wolverine alive in order to steal his genetic gifts of rapid healing (which makes no sense to begin with), then why would you subdue those powers and put him in very dangerous scenarios where he could die. It's events like that in the film which make it impossible to care about the plot by the end, which is not only dull but also incredibly thin and inexplicable at times. I would go so far as to say even more so than X Men Origin's plot was.

Aside from Wolverine's plot there are a lot of other problems with it from the character of Wolverine. Firstly, I, as well as the people I watched it with, noticed that Wolverine is a lot sillier here, and not just in terms of comic book, self aware campiness. He doesn't really feel like a person anymore. He spouts out a lot more one liners, is given far fewer things to say, and what little he or anyone does say in this film is also either incredibly stupid sounding or not interesting in any way. His lack of lines could be seen as an attempt at increased anguish, but with all the action and running around going on, there's never any point where the film takes a second to really slow down and explore anything deeper outside of the fact that Wolverine misses Jean Grey and may or may not want to die. But yet again, it never really comes up because Wolverine isn't really saying anything about it or about anything at all.

The film is around two hours long and it definitely had time to explore this. There are actually very few action scenes, ranging from looking pretty cheap to just a blurs of CG, and even fewer of which are actually good. There are a few good sequences but none that should convince price of entry alone.

The film never really explores anything with Wolverine and instead spends his long downtime having boring conversations with the attractive Japanese lady he has to protect, talking about the way of the Samurai and then having sex with her once. To follow that point on, Wolverine never does anything with his knowledge of Samurai proverbs and also never has a relationship of any depth other than screwing the lady once. After that, it's straight back to complaining to Jean Grey about how sad he is, maybe.

But just to reiterate the action itself is also very standard and you've basically seen all of it before, just without Wolverine doing it.

Also in case you were wondering, no. At no point does Wolverine actually properly use a samurai sword to fight. I don't even know why it's even mentioned or awkwardly photoshopped in to any of the advertising

It's strange to me that a director like James Mangold, who co-wrote and directed Walk The Line, doesn't have a better hold on character development. But I guess without the blue print of an actual real documented life to hold it together, maybe he needs these guidelines or a better co writer to create a solid progression of a character. The story has to facilitate, either through event or analogy, the growth of the character. In the first X Men, Wolverine was alone and then in being forced to visit the school for the gifted, Xavier teaches him that he can have purpose and does have a group of people that care for him.

But The Wolverine doesn't have that. It just has Wolverine wanting to die, then he goes to Japan, meets a crazy old man who says he'll kill him as a favour, Wolverine says no, then fights some guys, screws a Japanese lady, fights some more and then decides he actually has something to live for. What that thing is is never explored or even comes up in the movie. It feels like they just came up with a kidnap crime thriller set in Japan and then just dumped the character of Wolverine into it. His character conclusion could've come out the same if he'd have just sat in his cave in the woods all night, listening to his beat up radio, drinking absinthe heavily and writing a pros and cons list about his live.


Good for them. That's some top quality screenplay writing there. I guess in some ways I can at least compliment them for trying to do a smaller superhero movie, one that just kind of documents a small part of Wolverine's journey and isn't part of some great scheme to end the world or destroy a nation. It has a smaller feel to it and that wouldn't have been bad had it not also been trying to look like a big budget movie, and so come off looking slightly cheap. It would've also helped if it had any script or direction to make it worth making in the first place. I'm not a big fan of Darren Aranofsky, but I think I would've enjoyed seeing his version that he was going to originally make.


I think it could've been a smarter and tighter movie. It had potential. It holds in its hands one of the coolest characters, with one of the coolest back stories, who also has some of the coolest weapons and powers. These powers also open him to be able to explore really interesting character struggles such as that of the misery of immortality and the constant pain of losing everything he will ever love. That's a great premise, but frankly it seems no one who made this film cared about making a good film, so I hope you care as much to watch it.

22 comments:

  1. Haven't seen it, but to avoid an awkward silence, have read a suggestion that super hero films have become formulaic. What do you think?

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    1. I wouldn't even call that something as minor as just suggestion. That gets the title of the way it is.

      Okay that's maybe abit much, but I think it's true that most superhero movies now are definitely jammed in a formula. Especially with origin stories, even up to man of steel which does the setup and basic learning to be a hero character growth almost beat for beat as every other film. Also superhero movies seem frightened to want to tell a more interesting story than just, bad man show up and then bad man get punched down.

      Not to bang on the same drum, but it does seem that batman did it the most interesting, at least with exploring the character's philosophy slightly and not just having the person simply do what they do because they want to be a good person. I think probably the last original hero movie i saw was Super because of how it handled its character's motivations and self identity, but that wasn't exactly a superhero movie.

      At least Wolverine wasn't an origin story so that we didn't have to sit around waiting for what little happened in that film to actually get on with it, but it still did the same paper thin bad guy mystery and never fleshed itself out into anything interesting.

      Don't know if you agree with the formulaic thing, i imagine you do to an extent, but what was the last original superhero movie that you remember seeing?

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    2. I accidentally saw an old Batman episode from years ago when Robin spoke like this: "Holy batwings, batman, we're in trouble". It's why I've got a nervous twitch.

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    3. Ain't nothing wrong with some campy superheroes. Wish sometimes there'd be a little more of that stuff, but we can thank Nolan for removing that.

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    4. Yes, nervous twitch aside, there is a certain charm to stilted dialogue and stating the obvious. What was your first super hero experience?

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    5. I guess it would probably be Batman and Robin, the one with George Clooney, and at the time I didn't think it was half bad. It's still pretty funny as hell today. I guess that was alot less formulaic than the superhero movies we have today, but relatively they've improved so much that I don't like to complain too much about them. All I do is turn that film on and count my blessings that at least now Superhero movies are just average and not the epitome of shit

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  2. Youmight enjoy this, google 'the wolverine 2013 trivia'. If you haven't already.

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    1. I check the IMDB trivia as soon as I return home from the cinema. Sometimes it's the IMDB trivia section that keeps me going. But thanks for the suggestion. I assume you've watched The Wolverine if you're checking out the trivia. Think it was any good?

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    2. I look at the trivia before I go, but then I always read the last page of a book first.

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    3. How are you and Sally going by the way?

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    4. Apologies if the reference makes no sense.

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    5. Right on good sir. In fact I think I'll go watch that film now and then read the IMDB trivia for dessert.

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  3. I suppose this was inevitable once they switched to a 12 certificate. It became more about the fights and less deep. This and The Lone Ranger both seem to have missed an opportunity.

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    1. Yeah I heard the lone ranger was a really gruelling film to watch. At least Wolverine felt like it flew by. I've heard they're releasing an r rated version for the dvd, so maybe that'll affect some stuff, but i fear that probably only cut down the gore and the story will be jsut as flat.

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    2. Downloaded that book by the way. Interesting read.

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    3. Oh go on, dont do that to me. Will it be a classic like 50 shades of grey? A sort of 50 things to do if you have hooves?

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    4. Sorry for the late response. But nah it's more of just a standard losing of innocence erotic short story as a woman basically gets the shit fucked out of her by a very beastly, yet strangely charming, minotaur. It's pretty funny though and short as hell, not at all worth the price of entry. But I'm thinking of doing a breakdown of it in the next week or so.

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    5. I respect the pun, but it makes me question if you even know what a minotaur is.

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    6. Yes, it's what you confuse with a centaur.

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    7. In the book I'm reading, this lady ain't gonna make that mistake.

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