So my brother-in-law went and bought tickets for Wolverine for me and the missus, and we went to an 8:55 showing that didn’t start until 9:20. Apparently there were problems with the projector, and they ended up giving us free movie passes to compensate, which means I won’t have to pay to go see Star Trek next weekend. So that’s a plus.

Anyway, I expected the movie to suck.

The early word was that it sucked and sucked hard, so much so that we investigate the possibility of trading in the Wolverine tickets for a different show.  The problem is that there aren’t any other movies out that we’re dying to see, and I felt it my geek duty to see a comic book flick of this magnitude.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I don’t think that should come as a ringing endorsement, as I was expecting suckitude of majestic proportions, and this movie didn’t deliver on that score. Low expectations can be a wonderful thing on occasion, as they prevent disappointment from mediocre movies. And this was a fair to middling action flick that was a fun time waster on a Saturday night.

If you expect more than that, you’ll no doubt be disappointed.

I probably also ought to own up to my own lack of geek cred on this one, too. Yes, I’m a comic book guy from way back, but I largely missed the X-Men frenzy that consumed my fellow geeks. I’m familiar with several of the key storylines from the Claremont/Byrne era of my youth, including Dark Phoenix and whatnot, but I’m not a slobbering X-Fan, and Wolverine was never the center of my universe. So all the moaning and whining about how this might be a desecration of this character or that character or whatever doesn’t work on me here, as I’m not familiar enough with the source material to truly care. I enjoyed all three X-Men films – yes, even the third, which true geeks loathed – although I recognized that the third flick was crowded and sloppy and tried to do too many things without ample time.

That, I think has become the biggest problem with most superhero films, and Wolverine is no exception.

Comic book characters, for the most part, have extensive histories and backstories that are explored in serialized installments over the course of decades. When those characters make the transition to the cinematic big leagues, it’s impossible to cram all of that into an hour and a half of screen time. The most effective comic book movies are the ones that focus on a single hero and a single villain and don’t try to but off more than they can chew. The first two Spider-Man films are great examples of this – clean, one good guy/one bad guy stories that manage to do justice to the characters they’re highlighting. Then came the third Spider-flick, and it had Sandman AND Venom AND Green Goblin II, along with a new love interest and a clumsy retconning of Uncle Ben’s death, and you had a movie that collapsed under the strain of its own ponderous baggage. There were probably two or three good movies wrapped up in Spidey 3, but by combining all of them into a single offering, they ruined all of them. Word is that Spidey 4 is going back to a single villain. That should be nice.

Wolverine, strangely, is even more cluttered than the first three X movies, which seems like a very strange road to take, given that the focus is supposed to be on a single character instead of the whole mutant ensemble. Yet we get Wolverine AND Sabertooth AND Gambit AND the Blob AND Deadpool AND truckloads of other mutants whose names I can’t remember. It lurches from here to there without giving anyone any sense of weight or purpose. Fortunately, I didn’t care much about any of these characters, so I don’t have the investment necessary to worry about how they were being wasted. But wasted they were.

Perhaps my biggest problem with the film is how generic it all is. You’re never quite sure what the time frame is supposed to be – is it six years after the Vietnam War? If so, why is Cyclops a teenager already? More specificity would have helped make this thing feel less cookie cutter. The plot holes are massive, but that wouldn’t really matter if I cared more about what was happening. Then, at the end, they press a giant reset button, and suddenlt next to nothing of what has transpired matters in the least. That’s why, as a rule, I loathe prequels. Unless I can believe there’s something at stake, I can’t be bothered enough to pay much attention.

All that said, Jackman is fine, as is Liv Schreiber as Sabretooth, his brother and antagonist. (Except wasn’t Sabretooth in the original X-Men films, looking and acting nothing like this?) Patrick Stewart has a computerized cameo that is laughably ridiculous, and everyone hits their marks and goes through the motions without embarrassing themselves.

Not a hearty recommendation, surely. But a brisk, forgettable, pain free night at the movies. 

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