Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Films I’m Looking Forward To This Year

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So last week I released my list of books that I’m most looking forward to (probably not) reading this year. So I decided, as it’s that time of the month when I need to create a list of 10 random things, that it was only fair that I put down on e-paper the films that I’m most excited to see this year. It turns out that was really fucking hard. There are a lot of great films coming out and I’m super excited about all of them. Even really surprising ones. I mean, had you asked me this time last year, that I’d be quite looking forward to seeing Michael Keaton star in the story of the founder of McDonalds I’d have thought you were mad. Now, however, I think it looks pretty good. I mean I love Keaton and it stars the internet’s favourite man’s man Nick Offerman. Plus, there was a point when I didn’t think I wanted to see The Social Network but that turned out better than expect. I also, even more shockingly, became fairly interested in the Justice League film. I’m still not ecstatic about the release because the last two films in DC’s arsenal were utter dogshit. I think it’s basically just down to Jason Momoa though. And Batfleck. But, before I get distracted by sexy superheroes, I should present the list… with more than enough sexy superheroes.
Ten: War for the Planet of the Apes

I really enjoyed 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes back in 2011. The rebooted franchise has created some fantastic pequels so I’m incredibly keen to see what’s coming next.

Nine: Blade Runner 2049

Of course I’m excited about the prospect of Harrison Ford returning to the role of Rick Deckard but there is still a part of me that worries. It’s been a long time. Still, everything we’ve seen so far looks good and gives a positive feeling. Plus, director Denis Villeneuve directed last year’s Arrival which everyone seemed to fucking love. So it’s probably in safe hands.

Eight: Murder on the Orient Express

Probably not going to be top of too many people’s lists but I think I’m going to enjoy this one. It’s Kenneth Branagh directing himself and a shitload of really famous actors to retell the classic Hercule Poirot tale. Yes, we all know who did it but that’s not the point. It’s about watching our favourite Belgian detective work out those “leetle grey cells” to figure it out. And, at this point, I think I’d allow Branagh to play anybody.

 Seven: Alien: Covenant

I know it received mixed reviews but I kinda liked Prometheus. I mean it was a bit of a fucking mess but, for the most part, I think it was a decent film. I get why people were upset though. It was billed as the epic prequel to one of the best films ever made but it didn’t even feature the titular alien creature. So, this year’s follow up should make amends for that if the poster is anything to go by. Really, this could be a retelling of the first Alien film and this would fair better than Prometheus. Plus, you know, Michael Fassbender is fucking weird in this role.

 Six: Logan Lucky

I’m kinda getting sick of Steven Soderbergh telling us he’s retiring and then making another film. Or at least I would be sick of it if it wasn’t for the idea of another Soderbergh film. It’s been 4 years since he made the announcement and now he’s back making a comedy about a robbery duing a NASCAR race. It’s got an interesting and star-studded line-up. What we know about the plot sounds kinda ropey but it’s fucking Soderbergh. How can you ignore it?

Five: Thor: Ragnorak

I know Thor isn’t everyone’s favourite part of the MCU but I’m a massive fan of his first film. I think the second was kind of dodgy but I still have faith in this series. The huge-armed Norse God is back for his third film and, for anyone that knows anything about Norse mythology will know, Ragnorok can only mean trouble. Thankfully, Thor is helped by his pal the Hulk and Marvel’s newest sign-up Doctor Strange. We’ve lost the unnecessary and bland Jane but I’m sure nobody, Natalie Portman included, is crying about that.

Four: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy was a sort of surprisingly huge hit when it came out 3 years ago. It introduced us to the ragtag bunch of people who accidentally get caught up in trying to save the world. Their second film promises much of the things that made the first one great so obviously I’m excited. But, as we’ve learnt by now, Marvel sequels don’t have the greatest track record. I mean, to date, only 1 follow-up manages to equal/improve on the first film: The Winter Soldier. At the worst we have Iron Man 2 (happily improved upon with Iron Man 3) but the rest were all just kind of meh. So, I do have a fear that Guardians 2 will just try and replay all of it’s greatest hits without offering up any new material. As much as I love him, I need more than just “I am Groot” but said in a baby voice now.

Three: Spider-Man: Homecoming

If Civil War taught us anything it was that a Marvel controlled Spider-Man film could be the best thing ever. Then the trailer for Homecoming was released and it definitely backed up the claim. Tom Holland looks set to steal Andrew Garfield’s crown as best portrayal of the web-slinger. Still, this is the 3 time in about 15 years that this franchise has been rebooted and it’s the 3 different actor to lend his face to the role. I’m not sure it was necessary and, more worryingly, I feel that Marvel are pushing Tony Stark too much. Maybe his role will work in the film as a whole but, from what we’ve seen so far, this could very easily become the Iron Man show. And that would be an injustice.

Two: Star Wars Episode 8 

Well, duh! Rogue One was the best Star Wars film to be released since the originals and it got me incredibly excited for what’s coming next. The Force Awakens did a great job of bringing us back into the world but left so many things unanswered. This is the time to find out. Plus, it’s directed by Rian Johnson who also did Brick and Looper so we’re in pretty safe hands.  

One: Logan

There was really no other choice for the number 1 spot. Logan is a key film this year for so many reasons. Mostly because, after 17 years, Hugh Jackman is finally saying goodbye to the character. It’s so weird to think that he’s been playing the guy for so long. He basically is Wolverine at this point. I can’t imagine anyone else having taken the character this far if Jackman hadn’t got the role. Add to that the fact that it’s the character’s first film to receive an R-rating. Last year’s Deadpool showed us that it’s no bad thing to make comic book movies just for adults so it feels right that Jackman should get to show us what Logan can really do for this final time. The comic book Wolverine was always an incredibly violent character and that’s not really been able to come across in any of the others. We need to see him really letting his anger out. I’m so fucking pumped for this film.


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I’ve been no help whatsoever today. I was at work at 7 and I managed to spill not 1, not 2 but 4 drinks all over the place. It’s been a tough few days where we’ve had loads of customers and not enough staff. Really fucking frustrating but we got through it. So, it explains why all I’ve done since I got home is nap. It’s pathetic but I needed it. It does, however, mean I’m really late with this post. Which actually sees me finish a book for a change. It’s a joyous occasion but I’ve just got through my first Man Booker 2016 nominee. Now is the difficult choice of what to read next. I have too many great options. Hopefully I’ll get through it quicker now I’ve had the two interviews for the job I applied for. Still haven’t heard but silently hopeful. In preparation for the second interview I’ve been obsessively listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and I’m stuck in another endless cycle of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s genius. It’s so fucking good though. My favourite song changes daily. I’d do anything to get tickets for it’s UK run. I don’t hold out much hope though.

Just Finished

  • His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Fucking hell! I’ve finally done it! It’s over. And, despite how long it took me, I really enjoyed it. I’d have to say it’s my pick for the Man Booker Prize but, then again, it’s the only nominee I’ve read so it means nothing.

Recently Purchased

  • Selection of second hand Pocket books
 Like any other self-respecting bibliophile, I have a pretty strong collection of vintage penguin books. My favourites are, obviously, the classic colour block covers but it can’t be denied that all of theirs books are fucking gorgeous. There’s a vintage books website I like to peruse from time to time to spot any bargains and this time I wasn’t disappointed. I managed to find quite the haul: The Man With My Face by Samuel W. Taylor; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; Maigret Mystified by George Simenon; and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. They’re all bloody beautiful and you’ll no doubt see them on my Instagram some time soon.
  • Penguin Sherlock Holmes collection
I finished work with time to kill before my train the other day so, on a whim, I went into one of my local charity shops. I may sound melodramatic but that simple decision changed my fucking life. As soon I walked in my eye was drawn to a complete boxed set of Penguin Sherlock Holmes books. I barge past all of the other OAP shoppers to get my hands on it and I held it as if my life depended on it until I paid for it. It cost £10 and it was the best £10 I’ve ever spent. I love it.

  • The GCHQ Puzzle Book – GCHQ
I fell in love with this book as soon as I saw it on the shelf. It was beautiful. It also contains a fucking huge amount of puzzles that I’m really not qualified to attempt. But that’s not going to stop me. The GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) is an intelligence and security agency that is full of super intelligent people. They love puzzles obviously so this book is filled with brain teasers of different difficulties and tips on how to get into the mindset of codebreaker. There’s also a competition to find Britain’s smartest puzzler. Considering how badly I’ve done on my brief read through, I don’t need the GCHQ to tell me that’s not me.
Recently Watched
  • Logan trailer
Holy shit! I knew I was going to love the final time Hugh Jackman will appear as Wolverine. I also knew it was going to be sad because that guy has done wonders with this character. I mean for he past 16 years Hugh Jackman has been Logan. It’s incredible. So the trailer makes it seem like we’re in for an epic ride. It also proves that there isn’t anything that old Johnny Cash can’t make better. I’m beginning to suspect his American Recordings are the best thing that has ever been recorded.And Stephen Merchant as Caliban? How fucking awesome does he look? I can’t wait. March 2017 has never felt so far away. 

  • Guardians of the Galaxy teaser
Yesterday I was criticised by a co-worker because I hadn’t seen this trailer yet but, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered. Teaser trailers are rarely anything to get excited by. The only two that have given me real tingles were The Force Awakens and Days of Future Past. This teaser didn’t exactly make me more excited for the sequel to GOTG but it also didn’t make me any less excited. It was fine… gratuitous use of mini Groot aside, of course. That was just disgusting pandering.
  • Black Mirror Series 3
The new series of Charlie Brooker’s fucking awesome TV show came to Netflix on Friday night. I watched the majority of the first episode as I got ready for work on Saturday and finished the rest before I went to sleep on Saturday night. I was fucking exhausted at work today but it was so worth it. This is not just great TV but it’s clever and thought provoking. It’s augmented but it’s all stuff that you could genuinely see happen in the next few years. It’s harrowing. No wonder I had such difficult sleeping last night!

  • Peep Show
I decided to watch the last season of Peep Show last week and, it nothing else, it just made me miss the first 3 series when the show was actually really good. So I decided to watch them again. As of today I’ve looped back round to the last season again. I’d feel ashamed but it was so worth it. Except season 4. That series is just utter shit.

TBT – X Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

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I’ve read a lot of mixed criticism about Deadpool since I watched it last weekend. It’s upsetting because, whilst it does have its flaws, it was a refreshing addition to the comic book genre. Yes, it’s not going to change anything and, unless it comes up with a few stronger ideas, it won’t become Fox’s new big franchise. However, it should be said that it definitely made up for Deadpool’s first cinematic appearance. It’s been 7 years since the unrecognisable version of the character appeared in Wolverine’s origin story but the hurt still runs as deep as ever. Ryan Reynolds knew he had to get this movie made to apologise to fans like him for allowing Fox to fuck up such an iconic and loved character. If you ask me, he more than did… and, considering how much ground he had to make up, that’s a fucking huge achievement.

After all the of the success of the first two X-Men films it was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine who stood out most for fans. Audiences loved Jackman’s portrayal of the straight-talking Canadian so it made sense, from a financial point of view, to make a standalone Logan film. Although, I question why we needed to revisit his origin story when we’d already seen that in X2. It’s a story we’ve been shown from the first film so it seems redundant to go over this ground again.

Still, it does give us a fantastic opening scene where we see Logan fighting in multiple wars, jumping through the years. It’s a stunning, if incredibly hard-to-follow, sequence that shows the sheer breadth of his life. Then we stop in a more recent year to revisit a story we already know. Although, this time Logan’s not alone. This time he’s joined by a half-brother in misguided and desperate attempt to utilise some of the previous films’ characters. Going against the canon already set by Fox and the comic books, turns out Logan is related to Victor Creed, aka Sabretooth. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either but what the fuck can we do about it now.

Now during their many years of military service, Logan and Victor see a lot of death. Victor gets a taste for blood and the pair end up in front of a firing squad. As both have healing abilities, they are imprisoned and taken under the wing of William Stryker for his secret team. They are joined by a few fellow mutants (mostly forgettable and underdeveloped) and a wisecracking mercenary, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). They do a few jobs for Stryker before Logan sees the light and leaves. Opting out of professional killing and living in the middle of nowhere with his lady love, Kayla (Lynn Colins).

Although, it’s no big surprise to anyone that his perfect life goes tits up and Stryker pulls him back in for a mission of revenge. Along the way he undergoes the all too familiar experiment that bonds metal to his skeleton and meets a few new faces. Unfortunately, there is nothing in Origins that isn’t just a massive comic book cliché. It’s all just too familiar and, frankly, really fucking boring. None of the new characters are given any real introduction or depth. All of the returning ones are just floundering.

Even Logan, when you set him apart from the rest of the X-Men, doesn’t necessarily scream main man. He needs the rest of the team to bounce off. What made him so good in the first two was the way he argued with do-gooder Scott, flirted with Jean, and saw through Xavier’s slightly pompous image. When he’s leading the show he wears a little thin and the whole escapade just seems like its missing something. Not that Hugh Jackman doesn’t play the part well, it’s just that the character is too much of a side-kick to be able to handle a full-narrative.

This film makes so many mistakes that it’s just outrageous. Bryan Singer’s films were so successful because they revived the camp superhero genre into a serious and noteworthy affair. After The Last Stand undid most of that works, Origins almost destroys any credibility the franchise had left. The fight sequences are shot in the most absurd manner that means its almost impossible to follow, the CGI is more than a bit dodgy and the script is so cringe worthy you should probably watch with the sound off. No matter how hard Hugh Jackman tries to keep it together, Origins is just X-2‘s tired, bloated and embarrassing older brother.

To paraphrase the man himself, Wolverine may be the best there is at what he does” but, as Origins more than proves, what he does best isn’t very nice.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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(Sorry it’s another long one.)

As I’ve already spent time on here trying to prove that we owe a lot to Bryan Singer and his early adaptations of Marvels’ mutant heroes. Without the well-made and still brilliant X-Menback in 2000 we quite probably wouldn’t have been treated to such cinematic delights as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night trilogy, Joss Whedon’s Avengers and the revamped Amazing Spider-Man. Singer was the guy who, after the heartbreak from Joel Schumacher’s reign of terror, reminded us that comic book films could be great. The moment he stepped away from the franchise was when it all started to go wrong. So I have been on tenterhooks ever since it was announced that Bryan Singer would be back to direct this sequel to 2011’s acclaimed X-Men FirstClass. Add to that the fact that it would be an adaptation of the brilliant ‘Days of Future Past’ storyline and we have a painstaking wait for the release date on our hands. I watched the trailers so many times that I was acting them out in private doing my best P. Stew impression.

Singer’s film takes inspiration from the 80s storyline that saw Kitty Pryde’s consciousness being sent back to her past self in order to prevent a horrific dystopian future. However, with the dismal Last Stand showing Kitty (Ellen Page) to be only about 20, there was always going to be a problem creating a sequel to First Class that centred on her character. Step forward everyone’s favourite magnetic Canadian and we have a guaranteed hit with film audiences.

Opening with scenes of an apocalyptic future where a small band of mutants, some very familiar, are going to great efforts to avoid the deadly and now adaptable Sentinels. They are soon discovered by ex-headmaster Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and ex-villain Magneto (Ian McKellan) who have a plan to prevent the moment that started this horrific chain of events. Using Kitty’s newly discovered power to send people’s minds back in time, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to his 70s body to gather the younger Charles (James McAvoy) and Eric  (Michael Fassbender) together to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) fucking everything up by shooting the creator of the aforementioned Sentinels.

Queue plenty of 70s paraphernalia, including lava lamps, flairs and questionable hair styles. I read a review that suggested Days of Future Past didn’t have as much fun with recreating its chosen era as First Class did. Having seen the film twice I can only assume that the critic responsible missed the previous films historically accurate but fucking ridiculous misogyny and objectification of women. Singer does everything he has to do to show that Wolverine is back in time without needing to continually force his female cast to strip off unnecessarily.
Instead, Singer focuses on plot and has gone to great lengths to ensure that the potentially confusing time-travel narrative doesn’t get out of control. The two timeframes are handled beautifully and come together perfectly. The film’s climax, where the action jumps between past and future, is expertly conducted and provides the first time in 15 years that Storm (Halle Berry) becomes as awesome as she is in the comics. He has great control of the special effects and, unlike plenty of these films, doesn’t get bogged down with gratuitous action sequences. Under Singer’s firm hand, everything happens to help the narrative move forward. Of course there is the usual check-list of things X-Men clichés and there is something of a bloat of in-jokes to keep the hardcore fans happy. However, there are also so many fantastic things: the introduction of Blink, whose power is used fantastically in the future battle sequences; terrifying Sentinels; a sharp script and exciting cameos.
Without a doubt, the film’s stand out sequence is the scene in which the newly introduced Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is shown diffusing a tense situation in bullet time set to Jim Croce’s ‘Time in a Bottle’. It’s a fucking beautiful scene and is incredibly funny. Had someone told me prior to my first viewing that Evan Peters would have the standout performance in this film I’d have slapped them for being so absurd. However, the brief moments that Quicksilver is on screen show that the character has great potential in future films. So much so that I’m terrified of the way Marvel will handle the character in Avengers 2.  Peters made the character his own and I was genuinely sad when Xavier sent him on his way early on.
Since, despite having a cast of great names, of both the acting and comic book worlds, this film is all about James McAvoy. McAvoy made a fine start in First Class but was outshone by his more prominent co-stars. Here we see Charles Xavier as we have never seen him before: both physically and emotionally broken and without his powers. He rejects his purpose and is willing to turn his back on his future. McAvoy is mesmerising as he struggles to reconnect with the two people who turned their back on him. Even alongside the physically intimidating and much loved Wolverine, McAvoy comes out as one of the standout stars.
An even more impressive task considering the legendary Patrick Stewart, the name that will forever be synonymous with Xavier’s, is back along with his partner in crime Ian McKellan. Ever since the post-credits scene after The Wolverine (after which I felt compelled to applaud) I have been impatient to see their return. I have always appreciated the fact that these two classically trained actors have never approached this material in anything but a professional manner. Having Stewart and McKellen on screen in these roles is a fucking joy to watch and, during the films climactic moments, nearly had me in tears. It’s always great seeing amazing actors in roles that they clearly enjoy.
A quality that you can always appreciate about Hugh Jackman: no matter how terrifying his continually pumped body gets (seriously it’s beginning to worry me. Look how veiny he is in this film. Step away from the weights Hugh) he always has fun with the character. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a great deal to do here. Wolverine is left to take his shirt off and act as little more than the facilitator to the younger generation. This could have been worked with anyone being in his place but I guess it’s always nice to see the ole bone claws every now and then.
Wolverine goes back to prevent Mystique from assassinating Trask and causing the government to take greater action against the mutants. One would assume this would be good news for all J Law fans but I have to say I was utterly disappointed with the way she was used. Despite a few awesome fight sequences, Mystique had very little to work with. There is little explanation for her sudden descent into super villainy and no real attempt to further flesh out the character from the first film. There are hints at a relationship with Magneto and a tiny reference to her history with Hank but nothing to excite. J Law is really just going through the motions here.
This is something of a problem with the film as it has such a large cast to work with that many end up getting swept under the carpet. You know you’ve got too many characters when you introduce someone as fucking cool as Bishop only to have him do nothing. It’s fucking criminal. I mean Peter Dinklange is one of the greatest actors working at the moment and his casting as Boliver Trask, designer of the mutant killing robots that haunted all of our childhood dreams, seemed like pure genius. For some unknown reason Dinklage turns up for the odd political meeting where he spouts on about mutants and robots and then just stands around. I don’t understand what these people were thinking. Great actors deserve great roles even in the fantasy world of mutants, robots and time travel.
Likewise Michael Fassbender is once again unable to really get to grips with the supposedly evil Magneto and is only given one sequence of slight conflict. This is Fassbender’s second time playing with the mental manipulator and he has failed to come close to greatness he briefly displayed in the opening moments of First Class. This wasn’t Magneto’s film, I know, but there still doesn’t feel like there is any connection between Fass and McKellen’s truly villainous version besides their name and power. With an actor of Fassbender’s calibre you could create a fucking gruesome nemesis (I mean this is the man who appalled us in 12 Years a Slave after all) if only you gave him something to do besides making a football stadium float.

To be fair though the floating stadium is a pretty amazing visual. It’s the closest Singer gets to unnecessary but it stands for everything this film is about. Days of Future Past flirts with darkness in the opening sequence (we see death, destruction and a glimpse of mutant prison camps) but it is all about fun. It’s the film that comes closest to the feeling and tone of the original comics whilst remaining sophisticated and well-crafted.

It’s been just over a week since Days of Future Past was released in the UK and I’ve already had to fit in a double viewing. It’s safe to say that Bryan Singer has more than made amends for the disappointing Super Man Returns and returned to near enough his comic book best. Unfortunately, Days of Future Pastis, undeniably, a flawed film: it ignores some of its better cast members and characters and sometimes gets a little too self-indulgent. However, it’s exactly what it should be: an unashamedly joyous, exciting and well-made superhero movie. You finally get the sense that, after 15 years of trying to avoid it, Bryan Singer is finally comfortably with the idea of making a comic book movie and it’s entertaining as fuck.

The Wolverine (2013)

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The Wolverinemarks Hugh Jackman’s fourth (fifth if you insist on counting the shameless cameo in First Class) outing as the mutton-chopped mutant and, after the disappointing Origins four years ago, it had a lot to prove. For those who have read my brief historyof X-Men movies will know, I didn’t hate Origins as much as the average person appeared to. So yes, the plot was weak and confused about what it was trying to do. Yes, there were a lot of characters added and destroyed without any attempt to give them any depth. However, despite the huge list of faults, I sort of enjoyed it. Especially after the travesty that was Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand. Yes, it may have something to do with my unquenching love of Remy LeBeau but there were some good moments. If nothing else, I certainly think there was enough to Origins to suggest that a Wolverine centric film was possible. Despite the many differing opinions that came out after its release. So there was really just one major question that director James Mangold and co needed to address: would that film be The Wolverine?

Unlike its predecessor which, obviously, took a look into Logan’s lengthy past, The Wolverine picks up some time after the events of Last Stand. It starts off in fairly similar territory to First Class where, instead of an angry and brooding Magneto seeking vengeance, we find Logan doing his best Grizzly Man impression. Plagued by heavenly visions of his lost love, an even hairier than normal Wolverine spends his days mooching about in the mountains feeling sorry for himself with a bear serving as his only friend. After his companion meets a very grizzly end we see a glimpse of the mutant we remember when Logan comes out of hiding to seek revenge on the hunter’s responsible.
The plot then moves us to Japan after the mysterious Yukio (Rila Fukushima) whisks our hero off to the bedside of her dying employer, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). Through several flashbacks we learn that Logan saved Yashida from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and now, as the old man lies dying, he wishes to say his goodbye face to face. Rather than simply presenting a sword to his saviour, he offers to take on Logan’s accursed healing ability in order to provide him with a mortal existence. For the sake of making a substantial film, Wolverine refuses and the old man dies hours later. In the preceding days all hell breaks lose and the grumpy metallic mutant must race through a series of stereotypically Japanese settings in order to protect Yashida’s meek granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) from pretty much everyone else in Japan.
One of the greatest things about anything involving Wolverine is Hugh Jackman. His dedication to and love for this character is clear to see. Especially when he finds himself more vulnerable than he is used to and has to deal with the consequences of a possible mortal existence. This film, more than his previous outings, gives Jackman the chance to give the world’s favourite mutant a human side. It’s Jackman’s own likeability and clear enjoyment of everything he’s asked to do that has led to the character being so well received by audiences. Just like Robert Downey Jr. has become synonymous Iron Man, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. There has never been a hint that he has given anything less to this role than he would to a more traditional genre and it’s always fun to watch him striking down his enemies with his galvanised bone claws. He puts his all into the role. Something that can be most obviously seen in his overly ripped new body. It’s obviously a source of great pride for both the actor and the film-makers as every scene Logan stars in there seems to be a problem with his shirt staying in place.
Although that might have something to do with the sheer number of fights his manages to get himself into. They come so thick and fast that it becomes painfully obvious that Mangold had such a little amount of faith in the overall product that he felt the need to distract his audience with an endless supply of over-the-top action sequences. That is not to say that these aren’t enjoyable moments. The film’s stand-out sequence takes place a top the speeding bullet train where Logan must face off against a gaggle of evilly inclined men whilst avoiding the many obstacles along the way. Yes, it may be nothing more than a CGI fuelled romp but it is one of the best ‘fighting on a train’ moments in cinematic history. Logan really gets the chance to dig his claws in and show just what he is capable of.
Of course, the problem with a standalone Wolverine film isn’t the character himself as many have suggested. The major problem is laziness. Just like Captain Jack from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Wolverine became a firm favourite with fans which has turned him into nothing more than a way to bring money in. Neither The Wolverinenor his first solo outing have been given the care and attention that the previous instalments were given. Clearly Mangold wasn’t as invested in the project as he should have been and his direction is at best lacklustre and at worst outrageously laughable. It’s easy to understand why the positive moments are forgotten when you compare them to the worst. Take for example the moment when Wolverine is struggling to save Mariko while ninjas impale him with poisoned arrows. Seeing Logan slowly make his way up the hill with ropes coming off his back like a freaky rope hedgehog is one of the stupidest scenes I’ll probably ever see on film. You have to question what Mangold thought he was doing in these moments.
Like the decision to include those dream sequences where Logan discusses his issues with an ethereal Jean Grey. Famke Janssen turns up wearing a slinky white negligee to remind us all why Logan was undertaking a hermit existence during the first section. Aside from getting the chance to place a camera in direct sight of the dearly departed Jean’s chest, these scenes add little to the overall narrative. If anything they are distracting and cloying. It’s a horrible clichéd and lazy method to give the main character some depth and emotional turmoil. These scenes become nothing more than a horribly cheesy and silly way to keep the film within the canon and attempt to prove that there is a softer side beneath the muscles and glower.
When it comes to The Wolverine the biggest disappointment has to be the lack of convincing villain. Yukio and, at a pinch, Mariko aside the supporting cast have no character development. The list of enemies working against Wolverine is a long one and includes an incredibly suspect blonde doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a ninja bowman Harada (Will Yun Lee) and Mariko’s jealous sword-wielding father (Hiroyuki Sanada). Although it never really becomes clear what is motivating any of them. In fact, in some cases their motivations seem to conflict with their actions so it is completely incomprehensible why they make the choices they do. As cool as Harada seems when he is introduced wearing a hoodie, flinging arrows at baddies and racing across rooftops, he quickly becomes a pointless addition to the plot. On the one hand he is serving Yashida and on the other he is in love with Mariko; how he decides to follow creepy blonde doctor is an utter mystery.
Blonde doctor has way more potential once she reveals herself to be Viper (or at least a terrible version of Viper) but, once again she is given no real chance to develop. There is never a point where she seems as though she’s going to be a real danger. She has very little memorable moments aside from that one fairly gross scene where she sheds her skin. We know nothing about where she came from or why she is doing what she’s doing. A superhero film needs more than just a great protagonist and with antagonists like this you have to ask why Wolverine even bothered making the effort.
In fact, the only welcome new addition to the cast is Fukushima as the very manga Yukio. A mutant with the ability to see the moment when a person dies she is also very handy with a sword. With her shocking red hair and anime schoolgirl-inspired clothing, she provides a much needed injection of energy and excitement. Watching her whip and weave and slice her enemies is both an energetic feat and a treat for the eyes. It looks set to be a great partnership is she makes it into any following X-Men/Wolverine projects. Undoubtedly she is one of only good things to come out of the uninspired final act is her showdown with Viper. Without her it simply descends into a chaotic mix of robots, ninjas and plot twists that have been signposted since before the opening credits. Clearly by this point the makers had decided that their audience were so exhausted with the previous mass of fights that the final showdown didn’t matter… provided you amp up the fighting and the danger. Logan is basically going through the motions and trying to get out of here as soon as possible.
Which is exactly the feeling that most of the critics had upon watching. For my part I can understand why they felt disappointed in this second attempt to give Wolverine a solo film that he deserved. It’s better than Origins but, compared to the great X-Men ensemble pieces this just doesn’t seem good enough. Although, I can’t deny that I bloody enjoyed this film. As you’ve just read, I had my issues with the overall slickness and quality of the film but, ultimately, I left feeling satisfied enough. I mean you’ve got Wolverine facing off against ninja and yakuza for 2 hours. How can that fail to provide even a modicum of excitement in an audience of comic book fans?
It falls down because, in an age of incredibly good superhero movies, Mangold and his team just didn’t give the genre the care and attention it deserved. The narrative is mechanical, the dialogue is fairly uninspired and most of the characters are mainly used for window-dressing. Thankfully this film has one major lifeline in the shape of Hugh Jackman. He’s played Logan since 2000 and it’s become second nature to him. Despite obviously being able to pull of a performance without any effort he still plays the role with as much gusto and effort as he would in the early days. This is Wolverine’s film and, I for one, hope we see more of the man with metal bones for a few more outings… just without the underlying impression that this is simply about exploiting fans for as little effort as possible.

X-Men: A short history of Marvel’s mutants in movies.

comic book, Marvel, summary, Wolverine, X-Men

I sat down in front of my computer with the intention of writing a witty and charmingly disorganised review of X-Men: First Class. Instead I found myself delving into the history of the relationship between the popular Marvel series and the cinema. Turns out I had quite a few issues to work out in terms of the later two films. So apologies for this impromptu therapy session but getting this out in the open has prepared me to write a decent enough analysis of the latest mutant outing.

The history of cinematic adaptations of Marvel’s popular band of heroic mutants is certainly a chequered one. It all started with the good but definitely not outstanding X-Men in 2000. Bryan Singer came on board to direct and, in my opinion, his lack of interest in the comic book series made the film. Singer had something to prove with his first foray into the world of comic-book heroes after his follow up to his hugely popular The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, failed to make it. Singer’s interest in the franchise came about because of it’s references to prejudice and discrimination. X-Men was a decent film that suffered thanks to the inevitable need to introduce the key characters and concepts. Just as Batman Begins wonderfully led the way for the outstanding sequel The Dark Knight, X-Men set us up for an exciting follow up, that was to become the wonderful X2. This film kicked off the franchise and brought life back into superhero films after Joel Schumacher’s disastrous turn threatened to remove all life from it. Singer showed that films based around popular comic book characters didn’t just have to be loud, colourful and silly. They could be clever, a little bit more serious and very well made.

Singer’s 2003 sequel X2 is often quoted in lists of great comic book movies and for very obvious reasons. The film delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Wolverine’s past and reasserts the importance of the themes that were so strong in the first film. It is a very well made film and, though it is far from perfect, the plot really increases the pace after the more sedate opener. The script was inspired by the story of the 1982 graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills in which Reverend William Stryker stirs up religious anti-mutant feeling and attempts to wipe out all of mutant kind (Incidentally, this is still one of the finest X-Men graphic novels. I thoroughly suggest having a read if you fancy that sort of thing. It is where the idea that mutant/human relations should be read as a metaphor for race relations really comes to the forefront.). The rules changed in the second film and the X-Men didn’t find themselves fighting one and other but teaming up to fight ‘the Man’. The great cast are much more comfortable in their roles here and Singer knows how to use them. McKellen and Stewart add a touch of class to proceedings whilst offering the perfect amount of ham in their portrayal of the characters Magneto and Professor X respectively. It clearly looks like both actors, McKellen in particular, had a fantastic time whilst filming and I love their performances. X2 showed cinema goers what comic book films could really be. It’s smart, very well made and, lest we forget, contains one of cinema’s finest cliff-hangers and paves the way for an eagerly anticipated third installment.

Unfortunately, that third installment was X-Men The Last Stand (2006). This was the first film to be made without Singer’s input (after he jumped ship to make Superman Returns. Turned out really well for you there Bryan. Good choice.) and it is the silliest X-Men film ever made. After X2, Singer was keen to make a third and fourth film in his franchise and, before he left, he had already started working on a Phoenix based narrative. There were plans to make more of the younger characters (Rogue, Iceman and Pyro) and the intention was to introduce new characters, including a Sigourney Weaver shaped Emma Frost (that sounds both awesome and horrific to me) and Keanu Reeves’ interpretation of Gambit (really glad this didn’t happen. I love Gambit and I greatly dislike Reeves. He’s nowhere near as charming as our favourite Cajun). After his exit, new writers were brought in and a plan to include parts of the ‘Gifted’ storyline from Joss Whedon’s phenomenal Astonishing X-Men was suggested to take centre-stage. Brett Ratner took his place in the empty director’s chair and filming commenced in 2005. I admit that the plot, revolving around a pharmaceutical company’s development of a mutant cure, had a great deal of potential but X2 had so obviously and expertly set us up for a roller coaster ride with Dark Phoenix. The terrible decision to make this a secondary plot point was an absolute travesty and one of the most dangerous and powerful characters from the series was utterly wasted. Neither story, ‘Gifted’ or The Dark Phoenix Saga, are given enough time or respect to be played out to their full potential. The first two films were beloved in part because of their subtlety and intelligence. This film basically comes down to blowing shit up. There are too many ideas that are being introduced at once and the consequences of both narratives are glossed over in order to get back to the lengthy and, often, unnecessary action sequences. Ratner’s direction was to the point but lacklustre. Any of the emotion and heart that the first two films contained was replaced with action sequences and special effects. The third film was loud, fast paced and confused about what story it was trying to tell. It is a film that could have finished off a fantastic franchise that had a great deal of potential.

Of course that didn’t happen because Fox saw the commercial potential of continuing this franchise. Whilst The Last Stand was being made work was already going ahead on a spin-off, X-Men Origins: Wolverine which was eventually released in 2009. Unsurprisingly, this film is a prequel dealing with Wolverine’s history, looking at his life before and during his time with Team X and looking at the events that led to his skeleton being bonded with adamantium. Wolverine is a fan favourite both in terms of the comics and, thanks to Hugh Jackman’s portrayals, the films. An origin story was an obvious choice for making money but the film doesn’t stand up next to the pre-existing material. I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this film but that was only because, after the third film, I had such small expectations that I probably couldn’t have thought less of it. On the plus side, Origins introduced us to Taylor Kitsch’s Gambit (who, despite having very little to do, showed great potential) but, on the other hand, it completely fucking ruined Deadpool. The film’s plot is hardly exciting and contains enough holes to be able to drain pasta with it. Normally a film that raises so many questions has enough excitement and fun to hide this. Unfortunately, there is too much downtime in the film to give you time to worry about ridiculous introduction of an adamantium bullet and the consequences it might have. As origin stories go, Wolverine’s is visually interesting, mainly thanks to the exciting scene where our hero becomes a bit more magnetic, but, I have to agree with the majority of critics here, it is a bit dull. Wolverine is immortal so his story is just a long list of times where he got into trouble but couldn’t die. It’s the Captain Scarlett thing all over again. (Even as a child I never really enjoyed watching Captain Scarlett. Week by week he got into life or death situations but there was never any danger. It’s why I’ll always prefer Thunderbirds or Stingray.) When a character is immortal, they simply become a vehicle for action and special effects. Unfortunately, the CGI in Origins is pretty appalling. There is no real point to this film because the audience pretty much know where we are heading. In this sense, to feel like a fulfilling film it would have to be a wonderful spectacle and incredibly well acted. This film ticks neither of these boxes (Team X in particular is awash with wooden and laughable performances. I mean Will.I.Am? Who made that insane decision?)  Whilst it is undeniably better than The Last Stand, Origins is nowhere near the type of film that this franchise reached at its peak. It gave enough of a spark to restart the heart in this battered series but the pulse remained weak and almost undetectable. Then in walks Dr Singer and expert consultant Matthew Vaughn to perform the much needed kiss of life…. but more on that story later.