By Violet-Eyed Dragon 0 Comments
The internet is abuzz with discussion of The Wolverine, a 2012 installment in the popular X-Men genre centered around its most popular character, Wolverine. The script has already been written, thanks to Valkyrie and The Tourist writer Christopher McQuarrie. Darren Aronofsky ( Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan) was originally slated as director, but had to back out due to personal matters. Now the question of who should helm the project is generating a colossal amount of attention.
Now, I think, is an important time to point out that 20th Century Fox (the studio behind every X-Men film) is going about this in an offensive and incompetent way. Credit should be given to the creative team behind X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the film that makes The Wolverine possible. It is outrageous that they have not been invited to join the new project.
It is certainly true that the 2009 W0lverine film was not a fan favorite. The criticism, though, is mostly unwarranted. Here are the complaints about that movie and here is why Gavin Hood (the director) and David Benioff and Skip Woods (the writers) should not be blamed.
1) The movie was underwhelming compared to the original trilogy. Well, yes and no. When the original X-Men movie came out, most people were unfamiliar with the characters and a straightforward, coherent movie had to be taken from the thousands of comics to ensure this would be a franchise. The people Fox hired managed to make that happen--they took important themes from the comic book and the coolest characters and weaved them together to make an entertaining super-hero story. In order to do that, though, they needed to merge characters and cut crucial parts from the comic book mythology. As a result, we had elements such as Wolverine's longstanding feud with Sabretooth packed into one picture and all the most interesting characters were put front and center. This trend was continued in the sequels, since fans always want the next movie in a franchise to outdo its predecessors in terms of scale. The third movie was hinted as a conclusion to the saga, and Fox made it clear they wanted to halt sequels for a time. However, aside from Avatar, Fox lags behind most other major studios in terms of blockbusters, so they were not going to take any significant brake from making X-Men movies.
Therefore, the inevitable decision was decided to make prequels and spin-offs. After all, the comic book spans many decades and has millions of stories to draw from. Unfortunately, the most popular characters had already been used. Seeing as all of the X-Men other than Wolverine (who's mutant power slows aging) are young adults (or teenagers), Fox was either going to make a movie with unheard of supporting characters or they were going to make a movie about Wolverine. Seeing as X-Men Origins: Longneck was not a surefire hit (yes, that is a real X-Men), the first spin-off movie was going to be about Wolverine.
This sounds great, but in fact it is difficult. Wolverine is a very interesting character, but while Storm can control the weather and Colossus can headlock and elephant, Wolverine's sole powers are 1) the ability to recover from painful injuries and 2) the ability to have knives stick out of his arm.
Wolverine's comic books work because his villains tend to have awesome powers that don't consist of tolerance to excruciating pain. Unfortunately for Fox, these villains fall into the categories of "Were already in the original X-Men films and are thus five years old in the prequel" or "Are prevented from killing Wolverine only by the fact that he has X-Men friends who could actually pose a threat." While I admit that a small demographic of movie-goers would pay to watch Hugh Jackman beat the snot out of pre-schoolers, it is unlikely this would have been enough to pay the legal fees when Marvel sues for defamation of their flagship super-hero.
Thus, the team hired for X-Men Origins: Wolverine were given the task of making a super-hero franchise out of B-level supporting characters while maintaining perfect continuity and using a protagonist who lacks no aggressive powers and, according to the source material, spent his pre-X-Men years carving American flags on veterans' faces (yes, that really is a comic book).
Astoundingly, this happened. Of course, villains with the ability to make the elevator music play during a blackout are not quite as impressive as Mystique and Magneto, but this movie works. It is exciting, it doesn't contradict anything in the original series, and it features thousands of characters who could get their own solo movies despite being considered un-worthy of the original trilogy.
2) There was no greater theme. This complaint is simply based on critic's laziness to re-watch the original X-Men. As a solo movie, Origins might seem a bit vacuous, but you have got to keep in mind it is meant to be a back story to its predecessor.
Why do Wolverine and Sabretooth keep ending up in each other's lives, and why does Silver Fox aid the villains? If you have watched the original, you will know this is because they are family. Of course, if you just watch this movie you will be little depressed that the movie ends with a lonely Wolverine drinking shot after shot in order to remember his name. However, this was already a required part of the movie since the original X-Men opens with Wolverine still suffering amnesia and it is a build-up for the theme of that movie. In the trilogy (especially the first two) the thing that keeps Wolverine from returning to the side of the villains is his attachment to the X-Men. Origins is stressing the fact that this is because Wolverine has now found a new family with the band of mutant super-heroes. This was stated in X2, but the prequel really highlights why the X-Men are superior to their foes: They care about one another, they protect one another, they love one another, and they give each other a home.
I highly recommend you watch all four X-Men movies with this in mind.
3) The visuals were unimpressive. Okay, yes and no. Sure, there were a few continuity errors in the fight sequences (holes punched through character's chests without damaged clothing; unbreakable claws that run the length of a villains arm while still allowing him to bend his ellbows...). Still, this is pretty inevitable in a movie of this scale. As for the rest of the visuals, they were great. The reason people did not like them is because they are not of the same scale as the special effects in the original trilogy. This is not the fault of the director and writers. The characters they were given to adapt have far less interesting power sets as the ones in X-Men, and the budget they were given is a fraction of what was used in the original trilogy. The Last Stand--the third movie in the franchise--had a budget comparative to Avatar and was 3/4 of what is cost to make the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is absolutely impossible to make a more impressive visual out of a man with shock-absorbing fat than a man who is made out of sentient ice, especially when you have half the money.
Of course, all of this is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is X-Men Origins: Wolverine still got a GREEN of Metacritc with NO negative reviews (this is, incidentally, an impressive feat) and made more money than--and I looked this up--the Department of Veterans' Affairs spent on insurance (presumably to pay for Wolverine-related facial scarring). Fox thought the movie was good enough to finance, and they sure thought it was good enough to collect millions upon millions of dollars for. It only seems fair for the team behind it to be able to make a sequel. Especially considering they used the first movie to build a groundwork in order for their to be enough characters and continuity to have a sequel.
It is offensive and a mistake for Fox to have not hired back the original movie's writers for the sequel and it will be a bigger mistake if they once again higher another director than Gavin Hood.