Longer Than 2 Second Movie Review: Wolverine

Nate_Wolverine_2So Schadenfriend Paul Preston is starting a site to house all of his movie rants and movie-based content. He asked me if I’d like to write some reviews of the summer movies and I decided to take a shot at my own brand of movie-talk which may not be all that special, but it’s been fun to try. So I wrote a couple that are a little longer than Sandy’s 2 Second movie reviews. Bottom line, they’re very hard to write. Here’s the first entry in my beloved Superhero movie genre.

Is it proper to start a movie review by telling you why you shouldn’t listen to me? I guess if I knew how to write a movie review, I’d know, but; I’m as biased a reviewer as exists when it comes to Superhero movies.

Since the days of Richard Donner’s Superman, and The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman TV shows, live-action Superhero movies have been the most exciting thing that exists for me. During a thin decade known as the 90’s, I was the guy that showed up opening day for The Phantom or The Rocketeer, which would be the only Superhero movie you’d get for the entire year. I’ve seen Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin more than once, I’ve seen all three Punisher movies, and my review of Ghost Rider was: “I loved every minute of that awful awful movie.”

This might seem a self-indulgent way to begin this review, but let’s not kid ourselves, nobody who meant to go see Grand Torino will feel Wolverine to be an appropriate substitute. If you think you might like a movie about a guy named “Wolverine” who has superpowers and metal claws surgically grafted to his wrists so he can fight crime with a group of other superheroes, then I’m here to tell you, this movie’s for you. Wolverine is as good a movie as it needs to be.

The best Superhero movies are perfectly comfortable living in their own world and offer you a look into it rather than present it to you. Wolverine‘s greatest success is it’s lived-in feel. It makes no apologies for being in the middle of it’s own story as some Superhero movies seem to. Nothing’s more annoying than the license some Superhero movies feel to only speak in plot and explanation – pleading over my agreeable head to the guy behind me who says “yeah right” when he sees someone fly. While being far from the Pulp Fiction of Superhero movies (apparently that’s next summer’s Kick-Ass), the characters in Wolverine act well-used to their world’s rules, and that’s an atmosphere that really sells in any Superhero movie.

Wolverine features a large cast of mutants. Everyone always says that more than one villain ruins a Superhero movie, but I think the whole purpose of Superhero movies is to get as many characters from that universe as you can on the screen. I wish Two-Face, Riddler, Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze were ALL in Batman Returns.

In Wolverine William Stryker, played by Brian Cox in X-Men 2 and some guy who’s really really not Brian Cox in Wolverine, puts together a team of Mutants to do his bidding, such as stealing the metal basis for the Adamantium which later finds it’s way into Wolverine’s skeleton or kidnapping young mutants who’s powers Stryker is combining to create more an more Soldier/Mutant weapons. His team consists of five mutants right there, among them are the kickass Wade Wilson and Agent Zero who’s mutant powers are wielding swords and shooting guns. Well…it’s cooler than it reads. The team is a much grittier bunch of badasses than we’ve seen in the previous X-Men films. On his journey to take out Stryker, Wolverine comes across another another mutant, Gambit, and when Wolverine gets to Stryker’s hideout, there’s like ten more mutants in the basement that he’s kidnapped. This, plus the ongoing story of Wolverine’s relationship with Sabretooth brings us to, like, fifteen more villains than Spider-Man 3 had. This helps Wolverine do a better job of being X-Men 4 than I expected or needed it to.

Okay, here’s four things I like in a movie. Any movie that has these four things – I’m in.
1) Any movie where someone puts together a “special team”, specifically any movie where someone says: “I’m putting together a special team.”
2) When anyone who’s planning revenge against a villain and tells them: “I’m coming to get you.”
3) When a hero agrees to join someone, but only if he gets to do it his way with no law or code of conduct.
4) Any movie where the bad guy types “kill” on a computer screen and then someone or something does exactly what he typed.
Wolverine: Check. Check. Check. Check.

While Wolverine is all that I require of it, my only gripe is that: At it’s heart, Wolverine is a love story. Yes, there is a woman, for whom Logan deforests, she tells him some Native tale of Wolverine’s and then she’s killed (or is she?). While the love story in Wolverine is far from the most incongruous, still, why is this in every movie? I have this theory that somewhere in Hollywood is a single office that all scripts have to go through. And that one guy gives the same note: “Where’s the love story?” Why does Spider-Man, Hulk, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, Superman, Elektra, Daredevil, Transformers, and Batman Any – have to encompass how hard love is? Just encompass how hard flight is, okay? Encompass how hard it is to get a grappling gun to actually catch-and-hold the side of a church while standing on a freeze gun falling down a cliff face. In what world would I walk out of a love-story-less Wolverine and say – “I understand the difficulty of being a government experiment on the run, but who would Wolverine want to screw?” But it pisses him off nice and good and that’s how I like my Wolverine, so be it.

There’s plenty of bad stuff, like a performance as bad as Will.i.am’s stupid name, and a boxing scene that appears to have been from a much earlier draft but somehow made it to premiere night, but somehow Hugh Jackman sells it, as he sells Wolverine constantly, as he has since minute 25 of X-Men 1. What would be harder? Recasting Wolverine after Hugh Jackman or Superman after Christopher Reeve?

Wolverine is lacking all those things I don’t necessarily need in a Superhero movie. Things like…well, just watch X-Men 2 – the basis for the story in Wolverine. For all I love about X-Men 4, it really made me see more clearly what a masterpiece X-Men 2 is. I would put X-Men 2 somewhere close to the top of all Superhero movies, just below Superman: The Movie, and Batman: Dark Knight. Because X-Men 2 finds time to cover the entire plot of Wolverine, while engaging in five other plots and being an engrossing character piece on top of it. Wolverine does none of this, but I didn’t need it to.