Saturday, May 02, 2009

He's the Best There Is at What He Does -- and What He Does Is Okay

We saw the WOLVERINE movie -- or, excuse me, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (colons really do not belong in movie titles. Didn't they learn anything from BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER?) last night at The Bridge. In my opinion, the creators did a magnificently adequate job.

The pacing went down well. The acting was up to the job; and Hugh Jackman is a lot of fun to watch as Jamie Hewlett, aka Logan, aka Wolverine. The set pieces were enjoyable, and looked like comics scenes brought to life. (Though at some point the PG-13 suspension of disbelief starts to ebb: You have characters slicing and dicing each other multiple times with blades and claws and big swords, with nary a drop of blood shed. Granted, watching people realistically slice each other into coldcuts wouldn't be very entertaining (at least to me); but the dishonest treatment of the aftermath of violence starts to edge into the offensive.) The story served as an okay frame for the punching and kicking and slicing and booms.

But I felt zero emotional connection with what was going on. And that is not par for the course. I did connect with the first two X-Men movies; with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films; with the Iron Man flick; and, crossing over into DC territory, with Chris Nolan's Batman films and the first two Supermans. Yet I viewed this movie as an efficient summer comics entertainment, out to put butts in seats and keep them there through the closing credits. (I've heard reports that there are different final post-credits scenes for different prints of the flick.) No more than that.

There are a number of reasons:

-- The director was not as good as Chris Nolan, or Sam Raimi, or Jon Favreau. He put the story on the screen. He didn't go into any layers beneath the story.

-- As with many of these films, there are two many licensable characters crammed in. The scenes with Gambit are fun, but not particularly vital to the film. The Blob scene could be razored out without perceptible effect. Sure, the advantage of these X-Men films is the ability to put in multiple superpowered characters, because that's the way the X-Men comics have always been. But larding a story with so many distractions hampers its ability to reach any kind of emotional threshhold.

-- Finally, and this is personal to me, I'm rather disenchanted with the comics the movie was adapting. It draws on several stories done in the 90's and 00's designed to flesh out Wolverine's past. Frankly, that past did not demand fleshing out. He was much more effective as a mysterious figure with a shadowy past, with bits and pieces occasionally floating to the surface. True, the character stayed that way for over 20 years before these backfill stories were released -- Wolverines been in the comics for over 35 years, after all. But I feel no connection with the stories. I have to imagine the average moviegoer, who has never picked up a Wolverine comic or any comic in his or her life, will feel even less.

So not a negative review. Not an overwhelmingly positive one either. Somewhere in the enjoyable but not excellent category.

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