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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

X Men Origins ~ Wolverine

I suppose by now you’ve already heard that X Men Origins: Wolverine is a howling success, but, really, would you have expected anything else? The worldwide weekend grosses were in the neighborhood of $165 million, not a bad chunk of change for a movie featuring a main character that’s making his fourth appearance front and center. By this time, a lot of ‘franchise characters’ that make it to a fourth installment find themselves beginning to limp along lamely, (pssst, Jason Voorhees, I’m talking to you, and don’t raise that machete at me, Mister!) with each sequel beyond that making less money and less sense. Of course they don’t star my delectable future ex-husband, the dreamy Hugh Jackman (call me).

Longtime readers know that of all my potential future ex-husbands, Hugh has always been my favorite, holding a special place in the black lump of coal I call my heart. My devotion for Hugh began way back in 1995 during a trip to his homeland in Australia where I first caught him on a television series he co-starred in called "Correlli." Tragically, I was only visiting Oz, so I didn’t have the time to prevent him from falling tits over teacups for his co-star, the sad, aging actress Deborah Lee Furness, a sweet enough creature but shameless in her pursuit to get his smoldering young flesh pressed against her past-its-expiration-date leathery love-bags. Being ever the gentleman, he married her instead of me, but I blame that partly on the fact that the poor boy hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting me so he was deluded into a false sense of happiness that I’ve allowed to go on for the sake of their children. I’m sure you can understand I’m always about doing the loving and caring thing even if it means heartbreak for me personally, and once the couple adopted a couple of tykes to complete their family I knew I had to do the noble thing, the Grace Noble thing, and back away. Normally I would not mention the fact that a couple’s children were adopted, but in this instance I think it is obvious that the reason they were forced into adopting rather than having kids the “old-fashioned way” is because by the time Hugh married this gal her eggs were harder than calculus for a first grader.

Few in this country are aware of the prestigious Nicole Kidman Award for Selfless Giving® that is considered Australia’s highest humanitarian honor (or honour in their parlance) offered each year
to that individual who has done something truly remarkable on behalf of another while drastically ruining or hobbling their own life in the process. Humbly, I accepted that tribute five years in a row until I had to practically beg Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, committee members Russell Crowe, Dame Edna Everage, Cate Blanchette, Geoffrey Rush, Bryan Brown, and, of course, the lovely Ms. Kidman herself to retire my name from consideration and mull over other candidates for praise ~ Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, or Miley Cyrus instead. True, I’ve lived with heartache in the shadows, waiting for my Hugh to come around, and, briefly, he did toy with me ~ on April 23, 2000 to be exact ~ with a lap dance during a performance of his Broadway show “The Boy From Oz”, but that is a story for another day.

So, like all of you, I now am forced to satisfy my Jackmanian yearnings with his theatrical appearances and judge their individual merits with a degree of objectivity that sometimes can be harder than Lance Bass in a Chippendale’s dressing room. With X Men Origins: Wolverine, I was relieved that any need for me to temper my enthusiasm would not be necessary. X Men Origins: Wolverine rocks and is by far the best of the X Men movies in terms of out-and-out action even if it does jettison most of the other mutants from Professor X’s school in favor of a new slate of the powerful super-beings from the comics.

The ‘origin’ part of the tale, at least the family of origin part is brief (maybe too brief) and doesn’t really explain much; it’s 1845 ~ Mom is shocked to discover her son can grow bone-like claws from his hands and gasps “What are you?” while Dad remains mum, leaving us to go with the obvious genetic anomaly theory, especially since his brother Victor is also a mutant.

Speed forward through a montage of the now adult “Jimmy” aka Logan (Hugh Jackman of course)
and Victor (Liev Schrieber; Defiance) fighting in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and in Vietnam, with Victor’s rage becoming more and more out of control as the years progress until Logan can no longer subdue his sibling’s temper and Victor gets them both a court martial and sent before the firing squad. Yeah, well as any of you who already know anything about Wolverine know, that doesn’t really work out the way the Army expects and so the next thing you know along comes Col. William Stryker (the always deliciously evil Danny Huston; How to Lose Friends & Alienate People), who recruits the boys as part of his special ops Mutant X program, a group that includes Chris Bradley aka Bolt (Dominic Monaghan; I Sell the Dead), John Wraith (Will i Am; Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa), Frederick Dukes aka The Blob (Kevin Durand; Winged Creatures), Agent Zero (Daniel Henney; Ma-i pa-deo), and Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds; Adventureland). Sounds like fun, right? All these hot guys with attitudes and tight tee shirts… yum.

Well, it would be awfully dull for the straight boys in the audience if there wasn’t some fighting and exploding going on, so it takes about three minutes before things go all pear-shaped and Logan goes AWOL after Stryker and the gang goes adamantium hunting the bloody slaughtering-of-villages way, but from there now we know where the mysterious mineral came from and eventually we see how and why it got onto the skeleton of a certain cigar-chomping mutant.

There’s also a protracted love story as the action skips ahead six years to the beautiful Canadian Rockies (played by the equally beautiful Fiordland National Park in Southland, New Zealand) and a freshly shirtless Logan is found spending his bedtimes with a girlfriend, Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins; tv’s “True Blood”) and posing for the camera as a Brawny paper towel Lumberjack. Then more crap happens and the part of the movie where director Gavin Hood (Rendition) was pressured into calling in veteran effects-laden film director Richard Donner (Superman I & II, Lethal Weapon IIV) to ensure that the real shizzle sizzled happens, which it truly does. Enough stuff happens in X Men Origins: Wolverine that will keep any action fan bloated with glee, but there is a problem in the midst of all of this, and it is that sometimes too much of a good thing makes a good thing not so good.

Shoving a dozen recognizable X-Men characters into the movie just for the sake of saying they were there when they really contribute little to the plot or serve only for such brief moments that their presence leaves fans wondering “why bother?” is a distraction from the Wolverine experience. Do the cinematic depictions of Blob, Gambit, Cyclops, or even Deadpool really satisfy anyone seeing this? They all appear to be queuing up for their turn as the next X-Men: Franchise Movie, but none of them appear to add “weight” to the festivities. Even the relationship between Victor, the brother who would be called Sabretooth (when that’s to happen is not clear), could use a deeper exploration. I’d have loved to have traded in footage about the government’s infamous Mutant X program for some psychological sparring between Logan and Victor, explaining how they grew from loving brothers into arch-enemies.

As an arch-enemy (and those are the best kind!), you’d think Sabretooth would have the advantage other villains lack. He is evenly matched to our hero and knows all of his fragile childhood
buttons to push, but as the comic books decreed, even Logan comes to not know those as his memory is wiped clean, just as we find him in the original X-Men film. Stryker certainly is depicted as a righteous enough nutbag to make even Dick Cheney give him a salute from below the waist, but even he is carrying enough unfinished family baggage to pack Heidi and Spencer’s lacy unmentionables for a month. Scripters David Benioff (The Kite Runner) and Skip Woods (Hitman) allude to Stryker’s motives for mayhem coming from a desire to “fix” his own mutant son and avenge his wife’s suicide. Really? Is everyone in need of family therapy here? The only villain who’s not talking is Deadpool, and by the end of X Men Origins: Wolverine it is very clear that he’s expecting a sequel to get his 2¢ in, but the only way you’ll know that is if you stay in your seat through the credits and wait for the last scene of the movie. You’d think by now people would learn to expect these things with a Marvel® movie, but inevitably I see these things alone or with Corey, the projection god at the Essex Cinemas, after everybody else has fled like a herd of wildebeests in heat. Pity, for them. That always gives us an extra fifteen seconds or so of cool, knowing the last piece of a puzzle that everybody else has missed ~ or would that be the first piece of the next sequel’s dilemma that nobody even knows is going to be made?

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