Since David, below, posted the beginnings of the Wolverine reviews, I’m inspired to go on a wee bit of a rant.
Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: While packed with effects and action, without the attention to story and emotional investment present in such films as The Dark Knight and Ironman, Wolverine ultimately doesn’t rise above its comic-book roots.
You can tell where I’m going with this, right? The idea that a Hollywood blockbuster movie, a vehicle often for nothing more than product placement and profits for the Hollywood machine, is going to somehow be higher art than a comic book annoys the ever-lovin’ crap out of me.
I consider myself both a film geek and a comic geek, and I will argue ’til the end of days that superhero movies can be as good as any other film (Exhibit A: The Dark Knight). I don’t read a lot of superhero comics, but nearly always see the films, mostly because the movies are self-contained and don’t require me reading 8000 miles of back issues to know what’s going on–the same reason that millions more people see the movies than read the comics.
It’s certainly, however, not because film is intrinisically a higher art than a comic. Film, like comics, print, the Web, television, etc. is simply a medium. Anyone who’s watched Six Feet Under knows that television can be as complex, beautiful, and creative as film. And anyone who’s read Sandman, Preacher, Local or, obviously, Watchmen knows that comics when done right are capable of outshining any cinematic explosion of CGI and star power.
Sure, Wolverine/X-Men comics are a franchise. So are most movies that make money at the box office. And sure, the comics I like best tend to be smaller creator-owned books that come straight from the heart, and the movies are indie films written and directed by people who love and care about them, not who are out to make a box-office killing. Art is always at its best when it comes from the heart.
Yet just because a movie is a giant blockbuster doesn’t mean it can’t be brilliant. Again, see my Dark Knight review. The Dark Knight is great because of its comic-book roots, not in spite of them. Because it didn’t try to dumb itself down to a mass audience level, but assumed that a mass audience could not only hang along for the ride with the Bat-mythology, but could handle a blockbuster that was both action-packed and smart. And superhero comics are not automatically worse than indie comics simply because they’re a franchise.
I think most of us would agree that the worst comic-book movies are the ones that strayed the farthest from their roots (Watchmen being an interesting exception, where hyperloyalty made for a less thrilling film and also one that was hard to follow for those who haven’t read it). I’m so friggin’ tired of elitism and snobbery directed at comics which are often in every way superior to the films based on them.
If Wolverine sucks, it’s because the crew did a crap job making a movie, not because it “fails to rise beyond its comic-book roots.” I haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll reserve judgment until I have, but I’m quite sure that if it’s crap, there are plenty of Wolverine comics that far outshine it as far as excitement, heart, storytelling skill, and pure love from the creators, whether or not they’re the originators of the character.