director: Gavin Hood
starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will I. Am, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds
Well, it’s not as bad as I was expecting. Since Bryan Singer left the franchise after X-Men 2, and certain cocaine addict and partyboy Brett Ratner took over, I haven’t had a lot of faith in future films, quality-wise. X-Men 3 was a spectacular, big budget turd with a few enjoyable scenes here and there, a far cry from the more “thoughtful” X1 and X2 (yeah, I know they’re comic book movies, so “thoughtfulness” must be calculated in an entirely different context than, say, Schindler’s List or Citizen Kane). So my hopes for the eventual, “perfect” X-Men movie were dashed by 20th Century Fox and it’s money-first mentality, and the director best-known for the eighteen Rush Hour movies. The success of the more serious approach to the Batman franchise was apparently lost on them.
It’s now 2009 and when I first heard rumors of a Wolverine-centric movie in production and its plots details, I wasn’t optimistic. Too many characters and an almost always ill-fated “re-imagining” of the little ball of hate’s origin story. I won’t bore you with the details of his actual comic book origin, I think it involves Japan and some swords. But it had all the telltale signs of an unfocused mess, sure to disappoint. Well, it’s got a lot of characters, but I think it manages to strike a decent balance between the important players and supporting cast. You get to see just enough of the background players (with one exception, which I’ll get to), while the main thrust of the story stays focused on Wolverine.
And amongst those main characters, the acting is pretty decent, but a less-than-inspiring script doesn’t do them any favors. The story works, but there’s some hokey, cliched dialogue that will generate sixteen eye-rolls before the next explosion distracts you. The directing is amateurish at times, with the now-ubiquitous shots of someone walking away from a fireball and slow-motion action sequences in which everyone flies through the air while shouting maniacally.
The mutant characters are all pretty interesting, though the most engaging of them all has about 30 seconds of screen time. This character’s dialogue was perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the movie. So, of course, (SPOILER ALERT) he gets his lips sewn shut. Brilliant move there, guys. And (again, SPOILER ALERT) how exactly does Weapon XI/Deadpool walk around with samurai swords inside his arms? He’d be walking around like a cheesy 1960’s TV robot with his arms straight out at his sides! On second thought, that sounds hilarious. Please make that a prominent feature of the next movie, Marvel. Speaking of having one’s lips sewn shut (hunh?), the special effects are pretty great, but more on the “spectacle” level than anything that serves to enhance the plot with some emotional. I’m not sure you’ll remember anything in particular a few days after you leave the theater.
So what does the future hold for the X-franchise? I still don’t have a lot of hope unless Bryan Singer comes back, or another movie studio somehow wrests control of the it away from Fox. Fat chance of that, since I’m sure Wolverine is going to make a lot of bank this weekend, bad reviews or not (and the critics thus far have not been kind).
Marvel and Fox need to take a nother look at Christopher Nolan’s two Batman flicks and remind themselves how the comic book film genre came to be such a joke. Too many characters and too little attention paid to story and too much paid to special effects. Batman Begins ostensibly reinvigorated the genre, saving it from cheesy, direct-to-DVD crapfests. Don’t let it degrade into the pre-Batman days, Marvel; don’t count on being #1 at the box office if you continue to ignore what got you taken seriously again in the last decade.