I got around to going to the movies yesterday and saw the new Wolverine flick. I have to say, I’m getting more and more disappointed with Hollywood. There seems to be a real tendency for spectacle over substance in recent releases, and Wolverine is good example.
Hugh Jackman does a stand up job playing the lead again. He’s certainly made that role his own. The trouble with the movie for me was that they just crammed it full of so much action and special effects that they forgot to work on the story. As my wife commented, there was no light and shade. Unless you count the brightness of an explosion and the shadow of a falling building.
The story should be a good one. The Wolverine character is a cracker, with all kinds of possibilities to play with. In the movie the story opens with the child James Logan back in 1840-something discovering his bizarre bone claws, discovering his similarly mutated brother and learning that he’s not like other people. Don’t you hate it when that happens? The opening credits then run through a brilliant sequence of Logan and his brother enjoying several decades of war and mayhem, in every major theatre of war. Given that they heal so fast, they’re pretty much indestructible, even in front of a firing squad. But while James Logan manages to hold onto his moral compass, brother Victor seems to get more and more wild and nasty, happy to kill pretty much anyone.
The movie tells the story of how the brothers get taken into a secret government hit squad of muties, how they grow further apart and then James walks, leaving the hit squad behind and setting up a quiet life as a lumberjack in the Canadian Rockies. Can’t really blame him for that, I suppose. Xenophobic genocide would get boring after a while, I’m sure. Anyway, that’s the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie, so I haven’t given much away.
Subsequent horrors disrupt Logan’s mountain idyll, which convince him to undergo an experimental procedure at the hands of his old squad leader. They chemically bond the almost indestructible metal compound, adamantium, to his entire skeleton. His incredible powers of healing mean that only he could survive such an invasive procedure. Now he pretty much indestrucible. Well, his skeleton is – the rest of him just heals really quickly like before. Anyway, off he goes on a quest for vengeance and justice.
And this is where the film really starts to fall over.
SPOILER ALERT – I’m guessing that from here on I won’t be able to comment without giving away more of the film, so if you haven’t seen it, come back and read this when you have, assuming you want to. (Want to see the film, that is. Of course you want to read this.)
I’m prepared to suspend a lot of disbelief with the movies. I love comic books, I love movies and I’m aware of the fact that a lot of speculative fiction has to stretch the boundaries of what we might usually accept by a long draw. But there are limits.
Little things I can ignore – like the fact that Logan has these bony claws that are lumpy and round, but when coated with adamantium they become razor sharp blades. Why? Why aren’t they still the same shape, only metal covered, like the rest of his skeleton? But I can let that go. Some detail of the procedure not mentioned in the film perhaps. Other holes in the story I’m less forgiving about.
And the holes were the result of the quest for ultimate spectacle. There was no real development of characters or story as the movie steamrollered along. One massive action scene after another, with some pretty impressive special effects is all very well, but it needs a clever story. This story here is blatant and predictable and not clever at all. A great example of the genre handled really well are the recent Batman movies. While they did overcook the end of The Dark Knight a bit too much, they still managed to make a great movie, with an interesting and engaging story. They had moments of calm set against the action and not everything was spelled out.
Wolverine was the opposite. It was dark and grown up, it was a bit brutal and could have really played on those themes, but it just trucked along and left no space to enjoy or develop the story. And this is what brings me back to my initial point – spectacle over substance.
While trying to make the film as exciting and action packed as possible, they really left some gaping holes.
For example, when Weapon XI uses the stolen laser vision (which can cut through anything) to attack Victor, how come Victor’s clothes don’t even show the slightest scorch? He can heal very rapidly, but are his clothes a mutant too?
When the same vision is spinning around on the severed head, carving a nice spiral out of the concrete nuclear stack, why aren’t the surrounding stacks also being cut down?
These are just a couple of numerous examples that ripped me out of what little story there was as they were so blantantly unbelievable. There are many more, but the worst one was saved for last.
Why the fuck would an adamantium bullet through Wolverine’s brain pan erase his memories? Sure, the bullet is strong enough to get through his adamantium coated skull, I’ll accept that. And sure, he can heal so fast that his brain will recover and the shot won’t kill him. But why would it erase all his memories? Was old William Stryker such a sharpshooter that he could perform intricate brain surgery with a bullet while Logan flew through the air? It’s ludicrous.
If anyone has an explanation for why that whole bullet in the brain bollocks would work, please let me know.
It’s an entertaining film, the action is impressive (other than the rather obvious wirework) and it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and half of your time if you fancy some unchallenging visual entertainment. But it could have been so much better.
And here’s some interesting trivia to end on: With this film, Hugh Jackman emerges as the first actor to play a comic book hero in four consecutive films since Christopher Reeve as Superman.