Weekend Forecast for July 26-28, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
July 26, 2013
The Franchise Redemption Train has pulled into yet another station, as yet another studio tries to erase its terrible, terrible mistake, and hopefully not flush $200 million down the toilet. Here's to doing things right (maybe?) the second time!
After the original X-Men trilogy wrapped up with the dismal The Last Stand, Fox got the bright idea that many of the individual characters could hold up movies of their own – and they're right, in principle anyway. And who doesn't love an origin story, anyway? That led to 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which took the most recognizable and story-ready mutant and expanded him to feature length. And while it opened well, the movie itself was, shall we say... sub-par (let us not forget they also ruined Deadpool)? Fox quickly reacted by saying “Hey, look over there!” as it stripped the Origins title from its Xavier and Magneto movie. For their second trick, they'd like us to forget X-Men Origins: Wolverine ever happened with the rather declarative title of this new movie, The Wolverine.
Hugh Jackman returns to the character for the fifth (really sixth) time as we tell the story of his post-Jean Grey travels, centering on the famous Wolverine Goes to Japan backstory. A dying Japanese businessman who Wolverine once saved from one of the atomic blasts in WWII offers to remove his mutant healing powers as a “gift” - one of release from immortality. In essence it's the chance to live a normal life, but of course nothing is that easy. Enter the Yakuza and ninjas and every other Japanese movie cliche short of Godzilla. Imagery for the movie has been short on knockout punches beyond “Hey, it's Wolverine, and he's doin' stuff!”, though a sequence on a bullet train has promise. Other things to feel hopeful about: director James Mangold and writers Scott Frank and Christopher McQuarrie, who each have experience in bringing dark material to the screen while maintaining the “fun” and “cool” of the stories.
We do have to wonder how much damage was done to the character by the 2009 outing. Undoubtedly it was “some,” but other superheroes have come out of similar situations still standing – see Spider-Man, Superman. One thing is definitely true, that Wolverine and company will have to earn back the trust of a skeptical comic community. Instead of the massive $85 million it opened to in 2009 (which might be $100 million at today's prices), The Wolverine will instead have to settle for around $66 million.
Opening in national release in what must be an attempt to generate word-of-mouth a la Pitch Perfect is The To Do List, the first starring role for Parks & Recreation's Aubrey Plaza. A bit of a throwback to '80s sex comedies (but set in the 90s), Plaza plays against type as an uptight valedictorian who decides to catch up in the sexual department before heading off to college (as is tradition, everyone here is about 10 years too old, at least, to be playing their characters). Awkward sexual encounters ensue, and an embarrassing time is had by all.