Thursday, April 30, 2009

Slash, slash, Wolverine, slash

As a stand-alone movie, "X-men Origins: Wolverine" is quite the action-packed blockbuster we were hoping for. There are brutal fight scenes and things blowing up galore, and some awesomely cool choreographed moves by some of the characters as well (Agent Zero and Deadpool!!!), but for a bunch of characters wielding all manner of bladed weapons and small-arms, their kills are oddly bloodless. Guess the movie has to be acceptable to the kiddies' parents too, 'cos Wolvie is as popular to a 10-year-old as is to a jaded grump like me.

"Wolverine" compiles a brief history of everybody's favourite mutant, from his childhood to the Weapon X program and it's disastrous aftermath -- basically, all the memories Wolvie has lost, now revealed at last to the movie audience.

Considering his memories begin in the mid to late 19th century, I would have liked to explore his earlier memories in more detail. Unfortunately, these earlier memories were handled rather perfunctorily in the movie. The intention is to help align "Wolverine" continuity to "X-men" continuity, though I feel they rushed it. Wolvie's been a combatant in every major war since the American Civil War, and each war must have potential for some epic stories. But within the constraints of movie time, a lot of pruning has to be expected.

I'm glad the Sabretooth character is intelligent and that his reprehensible actions are the result of conscious choice rather than direct control by some external force. He is a bad, dangerous man who knows what he is doing, not just some beast on a leash like he was in the first X-men movie.

But the biggest disappointment was Gambit. Yes, it isn't his name on the title, but this character is way too cool to be used just as a glorified chauffeur who gets Wolvie where he's going. And what happened to Gambit's trademark Cajun mannerisms and accent? Maybe they should have brought in a speech coach because he sounded more Irish instead. Sorry, nitpicking; but it's too big an oversight to let it pass without mention.

Maybe it's because the fanboy in me already knows something of the Weapon X saga, so focusing on this event -- crucial as it is to the Wolverine mythos -- was meh. It makes for necessary plot development as the locations and events here are very closely linked with what happens in the "X-men" movie trilogy, but personally, I would have liked more screen time to showcase the awesome potential of Team X. Wolvie's heroic side emerges through his association with the X-men, so it would have been interesting to see the more grey areas of his past alongside his nasty Team X associates.

What I'm saying isn't so much an indictment against poor filmmaking choices as it is an acknowledgement that the Wolverine character has been so well-developed over the years by so many excellent writers and that a simple summary done on film does no justice to the richness of the man who is "the best at what he does, and what he does isn't very nice".

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