Throughout much of the 1970s, I was a Marvel comics fan. I read them all: The Avengers, F4, Spider-Man, X-Men, Conan, Iron Man, Cap America, and on and on. I couldn’t get enough. Back then, it was kind of a fringe activity. There were a few rabid fans around, but mostly it was a thing the strange kids did. It’s hard to believe that bringing these characters to life on-screen has become a gigantic, multi-billion-dollar industry. I don’t think any of us Marvel fans back in the 70s could have imagined it.
I say all of this in prelude to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I’m not a purist when it comes to my treasured comic book heroes and the movies. I’m a realist. I understand that film is a certain kind of entertainment that has its own challenges. As far as superhero entertainment goes, this one is pretty good. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is terrific, and Liev Schreiber puts in a fantastic performance as Sabertooth (steals the show, in fact). Marvel fans know that at the heart of things, when you come right down to it, comics are about good versus evil, and there is plenty of that here, with the lines clearly drawn between the rotten guys and the good guys. (If life itself were only so simple; but that’s another story.) The film has some terrific CGI, great action and adventure, high drama, solid performances, and a decent script if you overlook a few idiot plot points. And there is a real attempt to tell the story of two brothers here. Not bad for what was once a nerd sport. Recommended.
Dir. Gavin Hood; screenwriters Skip Woods, David Benioff.
To Boldly Go…
This past Friday, I went with a bunch of friends to opening night of the new Star Trek film. Although I’ve written a couple of science fiction novels and have done a fair bit of sf reading over the years, it’s important to note that Star Trek is a culture (and industry) unto its own. I am mostly a casual viewer. I grew up watching the original TV show and have enough of a working knowledge to know the characters and history pretty well, but I’m not by any means an expert. I thought the movies from the original series that were eventually made, all of them, were not very good, due to various degrees of bad writing, bad acting, uninteresting and unoriginal ideas, a heavy reliance on nostalgia, and perhaps just too much pressure to produce an epic.
I don’t know how purists feel about the new film; probably not very good; it’s hard to please a purist. But this is one prequel that I thought worked pretty well. Like the Wolverine movie that debuted a week before it, this film knows what it needs to do to please a viewing audience and goes about the business of doing it well, with great action and adventure and drama and special effects. (I saw the digital version, which was visually stunning.) Dir. J.J. Abrams brings a lot of experience to this picture and has good instincts about when not to be too cute, too insider, or too serious. Every actor across the board does a terrific job. Much is asked (and expected) of young Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, and he does an admirable job of carrying the weight of the film. But you can’t do Star Trek and pretend the history doesn’t exist, and here is where it succeeds best. This movie not only embraces its history, it makes use of it, and smartly ties the young characters who are about to embody Star Trek inexorably with their futures, and it does so without trying too hard to be its predecessor. This was no easy balancing act. Ignore the time travel stuff (a lame plot device at best, and there would have been much better ways to work Leonard Nimoy into the film) and enjoy the rest of it. Recommended.