By George Rose
May 6, 2009
It's official: the summer movie season has begun. Naturally, we have our fanboys, girls and superheroes to thank. Marvel Entertainment has dominated the first weekend of May for several years now and May 1, 2009 was no different. After opening to $35 million on Friday, Wolverine kicked off the blockbuster season with an $85 million debut. There are several things to be said of this. 1) The amount falls short of the early $87 million estimate. 2) The movie can no longer claim to have beaten the debut of X2: X-Men United. 3) While the number is big – big enough to say the season started with a bang – it is extremely disappointing, especially given the amount of pre-release hype and awareness that went into publicizing it.
I don't claim to know everything about all the super hero origins, but the X-Men universe is one I'm pretty familiar with. I also understand that many comics are part of a universe and that there can be multiple ways to tell the story (and origin) of characters we think we already know and love. Knowing that, my thoughts on the film are two-fold. As a summer popcorn flick, it was very entertaining. Lots of explosions, some cool mutant powers, Hollywood elite dressed up in skin tight costumes and a plot cohesive enough that 12-year-olds shouldn't be confused or outraged. However, as a fan of the variety of source material, this film was laughable. Literally. Granted, your state of mind entering the theater and the audience you experience it with can greatly affect how you interpret its quality. Had I been able to see the Thursday midnight screening, I would have been surrounded by die-hard fans and loud cheering. Instead, because of a commitment I could not avoid which I needed rest for on Friday morning (darn you, college graduation!), I was forced to wait until I moved back home to see Wolverine at the last possible showing on Sunday night. The theater was empty so I wasn't expecting to give it the blind "five stars!" I would usually issue a superhero movie on opening night. Instead of cheering and admiring the dressed up attendees, I was left alone in the theater with my laughter. It was hard not to since the movie has NOTHING to do with the Wolverine I thought I knew. That, and watching a shot of Wolverine walk away from an explosion with nothing but his face and fire on the screen was just too much to for me to hold back with nobody sitting close enough to scare me into silence.
Is the film a Wolverine spin-off or an X-Men prequel? I'm not sure and neither is 20th Century Fox. It kicks off as the origin of Wolverine and a good one at that. The intro was great, setting the movie up to show the true struggles inside the character. Is he a man or animal? Is Sabretooth his brother or enemy? What's it like dealing with these questions while trying to fall in love? Rather than answer these questions, Hugh Jackman (who, despite the film, is still amazing as Wolverine) bumps into a bevy of other mutants that don't really help the film or have anything to do with it. Gambit, my favorite X-Men character, was denied a part in the X-Men trilogy because of silly comparisons to Cyclops. Why, then, was Cyclops allowed to be in Wolverine? More importantly, why was he in the movie just as much as Gambit, who didn't belong in it either? Sadly, it was not the debut that Gambit deserved. X-Men Origins: Gambit, anyone?