Posted by: Tucker Stone on May 1, 2009
Mr. Claremont, you’re a man of strong opinions. Who would you say your favorite Wolverine writers are, besides you?
“Len Wein. Archie Goodwin…[long pause]…well, he isn’t a writer, but a creative force: Hugh Jackman.”
[8 second pause at least, give or take when I actually started counting out of confusion at whether he was done talking]
“Oh! Larry Hama.”
So I watched that X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, and while I have to admit to being impressed that the popularity of overly wordy titles with colons has made their way from Batman Battle For The Cowl: Holy God In Heaven You People Will Learn To Like Hush to the feature film marquee–although I think we should still give credit to Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever–I can’t honestly say that I really enjoyed the movie that much. Let’s get back to that in a second. When we do, there will be spoilers.
It wasn’t really my thing. I’m not even really sure whose thing it was, since Sabretooth’s Number One Fan was there and even he seemed kind of put out by the whole thing. Seriously, Wolverine: Inside The World of the Living Weapon-The Critical Symposium, it’s okay if you can’t turn me on: i’m a hipster douche who reads Nana. But c’mon. Sabretooth’s number one fan? He should be doing a lot more than being confused about why, exactly, Chris Claremont is writing a follow-up series to a comic from 1991. That was, of course, what an event designed to promote a coffee table book turned into: an event designed to promote Claremont’s upcoming X-Men Forever series. Matthew Manning got in some time when he could-he definitely mentioned that Wolverine was too tall in Grant Morrison’s version of the comic, a mistake that led Chris Claremont to excitedly tell everybody that X-Men Forever will soon remedy by showing Logan as being a head shorter than Jean Grey on the first of its many splash pages. But there wasn’t really much said about Wolverine himself that you can’t find on a message board or a bathroom stall–Claremont’s description of the character’s home wouldn’t have been out of order if it had been used to describe the hideouts Two-Face always has, there was a vocal dismissal from both audience and Claremont when Manning attempted to explain the current status of Romulus or Romulack or Rom: Space Robot and his place in the “lineage” of Logan’s history, the word “animal” was used quite a bit…overall, it was exactly what you’d expect from that sort of thing if you imagined what it would be instead of going. It was Chris Claremont talking about his X-Men stories and his idea of who Wolverine is. He’s “mysterious”. He’s “struggling with the animal”.
Which–sure, I guess that’s right. It’s certainly not wrong. I always kind of figure Wolverine works best when he’s got non-Wolverine-people around him, so those people can be sort of grossed out/fascinated by him, depending on his willingness to just kill shit with the knives that come out of his hands. He works when you don’t have to think about him too hard, because, like a lot of comic book super-hero characters with the gritty emotional problems, I don’t really find any pleasure in Thinking About Them. The pleasure is in them Doing Stuff, and Wolverine is a good go-to guy when it comes time for Doing Stuff while Saying Something That Is Hardcore. He’s got gigantic razor claws, he can recover from being shot in the mouth, and he’s more than willing to decapitate and maim. I’m not so sure why that needs a background–which is one of the subjects where I pretty much agreed with Chris Claremont, who said “I don’t care about the adventures of Weapon X or the history of Wolverine. It’s about what happens next.” (The irony that he will soon be publishing a comic that ignores 18 years of what happened next in the X-Men universe seemed lost on Claremont, but hey, I don’t really think much about Onslaught Reborn either, and from what I hear, Chuck Austen’s time on the series caused many cases of CancerAids.)
Of course, no matter what was supposed to happen at MOCCA, the impetus for the event had to be the Hugh Jackman–third best Wolverine writer–film that came out in theaters today following a successful month-long run for free on the Internet. Now, it’s of course totally wrong to steal, and we all know that, and yet: I walk down Canal Street enough to know that until the NYPD officers standing 14 yards away from the guy selling five dollar copies of X-Men Origins: Wolverine start saying “Hey buddy, you’re really screwing over the Hollywood people”, I think the whole moral complaint is going to be problematic to enforce. It’s not just that the police don’t care about digital piracy–which they don’t–it’s that the guys selling pirated movies know full and fucking well that the police don’t care. But hey, it’s out now. Did you see it?
Yeah, it’s pretty dumb.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I like action movies. I like super-hero movies too, especially when they also double as good action movies. Some of what’s on tap in Wolverine isn’t that bad, either, particularly the part where Wolverine goes flying into the air and destroys a helicopter. It’s not as cool as when Chris Bachalo did something similar, or when the T-1000 drove a motorcycle into a helicopter, but still: it’s a guy destroying a helicopter with his hands. As long as you’ve got decent special effects guys on the team, that’s going to be difficult to screw up. The problem with Wolverine–which is the same problem that any action movie has, most of the time–is everything that isn’t a “sort of cool” action sequence. Which is a good 50% of the movie. That number is probably higher, now that I think about it.
I’ll admit, the film didn’t really grab me right away, with its opening introduction of Logan, the sickly kid from the Secret Garden turned patricidal partner of Victor, the kid who is a creepy sociopath. It’s not that I’m so in love with the character that I don’t want to see him “sullied” as a whining crybaby, it’s that I don’t really want to watch any movie that opens with bad child actors doing and saying dumb things, no matter whether it happens for one minute or five. From there, it skips right past a sort of fan-fiction/Wolverine Origins Wet Dream, by showing Hugh Jackman and Liev Shrieber run across the sets of The Patriot, Glory, Paths of Glory, and Saving Private Ryan, thus denying me the chance to see a scenery-chewing Sabretooth rip off Tom Hanks’ dying face as he stutters out “Earn this.” This sequence, which portrays war as being an occupation best held by men who like to run in slow motion up and down hills, climaxes with a thirty second take on Casualties of War, wherein Sabretooth’s plans to rape are interrupted by a selfish superior who Liev apparently decapitates, if I heard the dialog correctly. After a failed execution of both Jackman and Schreiber, the two end up on a team made up of some other Marvel characters and led by Danny Huston, who couldn’t be less similar in apperance to Bryan Cox unless his character was played by a Chinese woman. After a couple of action sequences, Wolverine decides he’s had enough of killing innocent people, which means that the last 100 years he spent tooling around with Sabretooth was a time when he was either blind drunk or mentally retarded, since it’s made abundantly clear that’s all that Sabretooth likes to do, and he goes off to play in the woods with some girl and blah blah blah let’s coat him with liquid metal and have some more action sequences. Oh look! Cyclops and Gambit!
It’s not that Wolverine’s plot is a little confusing–i’ve seen that comment made by the non-comics based movie reviewers–it’s that it doesn’t make any sense at all. Why does Wolverine get tired of slaughter in a random African village after a good 100 years of it? Why does he all of a sudden decide he can’t be around Sabretooth anymore at that exact moment, instead of maybe earlier, when Sabretooth was going to rape a local Vietnamese girl? Why does William Stryker come up with such a convoluted and bizarro plan to get Logan to participate in the Weapon X project? Why does the movie take a comedy break for the fat guy from Austin Powers to drink Powerade? Again, think of that helicopter explosion: of course you put that in a movie like this. It sounds great on paper. But when has casting Will.I.Am ever sounded good on paper? For anything?