Friday, May 22, 2009

‘Wolverine’: All bark, some bite – not much else…

‘Wolverine’: All bark, some bite – not much else…
By: Robert Sieger

I have admitted this before – I am a fan boy! I love my comic books – I grew up on them and still have them lovingly stored in moisture proof bags with acid free backing boards; most if not all of them in MINT condition. Wolverine has always been my favorite character – the feral mutant with healing abilities and claws of bone that protrude on command from the top of his hands. One of the more tragic Marvel Comics characters – a loner who for revenge of a lost love subjected himself to military experiments that bonded his human skeleton with a metal compound called Adamantium, making him virtually indestructible.

Hugh Jackman has struck career gold with the Wolverine character. Any fan of the X-Men comic books can see the immediate resemblance and thus far – through the three X-Men movies and now ‘Wolverine’ – Jackman has done a good job staying true to the nature created in the Marvel mythos. However, director Gavin Hood (Rendition) has opted to forego character development and slip directly into hyper-kinetic explosions and action sequences. Hood has a fantastic flair for visually outstanding action sequences; from the very opening montage of the credits we are bombarded with one action-packed image after the other. Each is flawlessly choreographed, framed and paced to keep the heart skipping at just the right beats. But in todays film world when you have Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ series to live up to; simple fast paced action sequences are not enough to make a good hero film.

Wolverine is a complex, edgy character and worthy of a deeper study. In the Marvel series Wolverine is a man possessed by many inner demons, a dark past than spans decades (since in essence he is virtually immortal) – unfortunately Hood has reduced this intriguing character to a plastic action figure placed squarely in the center of explosions and mayhem. Even the other mutants spotlighted in the film are given only shadowy backgrounds – simply in the film as foils or punching bags for Jackman. Even the ever intriguing Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth, Wolverine’s step-brother, fails to live up to the potential he deserves. In Hood’s world he is reduced to a growling beast rather than a fearful adversary as in the Marvel version.

Don’t get me wrong as popcorn movies go – this version is a blast! It is a wild ride worthy of a bucket of corn and a large soda (don’t worry it only clocks in around 107 minutes). While I am sure this film will be a blockbuster (Jackman has already signed on for the sequel and make sure you stay until the end of the credits there is at least two different Easter Eggs depending on the print the theater gets) – I am hoping the next director will add some character development.
So go ahead – sink your claws into this 2 ½ Star early summer blast!

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