Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Meta-Blockbusters of the Summer

Part II: Tails, Wolverine

Rather than just telling the story of Wolverine's origin -- which has proved itself as a compelling mainstay of superhero comics -- the new X-Men movie instead feels obligated to double your excitement. Everything has to be two things. Everyone has to be two people (or more). Wolverine can't just be old, he has to be born in the early 1800's. He can't just be a soldier, he has to fight in both World War II and Vietnam, among others. But, then, WWII can't just be WWII. It has to be the opening scene from "Saving Private Ryan." Same for Vietnam; it's just a scene from "Full Metal Jacket."

The bizarre opening credit sequence that lifts from Kubrick and Speilberg is probably the most interesting thing in the movie, precisely because it feels like the writers have no idea that they're copying two major filmmakers. To them, all Vietnam is is the wanton killing of rice farmers via helicopter machine gun. And WWII is just US troops packed like fish in a barell into boats at Normandie beach. There's a combination of insincerity and total lack of self-awareness that marks the entire movie, and it's aparent from these first moments.

The comic book story of Weapon X -- the government program that turned a one named drunk, Logan, into the indestructible Wolverine -- is actually kind of a brutal one. I think back to my childhood and a few physically and / or emotionally disturbing panels crop up: Logan, loaded outside of a bar, drinking away some void in his life is abducted by men; it is apparently the late 1930's; Wolverine, newly armed with metal claws, gone completely insane, disembowels, stabs, and breaks every man responsible for his transformation; Wolverine, nude, on the lam, hunts animals in the forest.

I'm surprised I read this book so fervently at the age of about ten. But I did. Along with thousands of other ten year olds. Part of me thinks that Hollywood is retroactively telling me, No, your ten year old self couldn't handle this story, so we're toning it down. But there's another part of me that thinks they didn't even read it in the first place.

1 comment:

emma said...

wantons and rice, yummmmm....