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Comics Movies

Why Wolverine: Weapon X Makes More Sense Than Old Man Logan

For a long time, the rumors were persistent that Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine would be inspired by the Old Man Logan comics by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.  It never made a ton of sense to me, unless the only bit of inspiration taken from it was the name (similar to Age of Ultron).  Too many of the players in that comic are off the board due to rights issues (Hulks, Hawkeye, Abomination, Red Skull, and on and on) that to even try to make something off that, it would be in name only.

No, it’s clear that Weapon X HAS to be the end of Logan’s story.  Just like in the Death of Wolverine storyline from a couple of years back, it just feels right to end it back where it began.  Which is why I was confused when people seemed surprised or taken aback at the title.  I mean, it doesn’t seem like a huge stretch, after DOFP we’ve seen that despite their meddling in the past, Professor X and Logan are both alive and still doing the Xavier school thing in the future, so it’s not like anybody dies after X-Men: Apocalypse.  They could fit in part of OML here – Logan could’ve ‘put away’ his claws and started living a somewhat normal life when he and the Professor discover what I assume to be Weapon X cloning him (perhaps with Mister Sinister’s help).  Cue the ‘one last time!’ adventure where they rescue X-23 and conveniently set up a teen girl Wolverine to join the X-Men in the next team movie.

The Wolverine continuity *was* fixed, more or less, after Days of Future Past, so this all works.  Any continuity issues that remain in the X-Men movies (and boy do they still exist) are mostly the fault of Singer’s movies.  How are the same actors supposed to keep playing these characters if you keep jumping 10 years forward in time?  “Wow, Moira hasn’t aged a day!” only works for so long.  The strange age difference for Cyclops and Havok.  Teen Jean having a moment with Wolverine.  I know Wolverine may not remember, but should Xavier address Mystique abandoning Logan to Weapon X for what, ten years?  I thought she might be ruthless enough to let them take him and get the Adamantium bonded to his skeleton, but to leave him there?  That’s cold, considering she was rescuing mutants, just not him.

I’ll be looking forward to more Wolverine/Weapon X information as it comes.  My one nerdy hope is that he wears the suit at least once (that’s fan art above).

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Movies Review

Movie Review – X-Men: Days of Future Past

The X-Men movie franchise has had it’s ups and downs.  The first two movies were very good despite the myriad changes and tweaks to the characters, while X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were on the rough side.  First Class was good, but went a long way towards making the continuity issues worse (How much older is Havok than Cyclops?  Are they even related? Xavier knew Mystique as a child?).  The Wolverine went a little sideways for the ending but I freaking love Yukio.  A lot of eyebrows were raised when the next team movie was announced as Days of Future Past, with a cast of thousands.  I only exaggerate a little there.  DoFP (see my review of the comic) is a time travel story that covers both the younger First Class version of our favorite mutants, and the dystopic future that needs to be stopped.  I was very curious to see if a time travel story could be pulled off, and am happy to report that Singer and company probably did the best you could expect.

First things first – if you read the comics, you know that Kitty Pryde is supposed to be the one that goes back in time.  Unfortunately, they change that to Wolverine (who else?) mostly so they can keep both casts involved.  I really liked Kitty in those issues of the comics, and love Ellen Page, so it’s hard to see her basically stuck holding onto Wolverine’s brain for 2 hours instead of kicking ass herself.  We do get Storm and Blink with the future mutants, and with Blink in particular, I hope we see more of her.

The story hits the major comic beats as much as possible.  Mystique’s killing of Bolivar Trask (played ably by Peter Dinklage) sets their terrible future in motion, and Wolverine has to stop her.  We meet Quicksilver, who turned out to be a ton of fun.  Uneasy alliances form, and are crushed.

I had a lot of fun in the movie, but there were a couple of oddities.  They explain Wolverine having to be the one sent back that far with his healing factor, that only his mind could handle it.  The serum that Beast and Xavier use is stupid.  Something that can suppress mutant powers?  Why would beast be surprised at the ‘cure’ when he was halfway to making one decades before?  And young Xavier being able to walk while using it is almost as bad as the 90s cartoon, which also had his legs working while his powers were suppressed in the Savage Land.  The framing of Mystique’s arc as the choice between two men was a head-scratcher.

Despite all of that, you can tell Singer was here instead of Ratner – he manages to get some real emotional moments from these characters.  The big reveals after they win are great, and the setup is there for Apocalypse to take the stage.  Definitely worth a watch, though fans of Kitty may have a tough time with it.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – The Wolverine

Adaptation movies are such balancing acts, especially with comic book movies.  Alienate the fans, and the negative backlash on the geek sites will wash you away.  But the superfans alone do not bring in the box office numbers (just look at Joss and Serenity) so you can’t hew too close to the source if it means the movie will suck.  A movie like The Wolverine, which covers some of the bases in a specific Wolvie mini-series (by Frank Miller no less, talk about a signal to the superfans) and you’ve got trouble.

It’s tough to look back now and judge that Claremont/Miller Wolverine storyline.  There’s a ton of love for it, but when reading it now, it seems like pure 80s Japanophile cheese.  It’s high art for a 1982 comic book, but I had to laugh when I read complaints about how the movie was such an over-the-top Japan fanboy wank.  Source material’s got ya beat there, guy.

As for the movie, it’s got the important parts from that storyline, necessarily modified to fit the X-Men movie universe, including the fact that it’s now 30 years past when that was written.  We see Wolverine in WWII, captured by the Japanese in Nagasaki, just as the atomic bomb is being dropped.  He saves the life of a young officer who declines to commit seppuku and moves on.  In the present, we see a haunted Logan living in the wilderness, seeing Jean Grey in his nightmares calling him to her.  He is ready to die, but he can’t.  He tracks down a hunter who shot a bear with a poisoned arrow (as in the comic) that went on a rampage when he is found by Yukio.  Yukio takes him to Japan to pay respects to the man he saved, Yashida, as he is about to die.  Turns out the old man has a proposal – he has developed a process to extract Logan’s mutant healing factor and transfer it.  Logan declines to participate, but he gets caught up in Yashida’s world, most notably when he stops Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko from jumping off a cliff.

From there, the movie advances through some eye-roll inducing (but still sort of funny) ‘foreigner in a strange land’ moments with Logan and Mariko as he rescues her from an assassination attempt and flees her grandfather’s funeral.  They bond, but Logan is weakened from some sort of mechanical parasite implanted in him by Viper, a mutant scientist working for Yashida.  It surpresses his healing ability somewhat (I mean, he still gets riddled with bullets and survives) but it levels the playing field for a while.  Mariko is taken, and that leads to the final battle between Wolverine and the Silver Samurai.  Well, more like Adamantium Samurai but that doesn’t sound as good. 

I enjoyed the movie, but then I enjoyed the last Wolverine movie more than most.  There’s a few things I didn’t see coming, and I genuinely liked both of the female leads (for Yukio and Mariko).  I like how they didn’t create a love triangle as in the comic, but there was an understated “Why does he keep running after her when I’m right here?” look Yukio gives Logan a few times.  It felt more realistic to me, especially in the compressed timeframe of the movie.  There are a few eye-roll moments as I mentioned, and the shaky-cam sequence is just as jarring as everyone says.  I get that it’s probably to illustrate just how off Logan is while his healing factor is out of whack, but it was tough to watch.  Thankfully it’s pretty short.  Viper was lame.  Wish there could’ve been a real “Wolverine destroys a ton of ninjas” scene.  Stay until the mid-credits scene, if you are curious about Days of Future Past.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Real Steel

I took my son with me to see Real Steel last night.  Much like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this was a movie that hit my radar late.  I mean, I knew about it, and probably made the jokes everyone else made about Rock’em Sock’em Robots.  It wasn’t until reviews started to come in that I really took note.  Ebert liked it?  Hmm.  I’ve had my differences with his reviews in the past, but you can at least get a sense of the movie from Roger whether or not you end up agreeing with him.

Jackman’s character is a former boxer, Charlie Kenton, who got pushed aside when the human boxing game ended, and robots took over.  Now he travels on the outer fringes of the robot boxing sport, fighting them at state fairs and underground arenas (sometimes badly).  Complicating things for him is his son Max, who he takes on after his ex-girlfriend dies.  He only agrees to that for cash to get another robot, as the kid’s rich aunt and uncle want to adopt him.  Anyway, that’s not important.

The real story starts after Charlie gets a second robot (the one bought with the money from the aunt and uncle) destroyed, and they have to search for parts in a junk yard.  Max finds an old fighting bot and in the process bonds with dear old dad.  OF COURSE the underdog gets a shot at the big show, and digs down and…well, you know.  If you’ve seen Rocky, or Rocky Balboa, or any other ‘little underdog beats the odds’ type of film, you know how it goes.  That doesn’t make it any less fun, though.  The fights are solid with real boxing choreography.  The dialogue shades to the corny side.  You have to accept a lot to get to a place where the only obvious robots in the world are the boxing ones but if you can, there’s a solid, enjoyable movie here.    I think the last paragraph of Mr. Ebert’s review sums it up very well for the naysayers:

“Real Steel” is a real movie. It has characters, it matters who they are, it makes sense of its action, it has a compelling plot. This is the sort of movie, I suspect, young viewers went to the “Transformers” movies looking for. Readers have told me they loved and identified with their Transformers toys as children. Atom must come close to representing their fantasies. Sometimes you go into a movie with low expectations and are pleasantly surprised.

I was pleasantly surprised.