Sunday, July 28, 2013
Like many kids, I had my stash of age-appropriate comics (Archie, Richie Rich, Little Lulu) when I was a kid. I outgrew those and moved on to Grown-Up Things, oblivious to some truly magnificent storytelling that was taking place panel by panel. Then, through some personal dark days that need not be recounted here, I found myself in my mid-twenties angry, disillusioned, frustrated, and confused. And I found myself with a pack of X-Men comics in my hands.
Serendipity isn't always sunbeams and flowers and at a turbulent time of my life, those misunderstood mutants threw me a lifeline.* The names Lee (Stan and Jim), Claremont, and Byrne are ones I cherish and yes, I have a deep, abiding passion for Marvel - hence my anger at how badly Disney muffed Iron Man 3. Yes, there are too many crossovers and alternate timelines give me indigestion. But I will forgive much due to Claremont and Anderson's God Loves, Man Kills.
So you can see that when I go to see an X-Men movie, it's a serious thing. The Wolverine has hit theaters and I went with my usual trepidation - I want it to be great; I fear it won't.
Actually, Wolverine isn't that bad. Let me say upfront - it got that PG-13 rating for a reason and I'm continually gobsmacked-amazed at how many clueless parents take 6 year olds to these sorts of movies. I suspect it's a "Well, it's based on a comic book, so how bad can it be?" attitude. To these parents, let me just say this: If they ever make a movie based on Ennis & Dillon's Preacher, don't take the kiddies.
Wolverine has several flaws. Aside from some sizable historical inaccuracies and plot holes (generally speaking, if you're trying to not let people know where you are, it's a good idea to not mix with the locals), Wolverine has some rather good fight/action sequences. It is Comic-Book Land, so I have to grant some latitude in these scenes. And Rila Fukishima, who plays Yukio, is a breakout. She comes across as a sharp-edged pixie, just brimming with energy and thrumming with righteous anger, but purists are going to resent the way her character is altered from the comics - and that's not the only alteration. Some changes I can let slide, but some I can't. Look, one of the lovely aspects to the Wolverine character has always been his depth, which includes proficiency in Japanese and a high level of comfort with Japanese customs and culture. That's lacking here and the movie suffers for it. Instead, we get an extremely-buff Hugh Jackman doing a Wolverine that we've seen before. He's prickly, heals mutant-fast, has a hair trigger on those claws, and can fight really, really well. That's great, but it's nothing new. When I discovered that the filmmakers were apparently basing the film on the 1982 miniseries Wolverine by Claremont and Frank Miller (yes, that Frank Miller), I was excited and the "coming soon" poster above had me giggly with delight of what might be. Unfortunately, the source material is as mutated as Wolverine's claws. In short, Wolverine is a good movie, but it had a chance to be better than that; to give viewers something new about the character. Instead, we get two hours of good stuff that we've seen before. Rental.
By the way, if you're interested, try this list for well-done explorations of everyone's favorite Canadian mutant. (No, it's not Anne Murray.) I was also intrigued by this list of films that the director, James Mangold, claims influenced his approach to the film.
Just for fun, since Jackman's an accomplished song&dance man . . .
* Not too long thereafter, I was introduced to Gaiman's Sandman and Spiegelman's Maus. Never attempt to argue with my position that comics can be literary, gorgeous, and game-changing.