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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
She used to work in a diner / never saw a woman look finer / I used to order just to watch her float across the floor
— Neil Young, Unknown Legend
August 5, 2013
Wolverine, Japan, Comic Books and The Movies

Pierre Trudeau on Weapon X I finally saw The Wolverine today. I went in with quite a bit of trepidation: I didn’t actually think the first Wolverine movie was awful, but it certainly wasn’t great. This one was different though: this one as, the story goes, tackling the Wolverine in Japan storyline that originated with the Frank Miller/Chris Claremont miniseries from the 80s. I owned the originals of that miniseries—James has them now—and it was a pretty formative story from my youth.

It doesn’t. It’s not even close. Again, the movie wasn’t awful but it falls far short of what it could have been and right into the traps of Hollywood superhero adaptations.

Stories like this or this one would have you believe that the movie was inspired by the miniseries. Calling that a stretch doesn’t do it justice: no less than three major characters in the film don’t appear in the miniseries. The entire plotline from the premise to the climax is different.

So let’s set that aside, and see what’s really wrong here.

I’ve argued for a long time that Hollywood’s problem with superhero movies is an excessive need for exposition: in a two hour movie every bit of back story and action is explained in extensive detail.

The most notable exception to this is in Batman: The Dark Knight. The Joker comes from nowhere, with no explanation and starts wreaking havoc in Gotham. The movie’s pace doesn’t miss a beat. “Sometimes,” Michael Caine’s Alfred says, “a man just wants to watch the world burn.” It does, and the film works as a result.

Not so in the Wolverine. “They’re Yakuza. Japanese mafia,” Yuriko says—just in case you mistook the guys trying to kill people for the good guys. Wooden dialog like this doesn’t make for compelling viewing. It assumes that the audience is dumb; that we couldn’t possibly follow along.

Contrast this with Joss Whedon’s Avenger’s film. In true Whedon style, the film launches straight into the story. No back story—the back story is established as we go, with the barest of details provided at the start. Whedon is a smart writer who consistently does assume_ that his audience is intelligent. It’s this assumption that makes devoted fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly so easy to find.

The plot of Wolverine does little to advance character development either, which is sad becuase that original miniseries was a pivotal moment for the character of Wolverine. Prior to that he was a blunt instrument. A rough and tumble little Canadian with claws who used the word Bubb a lot and went into a berserker rage. The miniseries introduced a side of the character that hadn’t been seen before, and showed us that Wolverine craved control over those rages. Mariko was his anchor, and the story gave him a code of honour, and ethos and a nobility that he had lacked prior to that.

The movie moves from action scene to action scene, with barely a moment to stop in between to lay out the cliches. Of course Wolverine and Mariko kiss. Of course Wolverine is still pining for Jean Grey. Of course Wolverine saves the day at the funeral (imagine if he hadn’t? What if he’d been unable too, and had to pick up the slack later?) Of course the character who dies doesn’t actually die.

So, the movie wasn’t awful but it didn’t exceed my expectations either—and those expectations are set pretty low. It’s a decent time, but I wouldn’t rush out to see it. I might even regret spending the I did to see if in the UltraAVX 3D format. I don’t think it gained much, but what’s done is done.

One day, someone might make a complex Wolverine movie: one that captures the character as he was. Sadly, I think the comics have retconned the character so much that it may not be possible with modern material (the bone claws? Really? Give me a break.) Maybe Justin Trudeau could even have a role, playing his father who was, after all, the leader who created him. Maybe Joss Whedon will write an Alpha Flight movie. Now that would be worth watching.

Posted by skooter at 8:43 PM This entry is filed under Entertainment.
This entry is tagged: Avengers, Movies, Wolverine, X-Men

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