Friday, November 27, 2009

On Marriage and X-Men -- Reflections on "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"

About a year before my divorce, my ex and I finally decided to get marriage counseling. Yes, after 12 years of marriage, we realized it was time. Counseling was great, and did some good; it was like putting a band-aid over a deep gash, spraying some Bactine on it, and calling it a day. Suffice to say, we filed divorce, and our much better friends because of it.

What is the moral of the story? I guess there is one somewhere in there.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a lot like the endgame to my marriage. Too little, too late. It plays like an afterthought to the X-Men trilogy. Did we really need a movie about Wolverine's early days to make us enjoy the trilogy even more? It's like what George Lucas did for Star Wars by creating a set of prequels. Some things are better left to the imagination of the viewers, like the Clone Wars -- seeing them only cheapened our fantasies.

The same is true here. The first two X-Men movies gave us a healthy dose of Wolverine's backstory. We knew about Weapon X. We knew he had amnesia and that he was meant to be a government tool. We knew he had a really fucked up connection to William Stryker. Did we really need to know anything else? Obviously some will disagree with me, but ask me if I really care.

To set the record straight: this movie is quite watchable, and if you turn your brain off, it's not bad either. Hugh Jackman is solid as always as Wolverine. Liev Schrieber is pretty cool as Sabretooth, Wolverine's big, bad brother. The action sequences, while not particularly original, are staged well and make for a fun popcorn popping time.

But this doesn't mean it's a good superhero movie. It's mediocre at best. The biggest reason for this is because the whole story is a flashback. It plays like a pause in the middle of a larger story. And the problem with most flashbacks is that they slow down the action in the main story. The X-Men trilogy had a forward momentum going (even though X-Men: The Last Stand sucked), which means this movie interrupted our need for the next chapter. This is how flashback chapters work, especially when the information presented doesn't particularly offer any new revelations. Flashbacks slow shit down and can be really annoying. Only really good writers can make it work, and the writer's of this film are not that good.

So, in the end, X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn't much more than a 97 minute diversion from more important things to do, like getting on with your life. It's a lot like marriage counseling at the end of the marriage -- you're not hearing anything you didn't already know, feel like something good is happening while you're there, but realize after it's over how hopeless the marriage really is.

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