Saturday, May 9, 2009

Xmen Origins - Wolverine


What makes Wolverine so appealable? He's the prototypical tough guy. Clint Eastwood certainly made his career playing a group of such characters in Inspector Harry Callahan and the three mysterious strangers of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. These men are of few words, strict standards, and volatile dispositions. They live in solitude and seem haunted by some unknown demons. They are mere humans, though they continually escape the most improbably dire situations. They live by their own rules, while having a blatant disregard for their own preservation. Well Wolverine isn't exactly this, but he does possess a fair share of these daring qualities. In the Xmen era of comics Wolverine perfectly represented this archetype of the tough-guy character. Although he is arguably the weakest member of the Xmen clan he is carries the most loyal following. Now in the movie version Hugh Jackson certainly looks the part and is a decent actor, however figuratively the Wolverine shoes are difficult to fill. Its not that he lacks the familiar scowling facial expressions or the knack for quick sarcastic dialogue, its rather his lack of the intangible toughness. He just isn't believable as the rebellious gritty anti-hero I described earlier. So lets cast that criticism aside. I have to be fair and give casting agents a break. If they would have cast a giant muscle bound actor like Vin Diesel I'm afraid I would have been complaining about acting skills and ability to believably deliver lines instead. The other part of what makes Wolverine so appealing is that although he sports some handy mutant skills (like regeneration), they pale in comparison to some of the all worldly talents of his Xmen brethren. I think what makes him different is that he is damaged goods. Others have taken advantage of him and altered him into a better killer than he may have chosen to be. Since his skills often fall short of his enemy's, harder work, fearlessness and desperation is needed for him to get the job done. So in a way he like the actor, is the underdog, which allows readers/watchers to better relate to him.
This movie seems to get most of that across. Again, no spoilers. The story line takes us back t0 1845 to bear witness to the tragedy that sets into motion who Wolverine will become. His transition from boy to Wolverine is well chronicled and gives us all some interesting tidbits that even the most serious Marvel fans might not know (like the origin of his name). There are some great action and fight sequences and the story keeps us engaged.
Although Hugh Jackman lacks some intangibles, his work in this and the previous films in the Xmen Marvel installments allows us to find it easier to buy him as the character. Like I said earlier he doesn't talk much, but what he does say is true to the comic book hero. Liev Schreiber is the biggest surprise. Liev plays Wolverine's brother Victor. Liev is realistic and intimidating in the role and really pulls off the troubled blood thirsty quasi villain. The brotherly relationship is strained and sometimes bloody but realistic nonetheless.
The supporting cast of Project X are just 'acceptable'. Short of Schreiber, no one is worthy of praise. Its probably accurate to remark that they just did their job. The story is lacking a real villain. Everyone in opposition to Wolverine were just working on a different agenda. There wasn't anyone that was really fun to hate. Wolverine's real enemy was his own demons.
Let's see, some other things of note. It was cool to see the transformation of Kevin Durand (fellow Canadian) into the Blob. The inclusion of Gambit was also a nice touch, but unfortunately his interesting skills remained unexplored.
I can't be as bold as to tell everyone that they will love this movie, as I believe that devoted fans of the genre or even avid cinephiles may find some of the glaring shortcomings hard to ignore. I am comfortable however, setting it straight by letting you know that if you are a big fan of Wolvy or can be wowed by some cool superhero fight sequences and insight into the Wolverine origin there just might be enough for you here. On the other hand, if you only have $10 to spare and one outing, see Star Trek, its superior in every aspect.
Later

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