Saturday, May 02, 2009

"Wolverine": Damned if you do?

Even though Nicki Finke is claiming, at her as-often-wrong-as-right Hollywood Deadline Daily site, that "Chuck" has indeed been renewed for a third season, almost everyone else who claims to know anything about it is saying the decision will be delayed for a week or more, so let's talk about something else entirely instead.

Actually, one more note about that, and then I'll move on, I promise. How cool would it be if Zachary Levi were to drop in through the ceiling, superspy style, to announce "Chuck" was back during today's NBC "infronts"? It won't happen, but one can dream, right? The one good and sure thing I can tell you about TV this morning is that ABC will begin burning off the last three episodes of the too-brilliant-to-survive "Pushing Daisies" on May 30 for three weeks in a row.

But here today, it's all about "Wolverine," which given that it only got about 37 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, could have turned out a whole lot worse in my book. Which isn't to say that Gavin Hood's mutant movie isn't without its faults.

In fact, the first half or so was just so boring that I'm fairly certain, judging from the rather sharp elbow to the ribs I got about a half hour in, that I actually fell asleep at least once. But to be fair I'm really not sure what he could have done any differently, since we're all by now terribly familiar with the saga of the origin of Wolverine.

Even so, I also can't imagine he could have made the opening half any more passionless or by-the-numbers. Though the brotherly banter of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and Liev Schrieber's Victor Creed/Sabretooth is often clever, and Dominic Monaghan makes a touching turn as Chris Bradley/Bolt, there were two specific things about the beginning that just bugged me beyond all reason.

First, did we really need to be introduced to the cliched older couple who welcome Wolfie into their home despite the fact that he shows up naked, only to see them blown away five minutes later by Stryker's assassins (sorry if that's spoiling anything, but it's not much of a spoil anyway, and with "Wolverine" having already made north of $85 million I'd imagine just about anyone who wants to see this has done so by now already)? It was just as insulting as it was thoroughly unnecessary. And secondly, how many times did we really need to see a closeup of Wolverine unleashing his steel claws? The payoff in the dick joke with Scott Adkins' Weapon XI near the end is indeed pretty damn funny, but the claws just got old way before Hood seemed to realize.

All that said, however, something happens to "Wolverine" about halfway in or so that manages to turn it into at least a satisfyingly entertaining little popcorn flick, which before "The Dark Knight" and "Iron Man" used to be about all we could honestly ask for from summer superhero flicks. Gavin Hood seemed to wake up at just about the same point I did.

And coincidentally or not, it happens with "Wolverine" thanks almost entirely to Taylor Kitsch's Gambit/Remy LeBeau, who arrives and stays all too briefly (couldn't they have given him some of Will I Am's thoroughly unnecessary time?) but still manages to liven things up just in time (though a big part of me wishes this were the last of the "Origins" movies, I have to say a Gambit movie starring Tim Riggins would be far from the worst thing imaginable; indeed, details are scant, but there is a listing at the IMDB for a 2011 "Gambit" movie.)

From Gambit's arrival on out, Hood manages to turn "Wolverine" into a still terribly familiar but equally thrilling tale, culminating with a three-way battle between Wolverine, Sabretooth and Weapon XI that takes place on top of a nuclear reactor on Three Mile Island. And the ending neatly sets up what I would really rather see than any more "Origins" flicks: The possible cast of a "X-Men: First Class" flick, which "Chuck" and "Gossip Girl" mastermind Josh Schwartz is supposedly cooking up right now.

If that doesn't happen, the wild success of "Wolverine" should at least set up a "Magneto" flick starring Sir Ian McKellen, to which - thanks to the presence of Sir Ian himself - I can only say bring it on. And here's what Taylor Kitsch had to say to MTV about the possibility of a "Gambit" movie:

"I want to go into the Thieves Guild part of his story [the union of thieves that Gambit was raised in]. How cool would it be to see him stealing things to survive because the stakes are so high? Come on, Fox, let's do it."

Amen, brother. So, the verdict? "Wolverine" is terribly slow to kick into gear, but once it does, it's probably worth at least a matinee for fans of the X-Men, which is a damn sight better than anything you could possibly say about "The Last Stand." And with that I'll leave you with this teaser for the new season of "True Blood," which returns to HBO June 14 and for which you can count me thoroughly jazzed. If I'm not mistaken, it contains the new Bob Dylan song "Beyond Here Lies Nothing," which just sounds great. Enjoy, say a prayer for "Chuck," and have a perfectly passable Monday. Peace out.

No comments: