The sun’s out, we have a good chance of a glorious Bank Holiday for once, and Gordon’s Cabinet of All The Mediocrities is sinking faster than the Belgrano (Eighties reference for those of you watching the wonderful ‘Ashes to Ashes’).
So to hell with politics and doom & gloom for once. As a change of pace, here’s my thoughts on one of my ‘top tips’ for 2009’s blockbusters.
Spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen it yet, and plan to, look
Well, after the debacle that was ‘Knowing’ (pretty good at first, intriguing plot let down by some ropy CGI, then the insanity of those last 20 or so minutes of ‘what were they thinking!’), and having sneaked a peak on Thursday at some of the advance reviews, I wasn’t too hopeful that this would be the hit I’d hoped back in December.
The critics are flat out wrong, I’m glad to say. Is it a masterpiece? Well, not quite. Or, if it is, it’s a flawed one. But hell, perfection is overrated in my opinion. Yes, it does suffer from some plot holes you could drive a burning Humvee through (Plot holes? In a comic book movie? The hell you say!), and it isn’t quite the subversive, fun ride of last year’s ‘Iron Man’, but it’s an hour and thirty-seven minutes of cracking cinema even so.
The opening sequence sets the story up perfunctorily, but the pre- and post-credits war montage showing the half-brothers together throughout the Civil War, WWI & II and eventually Vietnam is pitch-perfect, and echoes the similar ‘history in snapshot’ credits from ‘Watchmen’ earlier in the year. From there, the pace rarely slackens, and builds to a satisfyingly destructive, yet poignant, finale, with Logan and Victor grudgingly yet seamlessly united once again to take down the ultimate mutant-killer, Weapon XI.
Casting is superb, with some minor glitches. Jackman isn’t my favourite actor, but he pulls off a triumph with this one, carrying the pathos off nicely, as well as the fight sequences. As expected from the trailers, Liev Schriber is simply stunning as feral half-brother Victor Creed, and gets most of the best lines too. Even Taylor Kitsch’s Gambit (a character I’ve never liked) is well played, though clearly thrown in as a sop to the fans – his role in the furtherance of the storyline could as easily have been accomplished by one of the others, perhaps Will.I.Am’s Wraith, with some rewriting.
Dominic Monaghan’s character, however, never seems well suited to the story – he sits as uneasily with the hardened killers of Stryker’s Black Ops outfit as a Pomeranian with a pack of pitbulls, and he has about the same life expectancy.
Some reviewers have complained that it lacks humour, but (with the exception of the ill-judged slapstick boxing sequence with Kevin Durand’s Blob) there’s plenty of humour. As long as you like it black, of course. Standout scenes for me were the elevator sequence, with Stryker’s minions suited and booted for mayhem while ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree’ plays on the muzak channel, the bar fight sequence (Victor’s sardonic aside to the barman as a raging Logan enters bent on revenge: “Do you have insurance?”), the bathroom scene where Wolverine’s unfamiliarity with his newly acquired hardware proves expensive and the scene where Lynn Collins' character averts a bolshie truck driver’s experience of potentially the worst road-rage incident ever.
How well it’ll do after the expected opening week it’s hard to say – films these days make most of their money on merchandising and DVD sales, and next week it has ‘Star Trek’ to contend with, which has the advantage of not having had a leak of the copy, and has had mostly favourable preview reports too. But it’s a well deserved hit as far as I’m concerned, and it would be a shame indeed if the unfavourable reviews and inevitable fanboy badmouthing killed the franchise.
Does it pass the acid test? Would I watch it again? That’s a definite ‘Yes’.