Thursday, September 17, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I’ll admit that the X-Men movies are probably my least favorite superhero films (other than the dreadful first Hulk movie) because as they go along they stray farther and farther from the continuity established in the comic book. I think the Spider-Man movies and IRON MAN were successful because they at least stay true to the spirit of the characters, even if they do condense decades worth of storylines into a few hours.

Despite feeling that way about the X-Men movies, I had no doubt that I’d watch X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. I like the Wolverine character and have ever since he was introduced, and Hugh Jackman did a good job playing him in the other films. As it turns out, I actually liked WOLVERINE more than the other movies in the series, with a couple of reservations, however.

First of all – and this isn’t really the movie’s fault – I never cared for the idea of giving Wolverine an origin story. I really liked the way he was presented early on in the comics as a very enigmatic character with occasional hints that he was more than a hundred years old. That way he could have been anywhere, done anything. There were no real limits on his background. Then the folks at Marvel decided they had to give him not just one origin story, but two, one going back 150 years or so to his childhood, the other detailing how he came to have adamantium bonded to his skeleton. But I ask you, what’s the point of having a mysterious character if you then take all the mystery away from him? I suppose being an enigma eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns, but I didn’t feel like Wolverine had reached that point. Of course, the powers that be at Marvel didn’t come and ask me for my opinion, did they? But there it is for what it’s worth.

That said, the movie version does a pretty good job of being a faithful adaptation of those two origin stories, at least as I remember them. (It’s been a while since I read them.) It veers off from the comic book continuity as it goes along, bringing in characters and situations from much later, but the scripters make it all work pretty well. I don’t think WOLVERINE is a great film, but it’s a consistently entertaining special-effects-laden superhero movie with plenty of action, a little pathos, and a little humor. It must have worked, because it made me want to go read some comic books.

Now for my other quibble. You’d think that with the hundreds of names that appear in the opening and closing credits for this movie, there would have been some place to mention Len Wein, the writer who actually, you know, created the character of Wolverine. But unless I missed it, which is always possible, I didn’t see his name anywhere. I know, I know, that’s the comic book biz for you. But sometimes it bothers me, and this was one of those times.


Mark Terry said...

I ranked it as third (maybe second) out of the four. My favorite is the second X-Men movie. I find the third movie, Last Stand, or whatever it was, damn near unwatchable, although I guess I thought it was okay in the theater, but some of the changes to the X-Men mythos were unforgivable (and I've never even read the comic books).

In Wolverine, I thought Liev Schreiber was terrific as Sabertooth. I thought the military flashback sequence with the two of them was great. I thought Gambit was fantastic. I thought some of the other things were just so-so.

And for some reason I can't get the breakdown of adamantium out of my head as Adam Ant-ium.

beb said...

Did they create Herb Trimpe, the artist who designed Wolverine?

James Reasoner said...

Yeah, I thought the flashback sequence under the opening credits was great, one of the best parts of the movie.

And no, no mention of Herb Trimpe that I saw. I think John Romita Sr. may have had a hand in the character's creation, too.

AndyDecker said...

"But I ask you, what’s the point of having a mysterious character if you then take all the mystery away from him?"

The burning need of 5th generation writers to follow their fan-fiction and erase the last white spaces on the map. I will never understand why they think it a good idea to rob characters of their mystery.

"Did they create Herb Trimpe, the artist who designed Wolverine?"

I don´t think so. As they didn´t credit Steven Grant or Mike Baron or Garth Ennis in the Punisher movies for their contribution or David Micheline and Dennis O´Neal for their contributions for Iron Man. And this is just the writer´s I can remember without checking. At least I hope they got a nice check.

James Reasoner said...

Considering the era in which those stories were written, I doubt if the writers and artists got any of the movie money.

AndyDecker said...

"Considering the era in which those stories were written, I doubt if the writers and artists got any of the movie money"

One really wonders.

But I guess you are right concerning the older writers and artists. That is the nature of work-for-hire.

Still this rubs me often the wrong way when I see it. Back then I was a Iron Man fan before Marvel trashed the character, and when I watched the movie I couldn´t help thinking: this character or plotline was originally written by Stan Lee (the origin and Yinzen; Pepper), this by David Micheline (Rhodey and the boozing) that by Denny O´Neil (Obediah Stane).

Still, in a case like The Punisher where large chunks were lifted from the first Garth Ennis first revamp of The Punisher (the Russion, Bumpo, Dave and so on) I don´t think that they didn´t pay Ennis something, even when he didn´t got a credit. Ennis is still a major and successful current writer, who generate sales, and why alienate talent like this?

James Reasoner said...

You may well be right about Ennis. And some current comics writers are also getting the chance to write for movies and TV, like Geoff Johns.

Richard Prosch said...

Add Gerry Conway's name to the mix for conceiving much of the first Spider-Man movie's story, though it was more dramatic in the comics with Gwen's death and all. (Trivia: he was only 20 years old or so when he wrote that legendary arc!)

Andy said...

Just watched this again last night. I definitely like it more than the third X-Men movie, which is just crap, although the ending feels kind of hectic to me.

I've always had mixed feelings about Jackman's Wolverine. He plays the character as well as he can, but the comic geek in me keeps saying that he's just way too matinee idolish to be playing a character who's a 5'3" hairy little troll in the comics :)

Mark Justice said...

I thought it was fun, even if I was puzzled by Stryker's certainty that the magic --er, adamantium bullet would erase Logan's memories. Did I miss the research Stryker did on head shots to mutants with healing abilities? Ah, well, in for a penny...