Sunday, September 25, 2011

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

After a few years writing on this blog, I've long since come to the conclusion that I'm insufficiently rabid about comics. Aside from Gwen, who relies on the generosity of Jim, I don't spend anywhere near the kind of coin my cohorts do on comics, trades, and HCs. Even Matthew's limited budget from a couple weeks ago was more than I'm laying out.

Similarly, I don't go out to catch the latest movie based on a comic book, whether it's a super hero book or something in another genre like Road to Perdition. So it was nothing unusual that I didn't see X-Men Origins: Wolverine when it was in theaters a couple years ago. Now it's making the rounds of basic cable, with FX showing it everyday on a recent weekend. Over the course of the weekend I saw the whole movie, albeit not all at once. I've also seen the three X-Men movies that preceded it.

I think the last few weeks of postings have established that I enjoy the X-Men, especially in the era that ran from the mid '70s through the mid '80s. I was off the train by the time the excesses of the '90s rolled around. Now that I've seen this movie, which takes several of its cues from that era, I'm glad I got off when I did, and nothing about the current X-Men is calling me back to read what's happening now.

The basic outline of the movie is that Logan is a kid in the 1800s when he suddenly develops the ability to pop bone claws out of the back of his hands. He learns this when he kills a man who had just killed the man Logan believed to be his father. Turns out the guy he just killed is his father and his friend, Victor, is actually his brother. This all took place in Canada. Alberta, I think. It skims along from there with Victor and Jimmy (as Logan's known through most of the movie) fighting in various wars. Looks to me like they've gone to the US because they're always wearing American uniforms.

In Vietnam Victor attempts to rape a villager and kills his CO when the CO objects. Logan comes to his defense and, despite Logan not having done anything more than stand back to back with Victor, both of them are lined up before a firing squad and shot. Naturally, they both survive.

Major Stryker then shows up to recruit them for his wetworks team. I'm not clear what wetworks they're supposed to be doing in service of the US because it just skips ahead to a mission in Lagos, Nigeria that's clearly off the books and just serving Stryker's personal agenda to acquire adamantium. Also on the team are Fred Dukes, some teleporter played by, a sword wielding mutant named Wade played by Ryan Reynolds, a gun wielding mutant called Agent 0, and Dominic Monaghan's character who can mentally manipulate objects that function mechanically (which might have helped him when the plane was crashing on Lost). Logan walks away mid-mission, not feeling that Stryker is serving the US by torturing villagers to get information.

Six years later, Logan is a logger in the Rockies, living with a woman who's surname is Silverfox. She's a school teacher. Stryker shows up to warn Logan that Victor is killing off members of their old team. Victor proceeds to kill Silverfox, though not before she tells Logan some allegedly Native American myth about the moon and a wolverine.

Logan goes to Stryker to undergo a procedure to adhere adamantium to his bones so he can defeat Victor. No sooner is the procedure done, with Logan still in the tank, than Stryker's telling everyone that he's going to betray Logan, which, naturally, Logan can hear with his super-sensitive hearing. He wigs out and breaks free. Victor, who was working with Stryker all along, wants his own shot at the adamantium skeleton, but Stryker tells him it'll kill him. No idea why that should be when Victor and Logan appear to have the same abilities.

In the meantime, Stryker and Victor have also been kidnapping various mutants in an effort to take their powers and transfer them to another mutant, who I think is Stryker's son, but other people in sites where I was looking for pictures for this post said was Wade, who's made into Deadpool by this process. Cyclops, who's not called Cyclops yet, is among those taken. His powers are added to this mutant, as are's teleporting abilities ( being dead by this point and never seen to have been captured prior to being killed, I don't know how that happened), Wade's abilities, and someone else's abilities that cause his mouth to be sown shut. Bizarrely, a mutant we see to be in captivity has the ability to turn her skin to diamonds, making her largely invulnerable, but her abilities aren't added to this mutant. I think there's supposed to be some problem with which mutants' powers can be added to Stryker's son, but I'm not clear on which or why.

In fact, the diamond skin girl is the sister of Silverfox, whose own mutant ability is to be able to influence or command anyone if she's in contact with the person's skin. Turns out Silverfox's death was faked in order to get Logan to undergo the procedure (and Silverfox was being blackmailed with her sister's captivity). All the parts that take place from the procedure onward are on Three Mile Island, which I think is the most clever part of the entire movie. The secret research base Stryker has is just known as the island. An unused cooling tower is a perfect place to be when you don't want unexpected visitors. It also gives an amusing explanation for the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. As I was living 45 minutes north of Three Mile Island in 1979, I liked the touch on our own real world.

In the end Victor and Logan kill Stryker's son (or Wade or Deadpool or whoever he is), then go their separate ways. Silverfox is mortally wounded in the course of the escape but grabs Stryker, who has just shot Logan in the head with adamantium bullets, and tells him to keep walking 'til his feet bleed. She's not actually in contact with his skin when she does this, so I would think it wouldn't have worked, but off he goes. Of course, he should have drowned, what with being on an island, but instead he found his semi-conscious way to the only bridge off the island.

Logan, meanwhile, loses all his memories from the shots to the head. Xavier shows up at the end and rescues all the young mutants who were being held on the island, thus founding his school.

I'm glad I didn't pay to see this. Leaving aside that I much preferred my Wolverine stories when his origins were largely unknown, there are more holes in this story than a swiss cheese, or a Hellfire Club guard left in the sewers after a meeting with Wolverine.

This Wolverine is only Canadian by birth. I always thought Logan being a Canadian was an essential element of his character. It's totally nullified here. He's 10 or less when he kills his father (which seems to have no mental repercussions at all), and everything we see with him after that has him in the US or working for the US. It was the Canadian government that created Wolverine in the comics, and that was important, too. It was the Canadian government that sent Alpha Flight to get him back when he defected, another important element to the character that's entirely gone here.

I have no idea why Logan has any conscience that compels him to walk away from Stryker's team on the Nigeria mission. He's had no regrets in killing his father nor in spending the majority of his life going from one war to another so he and Victor can kill people. This Logan doesn't seem to kill people because his missions require it. This Logan seems to take on missions because they afford the opportunity to kill people. The mere fact that a soldier is wearing the uniform of an opposing nation is sufficient reason to deem them worthy of killing. They're paper opponents, with no thought given to their own motivations. Unlike soldiers in actual wars, Logan has no evident thoughts about why he's there or who he's fighting. He even tries to protect Victor when Victor has killed his CO, who was rightly objecting to Victor trying to rape a villager. There's nothing developed in the Logan character, other than some air sickness, that would indicate any qualms of any kind.

There's nothing likable about this Logan until he suddenly walks away without explanation or reason. Sure, most of his teammates, including his brother, are extremely creepy and psychotic, but that does seem to be his peer group up to this point.

I don't know how Victor and Logan served in various armies over the years in the first place. They're far too volatile and unpredictable to be good soldiers. A proficiency for indiscriminate killing is not the equivalent of a good soldier. In fact, it's a major detriment.

Silverfox is supposed to be in contact with a person's skin to use her power. Why does it work through Stryker's pants and socks?

Why does Cyclops have some sort of sensory ability to find his way out of the prison at the island, though his eyes are closed and he's never been through there previously?

Why can some mutants' abilities be transferred to Stryker's son (or whoever it is) but others' abilities not? Fred Dukes's invulnerability or the diamond skin girl's ability would have been real handy in not having his head separated from his body.

Why do adamantium bullets to the brain cause amnesia for Logan but bullet wounds anywhere else just lead to the tissue regenerating the same as it was previously?

If it's 1979 when Cyclops is taken prisoner, and the other X-Men movies occur more or less when they were released, why isn't Cyclops in his 40's in the X-Men movies? He's older than I was in 1979 and I'm in my 40's.

Aside from the use of Three Mile Island, the best that can be said for this movie is that Gambit appears in his least irritating iteration. Probably helps that there wasn't too much of him. Although that brings up another hole in the movie. Gambit is in the plot because he escaped from the island and is the only one who can take Logan there. Um, why? If he knows the island is Three Mile Island, why doesn't he just tell Logan that. It's on all the maps of Pennsylvania. All Logan had to do was call AAA once he knew the name of his destination.

There's nothing much to like about Logan in this movie, and by the end he's not that person any longer, which I guess is for the best. What I don't get is why he's not just told all of his history by Xavier, who obviously knows what happened. Hell, Cyclops or any of the other myriad of kids rescued from TMI could tell him at least something about what happened. That's not what happens in the three X-Men movies, though.

I think I'll read some more X-Men and Wolverine stories from the era when they were coherent. It's better for me, really.

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