May 1, 2009

Wolverine (05/01/09)

Lettergrade: C+

I will promise you this: You will experience more pain than any man can possibly endure! But you will have your revenge.

There's nothing especially inspired about Wolverine. Deep down, I know it's a fairly average movie - more than likely, a bad one - with more than its share of cheese-ball lines in addition to a couple truly awful scenes. And yet I sort of enjoyed it. I enjoyed the three X-Men movies that preceded this spin-off / prequel as well, even the much reviled X-Men 3: The Last Stand, although many of my friends who are well versed in the series lore convulse and spit bile whenever its name is uttered.

I myself only know the intriguing X-Men universe from the movies: I've never read any of the comics, and I've never caught a single episode of the cartoon show. Because I haven't seen these characters and story lines handled better than the movies have handled them, I don't have a sense of the opportunities they're passing up. Which is, perhaps, why I haven't disliked these last two flicks the way the general fanbase seems to.

When it was first announced, Wolverine was described as being an edgy independent-style movie. The end result is more of a dumb visual effects extravaganza, and crappy effects at that. The movie begins in the 1800s with two mutant kids going on the run after a violent domestic dispute that is completely incomprehensible. The opening credit montage shows that they grew into Hugh Jackman, the Wolverine we know and love, and Liev Schriber, who plays Wolverine's even white-trashier half brother Victor Creed (aka Sabertooth). Wasn't there a Sabertooth in the first X-Men movie 9 years ago played by a different guy who looked totally different? Sure, but what the hell.

They participate in every major US war, which they seem to enjoy as they do not age and cannot be killed. Eventually we land in the 70s where General Stryker (played by Brian Cox in 2003's X-Men 2 and by Robert Hayes in the 1980 classic Airplane!) is assembling a crack commando squad made up of mutants to go on special assignments. The new dude who plays Stryker is one of the most conspicuously bad parts of the movie, bringing to the role all the charisma of a pack of life-savers.

Anyway, on one of the assignments, Wolverine realizes that Creed has become too blood-thirsty for his own good. Although this revelation is motivated by a fairly insignificant incident, he decides to walk away, retreating into a life of quiet, non-violent solitude. What brings Wolverine and Creed together again is a crude revenge story, which also incorporates Wolverine allowing Stryker to inject his body with this super-cool liquid metal from space, coating his bone claws in indestructible steel. This is a moment that has been made into a huge deal by the other X-movies. When it finally happens, it is disappointing to see that it only took about 5 minutes, and seemed to be more akin to having a cavity filled.

There are some good action bits in the movie, which is why I sort of recommend it. The most pleasurable parts for me were the other cool mutants that Wolverine encounters in the middle of the flick while on his quest to locate Creed. Again, however, most of my friends who are better in tune with the comics bitch and moan that some of these great characters are only given what amounts to extended cameos. The climax of the movie in particular is shoddy. The face-off with fan favorite "Deadpool" reminded me of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games that I used to love as a kid, only without the same dramatic heft.

So why did I kind of like this movie? I don't know. I like the character of Wolverine and think that Jackman is great in the part. Very little else about the movie works. It's not bad, as much as it's kinda lame. I guess I bought the ticket expecting that, and I wasn't pissed off when the flick delivered exactly what I thought it would.

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