After a short hiatus I’m back blogging in earnest (at least for now) and we have some unfinished business, as regards super heroes.
We did Wolverine graphic novels, so now it’s the turn of the films.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
This film covers a lot of ground. Canada in the 1840s, with James Howlett learning that he’s a mutant and the man he called dad wasn’t his biological father. James and half-brother Victor going on down the years, fighting in various conflicts. Their recruitment by Colonel Stryker for a team of mutants, and Wolverine (now calling himself Logan) eventually growing disgusted with all that. Life as a lumberjack with Kayla. The return of Stryker, Kayla’s murder, and the news that Victor has gone rogue. Wolverine given adamantium bones by Stryker, but thwarting his plan to erase his memories. The truth about Stryker’s aims, and an attack on the island where he is holding many mutants as prisoners to experiment upon, leading to showdowns with Victor (Sabretooth) and Weapon XI, plus revelations about Kayla and the appearance of Professor X. And that’s only part of it – I haven’t mentioned Gambit or the Blob (well, I have now), for example. It’s a credible origin story, a nicely complex plot tying in to much that followed in the X-Men movies, with first appearances by Stryker, Xavier, and Scott Summers, and introducing the theme of mutant prejudice which pretty much underlies all of what came after. There are echoes of other films/myths too, such as the James and Victor through the years sequence, which put me in mind of the opening sequence of Watchmen, and the farmer and his wife who help Logan (Jonathan and Martha?). The heart of the film though lies in the friendship and then rivalry between Wolverine and Victor. Hugh Jackman is excellent as Wolverine, doing his hard as nails, as uncaring as he is unkempt act with panache, but at the same time conveying a certain vulnerability and rough compassion, letting us know that he really is the good guy, that even while being indestructible he can be deeply hurt. The film though belongs to Liev Schreiber as Victor, the quintessential conscienceless killer, a superbly sinister performance, projecting a cultured brutality and utter lack of remorse, with his relationship to Logan the only thing that still connects him to the human race. To my mind Schreiber, along with the over the top sfx of the finale, were what made the film.
The Wolverine (2013)
Hugh Jackman returns to the role in a film set some time after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Wolverine lives alone in the Yukon, haunted by visions of his lost love Jean Grey, but first we have a flashback scene to WWII and Hiroshima, with Logan saving the life of a Japanese officer when the atomic bomb is detonated. Now the CEO of a fabulously successful company and close to death, Yashida summons Logan to Japan, where he becomes involved in a plot to steal his immortality. There’s a showdown with the mutant Viper and the gigantic robot the Silver Samurai, and to get through this alive Logan/Wolverine has to let go of his past and the guilt he feels regarding Jean’s death. There’s nothing really wrong with this film, but at the same time there’s nothing particularly special about it either. If I had to put my finger on what was lacking, then I’d say that there’s nothing about it to demarcate it clearly as a Wolverine/mutant inspired film, apart from the fact that Wolverine is in it. The plot, at bottom, is pretty much a horror scenario (achieve immortality by stealing the life force of others) dressed up in super hero motley. The Japanese setting gives it a certain novelty and is the pretext for every other person to be a martial arts expert, and there are some interesting characters, such as Viper and the mutant Yukio, who can foresee the death of others. The sfx are well done, without making you feel that the accountants were ready to really push the boat out and, despite Hugh Jackman’s best efforts to emote, the Jean Grey material seldom seemed anything more than superficial, with an equally convenient romantic interest supplied by Yashida’s daughter Mariko. Overall, it was easy on the eye, mildly exciting, and I liked it a lot more than not, but at the same time nothing would have been lost from the Marvel universe if this film had never been made, no major character development takes place despite a last reel appearance from Magneto and Professor X that foreshadows X-Men: Days of Future Past. Viper and Yukio were probably my favourite things about the film – one gratifyingly vicious, and the other intriguingly enigmatic. I most definitely wanted to know more about them, their aims and ambitions, how they deal with their abilities. Beyond that, it passed the time and didn’t insult my intelligence, which isn’t really that much of a recommendation.
I see the two films have the same score on iMDb, so am I alone in thinking the first superior?