X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Directed by Gavin Hood, starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and Danny Huston - Rated PG-13
The summer movie season was supposed to have begun with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I think it’s going to have to wait for Star Trek to truly begin. Wolverine, despite featuring fun performances from Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and Danny Huston, tries to cram too much in what should have been a smaller, character-driven action movie. Wolverine goes for quantity over quality when it comes to character, though.
The story begins in Canada in 1845 with a sickly adolescent James Logan (Wolverine) being watched by Victor Creed (Sabretooth), the son of the groundskeeper. The groundskeeper shows up, drunk and yelling, and things get violent, allowing James to unleash his skeletal claws and yell up at the camera. Yelling up at the camera must be one of Wolverine’s mutant powers because he does it every chance he gets, which becomes unintentionally funny. After the yelling and the violence, James finds out Victor is his brother and the two run away, setting up a cool credits sequence in which they both fight through every major American war (except Korea) up to Vietnam.
Throughout the credits, a divide is starting to form between James and Victor (now as their adult counterparts played by Jackman and Schreiber). Victor seems to enjoy killing quite a bit, while James stays closer to humanity. Eventually, they are sentenced to death for attacking their own soldiers, but when their execution doesn’t take, William Stryker (Huston), who eventually gives Wolverine his metal skeleton/claws, recruits them to join a mutant strike force.
The strike force leads to a further divide between the brothers. Victor finds kindred spirits among the other mutants, who all seem to be fine with slaughtering innocent villagers. I would name each member of the strike force, but it’s pointless. They are never given a chance to develop into actual characters and are all forgettable. Ryan Reynolds shows promise as Wade/Deadpool, but he’s only in a scene or two, despite how much he is featured in previews for the movie. This is where the movie becomes bloated. Soon after the breakup of the team, a new mutant seems to be introduced every five minutes as if to say, “Hey kids! Remember Gambit from the cartoon? We’ve got him! We also have Cyclops back even though it is completely unnecessary for him to be in this film!”
If just four or five of these extra characters would’ve been left on the cutting room floor, then the brother vs. brother dynamic, which keeps this movie entertaining, could have been fleshed out. But as it is, I found myself becoming bored at times just waiting for Wolverine and Sabretooth to have another scene together. But I didn’t become too bored, because the action is impressive throughout the film, though it lacks the style from the first two X-Men films (that style was lost when Brett Ratner took over for the third film). The missing style might be because director Gavin Hood (Rendition) is not an action director and had to have Richard Donner (Superman) come in to consult.
Despite these problems, Wolverine does entertain at times and it is very fun to watch Jackman and Schreiber lock horns. The biggest mistake is that the filmmakers didn’t realize they had a good enough movie on their hands with these two characters. They took a kitchen sink approach to the film, which made it an uneven mess that will soon be forgotten.
**This review may be in The Perry County News (link on the left). I said almost everything I wanted to in this review, so I decided to use it for both. This may not be the case for each movie I review for the paper, though. And, to add a little something for the website, I will comment a bit further on some things that bothered me and some things I liked.
More things I didn't like: the scene with Wolverine checking out his claws in the mirror is awful. Those claws were so cartoonish looking they made me laugh. Other than that, I didn't have too much of an issue with the CG, but that scene was terrible. My other problem, which might be a spoiler (fair warning), is that Sabretooth is too different from the version in the first movie. Since Stryker was doing all of that DNA stuff, why couldn't they just create a new Sabretooth, which would explain why the other Sabretooth is completely different looking and seems to have half the intelligence of Schreiber's version. And I wanted Wolverine to get into the dark side of the character a bit more. I think it would have made the character more interesting if he had been shown engaging in this behavior he disagreed with before deciding it was wrong, but in this he's the moralistic hero from the very beginning. Oh, and Ryan Reynolds should have been in more scenes than will.i.am!
More things I liked: the action, the action, the action. Every fight between Wolverine and Sabretooth is great and their banter was funny. I still like the, "Ooh, shiny" line from the previews and the movie did supply a decent amount of laughs. Liev Schreiber is perfect as Sabretooth as well, which is why I wish the focus was more on him than all of the other mutants along the way. I don't know, this movie strikes me as the type to have some kind of director's cut on DVD, so I will have to wait for that to weigh in on a lot of these issues, which could be corrected through editing.
The Craptastic Nic Cage Trilogy - 8MM, Snake Eyes, and The Wicker Man
*I decided to change the title from Crappy to Craptastic Classics. Not a big change, I know, but it sounds better to me. I'm still open to suggestions for it, though.
I don't want to dwell on each of these films, exactly. I just want to point out that these movies get a bad rap. Well, The Wicker Man deserves its reputation, but I'll get into it in a moment as to why I consider it a "classic." First, 8MM is about a private detective (Cage) who has to figure out if a snuff film found in a rich client's safe is real or not. This movie just has a mood to it that I've always dug. The weird music, the dark, seedy places Cage investigates along with the humorous and strange characters make this movie entertaining. And Cage isn't half bad. He does some of that awful yelling/"emoting" but for the most part he is cast well. Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, and Peter Stormare round out the cast, each doing a great job playing a porn-shop worker with a heart, a slimy producer, and a eccentric and funny director, respectively. This movie isn't award-worthy or anything, but it's definitely better than people would have you believe.
Snake Eyes is in the same boat as 8MM. Cage plays a slightly corrupt cop opposite his squeaky clean army buddy played by Gary Sinise. When a politician is murdered during a boxing match, Cage decides to start doing his job in this complicated, stylish conspiracy film. Brian De Palma directs, using his trademark splitscreens to great effect. I just like this movie because there's a noir style to it as Cage deals with liars and femme fatales. I just think this movie is misunderstood and people don't acknowledge the callback to the old noir films from the past. But then again, I love anything that is remotely noir-like, so that may be while I'm in the minority in my appreciation of this movie.
The Wicker Man. This is the movie that features Nic Cage in a bear suit. I don't even want to explain why he puts on the suit. It's all just so stupid, but this movie is so unintentionally funny that I consider it to be very entertaining. You can skip watching the whole movie and just click on this link to watch a compilation of the dumbest scenes from the movie recut as a hilarious comedy trailer. But I find the scenes to be even funnier in the context of the movie. Cage is awful in this one, but I want to point out that I don't think he is a bad actor in general. I know he gets trashed by critic after critic, but he's capable of greatness. Just watch The Weather Man, Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona, or Adaptation. It's a matter of character. When he plays these characters that have to show emotion by yelling, it turns to comedy. If he would just pick proper roles, he could avoid all of the bashing. But don't dismiss a movie just because it has Nic Cage in it. Remember the good roles he's had and judge each movie by itself.
Next: Star Trek