Oh boy… well we survived the nightmare that was X3, but we’re not quite out of the woods just yet. After the initial X-Men trilogy (see Part One) started strong before crashing and burning, the studio decided to make a solo Wolverine spin-off, which sounded better on paper than in execution. This time, Erik Smash and I are going to rip into the X-Men spin-offs, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, because against all odds Fox somehow managed to really turn things around with the release of “Deadpool” and “Logan” – proving to Hollywood that some characters work better with an R rating.
But first up…
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Logan / The Wolverine / James Howlett), Liev Schreiber (Victor Creed / Sabretooth), Danny Huston (William Stryker), Lynn Collins (Silverfox), Ryan Reynolds (Wade Wilson / “Deadpool”), Kevin Durand (Fred Dukes / The Blob), Will.I.Am (Wraith), Daniel Henney (Agent Zero), Taylor Kitsch (Remy LeBeau / Gambit), Tim Pocock (young Scott Summers / Cyclops), and Sir Patrick Stewart (Prof X cameo).
Plot: We finally get to see Wolverine’s history played out on the big screen, and it’s… it’s just awful. When the stars of the film don’t hide their disdain for it (both Jackman and Reynolds) and it is immediately ignored and forgotten by the rest of the franchise, you know you can sleep well as a director. And by sleep well I mean you should be horribly, horribly ashamed. Sigh…
Comic Zombie: Holy shit sandwich, Batman! This movie is inexcusably terrible. You’ve got Wolverine, one of the most popular, iconic comic book characters ever put to page and who has become a huge movie star, and a list as long as my… arm… of classic stories that would work terrifically on film, plus a ton of characters from his corner of the X-Men universe that we had yet to see on film. They could have just done Barry Windsor-Smith’s amazing “Weapon X” and it would have been awesome. Or maybe do the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller “Wolverine” and just have him working a bunch of ninjas in Japan. Or focus on his CIA/wetwork days, or his time fighting in World War 2, or Viet Nam. Or a story where maybe he’s got to save a bunch of newly introduced mutants from the real Weapon X masterminds. Whatever.
Instead, they decided to do all of these things. And none of these things. This film is a fucking mess. There is so little story focus because they don’t know what story they’re telling. Or they’re trying to tell too many stories at once and the movie just gets bogged the hell down with pointless plot twists, wasted scenes created just for an action set piece, and some really awful CGI (not to mention the groan-inducing dialogue and shit acting).
The thing is, Wolverine has got one of the most tragic, painful, fucked up backstories ever, just starting from Weapon X and onward (not even getting into the stuff from his childhood). This movie should have been GOOD, is my point. Especially after X3. This should have been a chance for the studio to take a breath, refocus, and really wow people and kick off a huge solo franchise. Instead they gloss over or flat out screw up some really great stuff, and they do it in favor of adding unnecessary, and usually really bad, stuff.
The best part of the movie, and one of the only things in it that I actually was interested in watching, was the opening montage of Wolverine and Sabretoo- er… Victor fighting in the wars of history (World War 1, WW2, Vietnam, etc). Some nice imagery and action and a cool idea. Unfortunately, this was the best part and it happens at the very beginning. THIS COULD HAVE BEEN THE MOVIE.
Speaking of Victor, Liev Schrieber is the best part of this film. You can tell he’s at least trying to have some fun with the character, and it’s nice to see Sabretooth being a little cunning and a lot vicious.
Why in the name of God does he run on all fours (and is so clearly on a harness/wires)??? It looks absurd! You’ll have a moment when he’s about to fight and there’s actually some fucking tension in the movie for a second and then he’s down on all fours and you’re laughing. It’s really bad. I can’t, for the life of me, imagine who saw the end result of the idea to have him do that and thought “Yeah, let’s keep that!”
It’s a shame that he is wasted in this movie because he is a pretty interesting villain and would have been much better served by 90% of the other stuff in this movie being cut.
Speaking of wasted potential, let’s talk about Wade Wilson for a second. Yes, I know it hurts, but remember Deadpool? They got it right that time! It’s ok, we’re going to be quick. So you take the time to insert Deadpool, another of the most popular characters ever, into this shitstorm. That’s actually ok, maybe he can save it! You then cast Ryan Reynolds for the character in what is literally the only smart thing they did the entire time. Perfect choice. Then you give him almost nothing to do, never show him in costume, have him disappear for the vast majority of the movie, and then do THIS (look away!):
They completely disregarded everything about Deadpool but his name. The LEAST awesome thing about him!! Thank God this wasn’t the last we saw of Deadpool on film, although thank God it WAS the last time we saw this version.
I’m already going on way longer than I planned, so I’m going to hit a few things very quickly.
-There are way too many characters in this movie. This goes to the whole not knowing which story you are trying to tell plus waaay too much fan service. The problem with so many characters, and the bad X-Men movies always do this, is that they’re only there to show one or two uses of their power and that’s it. They don’t have any reason to be in the story other than for a quick special effect. And the less said about the Blob, the better.
-They utterly wasted Gambit. Sure, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Deadpool, but if you’re going to finally put the fan-favorite Cajun in your movie, why not have him be a big part of it? Why is he just introduced at the end of the film other than that someone thought “it would be cool to see Wolverine fight Gambit”? Shame.
-The magic adamantium bullet. So this movie is such a fucking trainwreck that by the very end Logan is nowhere near where they need him to be to set him up for the first X-Men movie (which is what this film was supposed to be doing, I guess?). So after the big showdown with not Deadpool, he gets shot in the head by Stryker. But the bullet is adamantium, so it causes amnesia? That’s not… that doesn’t make sense.
-The terrible CGI, especially Wolverine’s claws. Holy shit, how is it that you can make this look worse than it did three movies ago (not that it ever looked bad before)? His claws look so fake, and the scene where he carves up a bathroom on accident is cringe-worthy, SiFi channel level bad.
-Why the Ma and Pa Kent couple? What? I don’t understand this at all. I don’t care that he wasn’t brought in by James and Heather Hudson or whatever, it just seems really weird that he’s brought in by what seems to be a couple that is ripped off completely from Superman’s parents. It’s just weird.
-Escape from Weapon X. This is such a huge part of Wolverine’s history and it’s maybe two minutes of the movie. And it’s not even done well! When what should be the most harrowing part of your film was done MUCH better in a three second flash in X2, you fucked up, friend.
Erik Smash: Oh man, this movie…
I gotta say, I enjoyed re-watching X3 more than this one. In fact it was somehow worse the second time around. It’s no Batman and Robin, but I’d rather watch Spider-man 3, Superman Returns and all four Fantastic 4 movies before watching this one again (Ok maybe not that last FF movie). Suffice it to say, this was a truly painful experience.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine takes three really awesome Wolverine stories from the comics: Origin, Weapon-X and the Sabretooth saga – then takes a massive dump all over them. Not only does it not do justice to the source material, it also completely fucks up as a prequel, does a disservice to multiple fan-favorite characters and just utterly fails as a movie in general. If it wasn’t for Hugh Jackman, this would’ve ruined the character completely.
The real tragedy is that this movie could’ve been great, it really shouldn’t have been so hard to pull off. They couldn’t even stick to their own cannon within the movie-verse! Seriously, watch it right after X2, there are A TON of contradictions. It was so bad that it doesn’t even count within the timeline anymore. (see “Days of Future Past”)
X-Men Origins doesn’t just do disservice to Wolverine, it also completely wastes multiple kick ass characters in the worst way possible: The Blob, Gambit, and Deadpool (the merc with a mouth) – who is reduced to a poorly thought out plot device WITHOUT A MOUTH!
The absolute best scene in the movie is the opening montage of Logan and Creed slicing their way through several wars, which really sets you up for disappointment, because this movie is not that.
This one is really only worth watching if you’re a psychotic completionist like me.
CZ: Amen brother.
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Logan / The Wolverine), Tao Okamoto (Mariko), Rila Fukushima (Yukio), Hiroyuki Sanada (Shingen), Svetlana Khodchenkova (‘Viper’), Brian Tee (Noburo), Haruhiko Yamanouchi (Yashida / The Silver Samurai), Will Yun Lee (Harada), Famke Janssen (ghost Jean Grey), Sir Ian McKellen (Magneto cameo), and Sir Patrick Stewart (Prof X cameo).
Plot: Taking place after the train-wreck that was X-Men 3, Wolverine goes to Japan, where he runs across Lord Shingen and his ninjas. Shingen removes Logan’s healing factor and creates the Silver Samurai robot (what?), which steals Logan’s adamantium? The classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller story is butchered to hell. Nobody really cares, except for Erik for some reason.
Erik Smash: Not gonna lie, this movie is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. Come on, it’s a movie with Wolverine, in Japan, fighting ninjas.
Done. Take my money.
I really don’t care how flawed it may be, The Wolverine is pretty damn entertaining (unlike X-Men Origins). It’s pretty much everything that I wanted in a Wolverine movie, that I didn’t get from the last one. It was dark, gritty, emotional and showed Logan going berzerker on a bunch of nameless thugs, in this case Yakuza henchmen. There’s so much to love about this outing – the Japanese locales, the symbolism, and the music really set it apart.
Unlike Origins, “The Wolverine” is a self-contained story that actually focuses on Wolverine as a character. It’s a pretty straight forward plot: after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine is suicidal (weren’t we all?), but because of his healing powers and being immortal, it makes things kind of difficult, so he becomes a bum living in the woods instead. Then an elderly wealthy Japanese business man tracks him down and offers him a chance to grow old and die in exchange for saving his life years ago during WWII.
Logan, who is haunted by taking Jean Grey’s life, decides to take Yashida up on his offer, but upon arriving in Tokyo finds himself caught up in a conspiracy by Shingen to take over Yashida’s company. Wolverine is poisoned by a mutant called Viper, that neutralizes his healing ability. Despite his death wish, Logan finds a cause to live for in protecting Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko. Logan teams up with a mutant named Yukio (a woman with the ability to see the future) to take on the Silver Samurai.
Ultimately, Logan overcomes his grief and learns to embody the Code of Bushido: the way of the warrior.
One of my only problems with the movie is that it wasn’t rated R, because the general lack of blood in some of the fight scenes kinda bugs me. That said, I gotta give them credit for really pushing the PG-13 rating to its limit. There’s a pretty badass scene where Logan has to basically perform surgery on his own chest.
Another issue is that there could’ve been more ninjas. There’s an awesome scene where Logan’s fighting off an army of ninjas in the snow that harkens back to old samurai flicks like “Lone Wolf and Cub”, I just wish there was more of that.
I also feel like the final action sequence could have been a little bit better. The mech-suit was a bit much and Viper was unnecessary. That said, I really liked the moment where (spoiler) the Silver Samurai chops off Wolverine’s adamantium claws and then begins to drain the life out of him. Problem is – the very next movie in the timeline (“Days of Future Past”) has Logan back with the metal claws (supposedly thanks to Magneto).
All in all, there’s a lot of great character moments and action sequences. It’s a good comic adaptation with some really deep themes about life, death, love, and honor. “The Wolverine” is superior to Origins in every single way.
There’s also a pretty great end credit scene that leads into “Days of Future Past” which is arguably the best X-Men movie ever made. (more on that next time in Part 3!)
CZ: Here’s the thing about this movie. I really WANTED to like it. It bummed me out to see the franchise nose-dive after the first two movies and I wanted this to fix it really badly. But it’s just… kinda there.
It’s not nearly as offensively terrible as Origins, but it’s also just not very good. It’s nice to look at and has a couple of cool moments, but there’s a lot that just makes you kind of shrug. It’s a forgettable movie.
I have a few nitpicks (shocker!): what the hell was the idea with the Silver Samurai? I think they were like “some Japanese guy in a metal samurai suit will look silly; let’s make it a shitty Transformers knock-off!”. He looks stupid, and honestly other than cutting Wolverine’s claws off (what??) he is kind of pointless. Instead of a cunning, dangerous enemy it’s a robot suit. Ugh.
Viper is ridiculous. Yeah, she uses poisons and is an evil bitch with green hair like in the comics, but since when was Viper an actual snake lady? And why was she included in this story? She doesn’t add anything at all other than another special effect.
The removal of Wolverine’s adamantium was a huge, shocking event in the comics (Magneto pulled it out through the pores of his freaking skin). In the movie it just doesn’t really have any impact at all. We’re supposed to care, but when it happens it’s like “oh, I guess they’re doing that stuff”.
The whole “I killed Jean Grey now I wish I were dead” thing does not hold a drop of water and is completely unearned. He’s crushing on her in the first movie, awkwardly flirts with her in the second movie (in which she DIES), and then doesn’t have any meaningful interaction with her in the third ‘movie’ until the very end. And losing this woman, who he batted eyes at a few times and vice versa, robs him of his will to go on? Come on, man…
Also, in their attempt to adapt the excellent “Wolverine” mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, they failed completely. If they had just adapted the book straight-up it would have been a really good movie. But they messed around and thought they knew better and it’s infinitely inferior to the book. They totally short-changed a great story that would have given us some awesome moments so that they could merge that story with the continuity from X3 and the “Logan” mini-series by Brian K Vaughan and Eduardo Risso. Such a weird series of decisions.
(Speaking of continuity, this is where it all starts to fall apart. The post credits sequence shows Magneto and Xavier recruiting Wolverine to do something about Sentinels or whatever. Well, in the last movie in this universe Xavier died and Magneto lost his powers. And the next time we see Wolverine, in Days of Future Past, he’s got his metal claws back. So really, nothing matters.)
Really, this movie is just a series of weird decisions and missed opportunities. This should have been a bloody, intense ninja fight extravaganza with an epic fight with Shingen at the end. But instead it’s more of the same muddled mess with special effects that haven’t aged well, just like the rest of the franchise (although X2 still holds up pretty well).
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Logan / The Wolverine), Sir Patrick Stewart (Prof X cameo), Dafne Keen (X-23), Boyd Holbrook (Donald Pierce), Stephen Merchant (Caliban), Richard Grant (Doctor Rice), Eriq La Salle (Will Munson), and Hugh Jackman (X-24)
Plot: Logan is getting too old for this shit.
ComicZombie: Well if you’ve got to make a sequel to two underwhelming films and try to follow up the insanity that was Deadpool, this is a good way to start. Finally, FINALLY, we get to see the ‘R’ rated Wolverine movie we all were wanting, and it’s… actually pretty good.
I really think all of Wolverine’s solo movies should have had an ‘R’ rating. I mean, the guy has knives coming out of his hands, and all of his stories are full of murder and people being generally horrible to each other. What good does it do you to tone all of that down? Yeah, maybe you get the 13-year olds but really what percentage of the box office are they giving you? Sure, parents can take their kids to see Origins but if it’s a terrible movie with a watered down version of the character and his stories then who gives a shit? But you make a good movie with a good story AND it’s got the ability to show what happens to people that cross this guy with oh-so-much blood and dismemberment? Well, now you’re talking.
If you’re a huge fan of “Logan” you need to kneel at the altar of Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds and co, because the only reason this movie exists is due to the success of Deadpool. And really, you should be worshipping those guys already, cause Deadpool.
I was going to get into this big theory I have about how the new X-Men movie continuity can work and where which movie takes place in the timeline and all (since it seems to shit all over the happy ending of Days of Future Past), but I just don’t have the energy, and think I might do a totally separate article about the trainwreck that is the X-movie continuity. All we really need to know for this film is that a) it’s the future, b) Wolverine is old and his healing factor is failing him, leading to him slowly dying from adamantium poisoning, and c) there are no more X-Men.
Why are there no more X-Men? Well, turns out old Chuck Xavier is having seizures of a psychic nature, and the first one was so powerful that it killed everyone at the mansion.
Jesus fucking Christ, that’s dark.
I guess it’s not as dark as what happened to them in Old Man Logan, but still, damn.
Speaking of comics, what’s up with the X-Men comic in the movie? I didn’t get the impression from ANY of the movies that the X-Men were publicly known, much less popular, much less popular enough to support merchandise even AFTER they all ‘disappeared’. It’s just weird, and doesn’t seem to need to be in the film at all.
I was a little disappointed that the Reavers were kind of, sort of used, but not really. Yeah, the bad guys had a cyborg feel to them, and a few had cybernetic upgrades, but they weren’t nearly as flat-out nasty as the Reavers from the comics were. You know, the guys that tortured Wolverine and crucified him and left him to die of exposure in the desert? They’re pretty much relegated to plot devices and fodder in this movie. It’s cool to see them, but I would have liked more from them.
Other than that I don’t think I have any other complaints or nit-picks. I thought it was a stroke of genius to include X-23, and holy crap was she awesome! Just an adorable little ball of murder. And Keen does a really great job of bringing her to life. She is the driving force of the film, and her relationships with Xavier and Logan are terrific. I love how the Professor looks after her like a ‘just starting to go senile’ grandfather. And Logan’s reluctance to admit what she is to him and how he feels is a nice touch. This is a guy that just wants the ride to end, and he does NOT want to add the responsibility of taking care of a kid, much less HIS unknown kid (sort of), much less his unknown kid that is also a murder machine created by science that has black ops guys chasing her. He’s been there, done that. Many, many times. If he were a younger man, maybe…
Speaking of younger men (BAD segue), the real stroke of genius in this film, to me, isn’t the totally forgettable villains, it’s the totally UNforgettable weapon they use: X-24. X-24 is a fully functional clone of Wolverine (Logan’s worst nightmare) at his physical peak and with none of the morals or life experience that shaped the real deal. He’s just feral/berserker Wolverine all the time. And he is pretty terrifying. It’s too bad he murdered the Professor, but he’s such a cool villain that you almost forgive him. You can tell Jackman probably enjoyed pulling double-duty.
Speaking of the crazy murder-brained Professor, Patrick Stewart turns in the performance of his career (so does Jackman, who raises his game considerably to keep up). He should honestly be considered for an Oscar. The man who was known for his brain, his stoicism, and his ability to care for/about others and protect them is losing his mind, and with it his ability to control his powers, which not only keeps him from protecting those he cares about but actively puts them in great danger. He’s really great when he’s lucid, but it’s the moments of crazy where he really shines, ranting about Taco Bell and telling Logan to go fuck off. This is the last go for both Stewart and Jackman, and they both went out swinging.
In the end there are some things in the concept of the film I could take issue with, but this is a very well told, well executed movie that has some serious balls and really does a nice job of ending the story they started way back in the first X-Men (even though it’s weird that the X-Men essentially not only don’t accomplish their mission at all, but are killed by the guy that formed them- off camera). Usually trilogies start strong, have a strong sequel, and fizzle out at the end. The Wolverine trilogy is super weird in that it starts off with a movie so bad I’d rather watch a knee replacement surgery, has a better, but still kind of shitty, sequel, and somehow not only got a third movie, but finally got it right in the third movie.
Erik Smash: Logan is one of those rare comic book movies that completely transcends the genre. (Major spoilers ahead!)
As usual, Hugh Jackman absolutely delivers as Wolverine, but this might be one of his best performances. Patrick Stewart returns as an elderly Professor Xavier in a very different type of role. And newcomer Dafne Keen steals the show as “Laura” (X-23), a young girl that Logan must protect from a group of anti-mutant mercenaries known as The Reavers.
Although the story is inspired by the Mark Millar’s “Old Man Logan”, this movie takes the dark and disturbing tone of that tale, and goes in a completely different direction with it. Whereas “The Wolverine” felt like a samurai movie, “Logan” is a post-apocalyptic western.
Director James Mangold (“The Wolverine”) returns – this time however, with the R rating, he’s finally able to show a gritty and unleashed Wolverine going berserk on some faceless goons. Seriously, what more could you ask for?
I gotta admit, even though it’s objectively a great movie, it’s not actually my favorite X-Men movie, because (spoiler) this movie is depressing as hell. The entire X-Men franchise is about hope, it’s about overcoming adversity. “Logan” on the other hand is about despair and loss. It’s about a broken man in a fucked up world. There’s a lot of great things in this movie, but it also made some pretty weird choices.
In the movie, an older Logan is at the end of his rope. He’s lost so much over such a long life time. (He was born in the early 1800’s after all) Set in a future where the X-Men are no more and mutants are an endangered species. Wolverine is sworn to protect a senile Professor X – and to protect the world from his malfunctioning powers. It’s even hinted at that Charles may have even accidentally killed some of the X-Men during one of his episodes!
This brings me to my biggest complaint about the movie: which timeline is it set in? Presumably it takes place in the reset timeline following the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, but if so, it’s a little nihilistic and depressing when you consider how that movie ended (with a happy ending for all involved).
It would seem to make a lot more sense if this was set in the dark timeline where the Sentinels wiped out most of the mutants, but there’s some pretty obvious problems with that being the case as well, since there was no reference to the Sentinel program. So unless it’s in a separate timeline all together, the movie is implying that either way, the X-Men have no hope for a future… But who knows, it could always be revealed later that Cyclops and the others simply went into hiding. Guess we’ll have to wait and see what they do next with the series!
One of my favorite moments is actually how it ends with (spoiler) Logan giving his life to save his daughter, Laura (X-23). It’s an extremely heart wrenching scene because of this genuine father / daughter moment, but it’s also a call back to “The Wolverine” – in that movie, Yukio had a vision and said that Logan would die with his heart in his hand…
I also absolutely loved the reveal of the main villain: X-24 (spoiler) a savage clone of Wolverine in his prime! The scene was shocking and fucked up, but I honestly have to say I did not see that coming!
All in all, it was a good farewell to an awesome character.
Directed by: Tim Miller
Starring: Ryan Reynolds (Wade Wilson, the merc with a mouth himself), Ed Skrein (“Ajax” aka Francis), T.J. Miller (Weasel), Morena Baccarin (Vanessa), Stefan Kapicic (Colossus), Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead), Gina Carano (Angel Dust), Leslie Uggams (Blind Al), Karan Soni (Dopinder, the taxi guy), Jed Rees (the recruiter), Hugh Jackman’s face, Rob Hayter (Bob – from Jacksonville) and Stan Lee! (as a strip club DJ?!)
Plot: Deadpool cusses, shoots people, scratches his balls and breaks the fourth wall on the big screen!
Erik Smash: Disclaimer – this movie is not for everyone, in fact it’s DEFINITELY NOT for kids, but for my money it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time.
Holy fuck! This movie is perfect.
It’s not only one of the most successful Rated R movies ever, it’s also one of the best interpretations of a comic book on film, ever made. After the extremely disappointing handling of Deadpool in the aforementioned “X-Men Origins”, Ryan Reynolds returns to make things right, this time with break out director, Tim Miller.
Ryan Reynolds IS Deadpool! He really gets the character’s sick sense of humor and even manages to pull off some unexpected emotional beats. Probably the most amazing thing about this movie is that it embraces the character’s tendency to break the fourth wall. It’s a tongue in cheek, self aware and in your face. The movie even pokes fun at the other X-Men movies!
There’s really not much more I can say (without ruining it) except that (if you’re old enough and not easily offended) you need to watch this movie.
ComicZombie: I mean… come on. This movie is damn near a perfect representation of the character, it’s hilarious, it’s super violent, it has great references and cameos, and Ryan Reynolds is meant to play this character in the way that Patrick Stewart was meant to be Professor X or Robert Downey Jr was meant to be Tony Stark.
It has great action, great montages, truly funny humor, heart, a great romance (sort of? it’s at least genuine), and has Morena Baccarin, which warms my Firefly-loving heart.
The opening titles are amazing, as we get a slow motion pan through the chaos and carnage of a car accident that Deadpool is causing (and inside) and says things like “Starring God’s Perfect Idiot” and “Featuring a British villain” and “A completely CGI character”. It’s genius.
There were great references to the previous X-Men films (and non-X-Men films), and even more importantly great jokes about them. It’s self aware, never too serious, and a lot of fun, just like Deadpool. It’s pretty perfect.
It even has the best Stan Lee cameo, where he’s a DJ at a strip club. ‘Nuff said.
It’s the highest grossing “R” rated film of all time, if you can believe it, and it earned it. It even has a just-released sequel (that is fucking amazing, but we’ll get to it another time) and seems to be leading to an X-Force movie, which blows my mind.
Up next: we delve into the new (and far better) X-Men trilogy: First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse!