Batman Begins: Rachel Dawes
The Dark Knight: Rachel Dawes
The Dark Knight Rises: Talia, Catwoman
Spider-Man: Mary Jane, Aunt May
Spider-Man 2: Mary Jane, Aunt May, weird neighbor girl
Spider-Man 3: Fuck that movie
The Amazing Spider-Man: Gwen Stacy, Aunt May
Unbreakable: The Wife
Captain America: Peggy Carter
Iron Man: Pepper
Iron Man 2: Pepper
Iron Man 3: Pepper and the ex that gives pertinent information then dies
The Avengers: Black Widow
Superman: Lois Lane
Man of Steel: Lois Lane and Momma Kent
Thor: Thor's Female friend, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings
Dredd: Anderson, Momma
Green Lantern: Blake Lively
X-Men: Rogue, Jean Grey, Storm, Mystique
X-2: Rogue, Jean Grey, Storm, Mystique, Lady Deathstrike
X-3: Fuck that movie
V for Vendetta: Portman
Fantastic Four: Jessica Alba
Watchmen: Silk Spectre
Hellboy: Fire girl
Kick-Ass: Lyndsy Fonseca, Hit-Girl
The Spirit: Scarlet Jo, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson
Hancock: Charlize Theron
1 woman: 15 movies
2 women: 6 movies
3 women: 3 movies
4 women: 1 movie
5 women: 1 movie
So we can agree that it's pretty spectacular that The Wolverine has: Jean Grey, Yukio, Mariko, and Viper, and these characters each have an arc and appear in multiple scenes (as opposed to say Lady Deathstrike in X-2). Wolverine has broken out of the "female character as nothing more than love interest" mold.
Director: James Mangold
His hair was sort of ridiculous, right?: Hugh Jackman
I want to see her in more movies: Tao Okamoto
Doing flips and shit: Rila Fukushima
She is over the top: Svetlana Khodchenkova
In lingerie the entire time: Famke Janssen
What a jerk: Hiroyuki Sanada
Ninja Warrior: Will Lun Lee
He loves Hugh Jackman as much as the rest of us: Haruhiko Yamanouchi
Sort of ripped?: Brian Tee
What It's Good For:
-HUGH JACKMAN'S MUSCLES WHOA WHAT THE FUCK HOLY HELL JESUS GOODNESS HOW!?!?!?!?!?
-it felt like a Bond movie to me?
-some cool Wolverine action
-the train ride
-Tao Okamoto is beautiful the way art is beautiful
-the opening Nagasaki sequence is awful but in a great cinematic way
-might not pay attention to the movie because you're too blown away by Jackman's jacked-ness
-the final fight scene is, as far as I'm concerned, the worst part of the movie
-Silver Samurai: was dumb to me
-Viper: I hated how her character wound up
-Ninja Warrior: disliked his ended too
-the hallucinations with Jean Grey were hard for me not to laugh at
I loved watching the show Hemlock Grove. I liked the plot. I liked the mystery. I liked the characters. The thing that amazed me though: it was the first time I remember seeing FACETS of character developed in a TV show.
What do I mean?
Roman, for instance. His character isn't static. When he's around strangers: unmitigated asshole. When he's around his cousin, Letha, he's a caring, sensitive teenager, who likes being affectionate and laughing. When he's around his sister: he's defensive of her, kind, supportive, goofy. With his mom: he's angry, impulsive, childish, then sometimes deferential, pathetic. When people cross him: he's fucking crazy.
Roman is a dynamic character. Unlike, say, Jack, in Lost. Jack is almost always Jack. He's Jack with his father. He's Jack with Kate. His Jack with Sawyer. He's Jack with everyone he encounters. Jack isn't one-dimensional. He has backstory. We see him in various situations which are dynamic: but he's Jack: we know how he'll react. It's the same thing with every Lost character. I like the Lost characters. I think they're developed characters. But they're not dynamic characters: they still fit into basic archetypes: Hurley is the funny guy, Kate the strong woman, Sayid is the cautious/intelligent one, Jack is the leader, Sawyer is the bad boy, Claire was the mother figure, Charlie the wildcard, Locke the philosopher/man of faith, Sun was the wife figure, Jin the husband figure, Michael the father figure, Boone the playboy, Shannon the party girl. I would argue these characters showed flex, but were not dynamic characters.
In fact, I'm hard pressed to name movies or TV shows that have truly dynamic characters. I'm watching The Wire right now, I'm in season 3, and it's awesome. But the characters are flex characters. Lester is Lester. McNulty is McNulty. Daniels is Daniels. And The Wire is often considered one of the best television shows ever.
Movies with characters that show different facets of personality/character, which is my definition of "dynamic" rather than "flex" or "static"...they're pretty rare?
Troy has Achilles, who we see be a characterless warrior, then as a leader, then a murdering machine, then an asshole, then he's kind to the girl, then his cousin is killed and we see him as a raging fucking asshole. Achilles is reacting to situations. We're seeing scenarios draw out different facets of his personality. First it's a challenge. Then it's leading a war party against Troy. Then fighting the Trojans. Then murdering the temple acolytes. Then being nice to the hot acolyte. Then the battle against Hector. Each of these situations shows a different aspect of Achilles. If you asked the Myrmidons what they thought of Achilles: they seemed like they loved the guy, admired him, were loyal to him. If you ask the general Spartan warriors: they thought Achilles was the coolest thing ever (see the opening fight scene). If you asked Briseis: she'd talk about the gentler side of Achilles. If you asked Hector: he'd talk about how fucking merciless Achilles is. If you talked to a typical Trojan: they probably don't care too much for Achilles (understatement).
Is any other character in the film Troy the least bit interesting?
The difference between Troy and Hemlock Grove: Troy is plot driven, Hemlock is character driven. There's plot in Hemlock, definitely, but we spend 13 episodes watching the characters interact and the plot builds outside of their interactions. The inciting action of the whole thing is a conversation: a character hears a story from another character and becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming a werewolf. This sets off massive character interactions and plot develops therein. Troy has only two hours to tell its narrative, compared to 13 episodes. With the scope of the plot, how much time can they spend showing facets of the various characters involved, developing the world? The film decides to build on character actions rather than character interactions. The actions involve character interactions, but the interactions are there to further plot, not develop a world.
Let me clarify: most movies don't develop worlds as fully as TV shows. Their plots are ambitious and they have to drive those plots forward. I would argue the best movies combine plot with world development. Compare a movie like Fight Club to Oblivion. The world of Oblivion is so fucking narrow: I hate it. Great concept, very poorly fleshed out: how many characters can you name? How many people have speaking parts? How many locations do we see? How much do we know about the characters? If you were to make a list for each of those questions for Oblivion and for Fight Club: the Fight Club list is longer.
-Jack: was in a relationship, was a mission captain, was cloned and destroyed the world, loved sports
-Victoria: loved Jack
-Julia: loved Jack
-Malcolm: likes humanity
-Nikolaj: shoots guns
-Sally: talks about the weather
-Kara: I don't even remember who the fuck Kara is
-the loft apartment
-the underground area
-the crashed pod
-the resistance HQ
-the top of the Empire State Building
-the alien ship
-Jack: dad told him to go to college, he's infatuated with the journals written about "Jack", he likes to shop while on the toilet, works for an auto company, he had never been in a fight, his parents didn't talk much, he's an insomniac, he'd fight William Shatner
-Tyler Durden: dad told him to go to college, he makes soap, he fucks like a rockstar, he lives on Paper St., he likes nunchucks, he'd fight Abraham Lincoln, he believes we're not unique snowflakes. Has strong opinions on advertising. Works a bunch of jobs. Splices single frames of porno into children movies.
-Marla: is missing something in her life so goes to support groups she has no need of. She's tried to commit suicide. She steals clothes from other people. She was fucked in grade school. She's in a relationship with Tyler Durden.
-Bob Paulson: Former bodybuilder. Used steroids so acquired bitch tits. Had testicular cancer.
-Angel Face: Worked at a restaurant.
-The boss at work: Loves Cornflower blue. Wears a cornflower blue tie every Tuesday.
-Chloe: she is dying, wants to get laid one last time, has pornography, lubricant, and amyl nitrate.
-the skyscraper basement and upper floor
-the support group community
-the car the people burned up in
-the Paper St. house
-the interrogation room of the police station
-interior of the car at night
-the interrogation room in the police office
-the banquet hall (dining room, hallway, bathroom)
Troy develops some aspects, gives us some key details, but as much as it does: it's not as fully formed as it could have been, outside of Achilles. Which is true of ANY movie. Any movie could be longer, could develop more. My feeling is GOOD WRITING is adding expansion and depth to both plot and world. You must immerse and propel.
My problem with X-Men is expansion without depth. There's plot building, but the characters are, as far as I'm concerned, pretty thin. I feel the movie is doing a lot of posturing. I thought X-2 did a way better job of developing world, characters, and plot. X-3? Oy vey. Look at the storyline for Angel. It's one of the dumbest things I've ever watched. Angel's dad makes him self-conscious about being a mutant. Angel considers taking the drug that would make him "normal". Angel decides to embrace his "mutation", so he flies above the city. That's the skeleton for a story. You could make a whole movie out of that. X-3 gives us maybe 2-3 minutes of Angel. Do you see the problem there? We have an entire character arc, beginning, middle, end, being executed in less than 5 minutes of screen time. The question becomes: why is this in the movie? This is dilution. Either excise this plot, assign it to someone else who is part of the major conflict, or include this character in the major conflict.
Wolverine: Origins: expansion and lack of depth. We meet all these characters. We go all these places. But how much development is there? How much is Wolverine running around doing plot stuff? How many different facets of character does he show? Truth be told: I haven't watched the movie since it came out in theaters, so I can't give you specifics, but here's what I remember: The characters are each archetypes defined by their initial introduction. Wolverine is reacting to what other people are doing: he's angry and violent. Though sort of kind to the elderly people.
What's the difference between the previous X-Men installments and X-Men: First Class?
"Uh. Expansion and depth of plot and world?"
I love you.
Look at Mystique interacting with Charles, interacting with Magneto, interacting with Hank. Look at Charles spending time with each member of the crew. Emma Frost interacts with multiple people. We see Magneto as a ruthless killer and then as a team member, then back to someone seeking power to make a difference. Even Sebastian Shaw shows some facets: how he interacts with Emma Frost, the kids he's trying to recruit, the soldiers he kills (though he's still mostly just charismatic Sebastian Dickhead).
The movie explores the world of these characters, it has a plot that develops out of that world. And what's the critical response? Not that I put much stock in Rotten Tomatoes, but fuck it: X-Men: First Class has an 88% RT score. The highest score of any X-Men movie. Oh wait. No, it's tied. With? You guessed it: X-2. (I still think First Class has problems, I'm not saying it's a perfect movie, but it's better, I think, than the rest of the X movies.)
Which brings us to The Wolverine.
In the comic universe, Logan became more and more popular through the 90s. He's so popular now that he gets his own video games, his own TV shows, his own movies. What other X-men character has gotten his own movie?
The two sides of Logan in the previous X-men movies were: asshole and romantic for Jean Grey. Though in X-2 he was also reluctant baby sitter.
In The Wolverine we get more of Logan.
But we have our established versions of Logan:
1. Villains see the wolverine: anger and claws.
2. "Teammates" get the asshole that's quick to anger but has their backs.
3. Our first woman of the movie. Jean Grey brings out the sappy, romantic, haunted, guard-is-down Logan. He emotes with her. He shows vulnerability. We've seen it before in the other movies. This is the dynamic we've seen time and time before: asshole made vulnerable by a love interest. The beast tamed.
4. Our second woman of the movie. Viper. While she is a typical villain, she's atypical for Logan. She weakens him. She makes him vulnerable. We've seen Logan struggle in fights before, even start to lose them (see Lady Deathstrike in the second movie). But he's never been vulnerable, because he always had his mutant healing powers. Viper steals those powers. Even though the Logan/Viper direct interaction isn't anything special, I think it's important she is a she. Why? Because the ONE vulnerability we've seen in Logan is his love for Jean Grey. Logan's been dreaming of Jean, showing conflicted emotions, revealing his emotional vulnerability. Viper appears while Logan is sleeping (not coincidence). And it's while he's sleeping she drops the insect down his throat thus making him physically vulnerable. This makes Viper a manifestation of Logan's weakness for Jean. This is some psychological shit right here. And THE BEST WRITING ties together the world, the plot, and the character, so that all three are dependent on one another. Viper's actions render Logan the weakest and most human he's ever been. On the one hand, I hate this because I don't want to see my superheroes be human. I want to see them do awesome shit and deal with crazy shit. But. In terms of psychological development: we see Logan's hindered by how he hangs on to Jean Grey. She haunts his psyche. It makes sense then that an aloof woman should be the one to hinder him physically. This movie is about Logan's mental recovery. His coping and healing. The film defamiliarizes the psychic recovery by transferring it to a physical deficiency and physical recovery.
5. Mariko brings out the most protective side of Logan we've seen. While Logan cared about Jean, Jean had fucking mutant powers. She wasn't usually in danger. In the second movie, he's taking care of kids out of duty, but was still with people who have superpowers and was still with a crew of people. In the third movie: fuck that movie. In Origins: Logan is vengeful but not protective. Mariko marks the first time Logan is, for a significant duration of time, protecting someone without mutant powers. Someone he is attracted to. And he defends her. He stands outside on a balcony while she's trying to sleep. He goes with her all the way to her hideaway. He allows her to get close. They go from strangers to Protector/Defender to lovers. When was the last time we saw that kind of interaction develop on screen in a movie featuring Wolverine? And it's given more duration than Angel. We get why Mariko is attracted to Logan: she grew up hearing stories about him, and here he is, in the flesh, doing amazing things. And he's Hugh fucking Jackman. We get that Logan is not just physically vulnerable, but emotionally and psychically vulnerable. He'd been living in the fucking Yukon like an animal.
Protecting Mariko brings him back into the world. It gives him purpose. It gives him a future. Saying goodbye to her grandfather was about closure. It makes sense that the descendant of the man seeking closure should be the one to give Logan freedom. And it's ironic because the grandfather is actually trying to gain a future from Logan by robbing Logan of his mutant powers. One member of the family wants to kill Logan, while the other is saving him. The grandfather is another defamiliarization tactic. Logan's attatchment to Jean being a type of emotional and psychic poison (see the connection with Viper?) that will erode Logan to the point of uselessness, a kind of emotional and psychic death that's possible despite the impossibility of physical death. Mariko is the antidote, relieving Logan of his focus on Jean, providing him purpose, and allowing him legitimate closure.
Had we ever witnessed such aspects of Logan's character?
And I'm sure someone is going "Look at what he did with Rogue! He was sweet to her. There was sexual tension there!" Yes. Agreed. But I think it plays into the whole aspect of Relationships Logan Can't Have. Jean is with Cyclopes, then she's a murderous psychopath. Rogue is young, then is still young. She's not a great love interest. That's Jean. She does bring out a softer side in him. I think she represents a foil for his feelings for Jean. I guess what I'm saying is that I find the relationship between them is more of a byproduct of his other relationships and doesn't do anything on its own but reinforces other aspects of Logan.
Mariko is a relationship Logan could have at the time, guilt free. They don't end up together, but he could have stayed with her had he chosen to do so.
6. Our last lady. Yukio. She operates in much the same manner as Mariko, which is nice since the two of them are best friends. While Mariko provides purpose, Yukio motivates. The two are different right? A purpose can motivate, but having a purpose isn't the same thing as having someone next to you saying "Do two more pushups," "Run another mile," "Write one more paragraph," "Call him one more time," "Tell her you're sorry". We see Yukio pull Logan out of the Yukon. She provides him information about the Yashida family. She provides backup once Mariko is kidnapped. She defends him from Shingen while Logan's trying to remove the bug from his heart (how's that for symbolism). And she's with him at the end of the movie. She's announced herself his protector.
The protector aspect is important. Does Logan REALLY need a protector? The guy is nearly immortal, aside from whenever a mutant power absorbing insect attaches to his heart. By attaching herself to Logan, and by earning her spot at his side, Yukio signifies Logan, a loner throughout the previous 5 movies, is ready to connect with people again. We could say Mariko symbolizes this. But we can all agree there's a difference between the connection we share in a romance and the connection we share with everyone else. You can connect to a romantic partner and say fuck everyone else. I mean, we've seen Logan do this: He loved Jean and barely tolerated everyone else. Here Logan is connecting with Mariko, a romantic partner, and also forming a friendship with Yukio. This marks significant growth.
Yes, yes. Logan had a friendship with Rogue. But she wasn't an equal. She was someone else who felt like an outcast. Yukio is another skilled fighter, one who can banter with Logan. One who knows about Logan's life. Rogue never really knew the man, not the way Yukio does. Yukio has proven herself as someone Logan can team-up with and joke around with. Compare the conversation they have at the end of the movie to the conversations in the Yukon. Change in Charge. A change in charge is when a narrative ends differently than it began. For example, Fight Club starts with the complexity of the inside of a human being followed by that human having a gun in his mouth. It ends with an external shot of the person we had been inside, and instead of a gun: we have a girl. And instead of complexity: we have a clear skyline. Change in charge. In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray is a jerk and then he's not. Change in charge can be that simple. Star Wars: look at where Luke starts and where Luke ends.
When have we ever seen Logan so relaxed with someone that wasn't a romantic interest?
While The Wolverine still has a multitude of problems and could have been a much better movie (those final 10 minutes....), it is an important movie in the superhero genre. It's the first superhero movie to utilize four female lead characters who have personalities and aren't just Eye Candy (looking at you The Spirit). It's one of the few superhero movies to have the main character have a female companion who is NOT a romantic interest. It might be the only superhero movie to feature a female villain as a major villain? Lady Deathstrike appears in the second X-Men movie and then disappears. In the third X-men movie Jean Grey is a good guy possessed and turned bad--she's technically a bad guy, but I don't count it. The Dark Knight Rises tried to do it, but we had what I consider a terrible set-up for it and then an even worse execution (that death scene! watch that carefully and you see some awful shots: like Batman just standing there with his head tilted to the side). Talia is the villain for what? 3 minutes?
So. Yeah. The Wolverine is ahead of the curve in the superhero genre and its use of female characters. It's also one of the few superhero movies to provide a dynamic character. "What about Batman versus Bruce Wayne! Or Spider-Man versus Peter Parker! They're dynamic characters, by your definition!" Sort of. Except we could argue the split in identity differentiates too much. Bruce Wayne is Batman and pretends to be Bruce Wayne. Peter Parker defaces himself when he becomes Spider-Man. Whereas Logan has no secret identity. He has the name Wolverine, as a code name. But he isn't spitting his personality or his life.
WE'RE GETTING CLOSER TO HAVING A LEGIT GREAT SUPERHERO MOVIE!
Before you argue that Dark Knight is a really good movie: stop. It's entertaining as hell, yeah. But it has some stupidly large plot holes, as do all the NolBat movies. And before you come at me with Iron Man: I like Iron Man a lot. While I think it's a good movie, I don't think it transcends the genre. It doesn't even pass the Bechdel Test (granted there's debate over this, but I don't think it passes). I also think it's too small to be truly great? There are some terrific movies with smaller scales. But I think Iron Man lacks ambitious moments, though the duration and build-up of the cave scene is pretty audacious. Watchmen had ambition and is, I think, pretty fucking good, but I think it avoids Veidt too much. We're already at 162 minutes. Give me 180. Okay, the Director's Cut is 186. Still lacks Veidt stuff. Make it 200. Would you rather have a 186 minute movie that's still lacking or a 200 min movie that's a masterpiece?
Unbreakable has the shot selection of a great superhero film. It has a flexible character. But it too is a smaller movie. A great one. But small. The character has one encounter with a villain. The drama is one of introspection and a decision to take action. The decision to take action doesn't occur until the climax of the movie. I like everything that happens. It's just: small in scope. Though that train wreck is large scale.
I value V for Vendetta very much, I vouch (for myself, I guess? Can you vouch for yourself?). And it develops a world. It has characters with backstory, characters with enough depth we can describe details about their life. There's action. There's romance. There's vengeance. There's mystery. There's hypocrisy. There's investigation. The shot selection I like. I just...I find the "Torture" scene so...bad? I just don't buy that he could fake all of that for that long? But. I guess Natalie Portman expects it, thinks it's the real thing, so believes it's the real thing? She lives in a world where shit like that happens. And the fucking dominoes of the letter "V". That's a little too over the top for me. There are just a few moments that feel too comic book-y to me.
I'm waiting for a movie that has the shot selection of Unbreakable and Watchmen, the ambition of Watchman and The Dark Knight, the dynamic character, the world building of V for Vendetta, the use of defamiliarization and the strong female characters of The Wolverine, quality acting like Heath Ledger as The Joker, plus the twist and build up of a Chronicle, and heart--no comparison movie here: I think all superhero movies have heart. Except Spider-Man 3, it's a damn piece of trash without a pulse.
So far, the closest thing we have to this kind of movie is Warrior, and I only include that because Tom Hardy's character is borderline superhero. But if we discount Warrior, I'm ready to make that case that despite Wolverine having shit wrong with it: it's one of the closest things we have to a masterpiece superhero movie. I think Watchmen is arguably the closest, though I think it's far from a masterpiece. But The Wolverine, because of its dynamic characterization and infusing character psychology into plot and world-building, gives Watchmen a run for its money. Which is sort of a sad statement, because I still think it has significant flaws. I get why someone would argue V is the best. I just don't feel that way.
The final conclusion we can make is this: we're still a ways off from a fully realized superhero movie. We have some great ones. Some entertaining ones. Some with insane re-watchability (Avengers). But we're still lacking that superhero movie that delivers on every facet the way the great dramas and comedies and action flicks and sci-fis do. The genre is still young. We're watching it grow up.
Did I Like It:
Yeah. It reminded me of a James Bond movie? People have been calling it the Bourne of superhero flicks. I like the idea of the Silver Samurai. But it looked awful. And cutting off Logan's claws? Then inserting rods? The fuck? Just seems way too complicated? And works too well? Like...who was planning and came up with the idea of "Oh, first we'll use a flaming sword to cut off his claws, then we'll drill holes through them and suck something out of him? I just think that's a horrible idea.
Also: Logan's claws are made out of the strongest metal in the world. Why can't he slice through Shingen's sword?
They build Viper up with her speech with the ninja: then her character devolves to posturing and running around after the ninja. Yuck.
Hugh Jackman's traps were the size of my thighs.
When all the ninjas were shooting him with arrows with ropes attached to them, why didn't Logan just turn and cut the ropes?
This was way way way way way way way way way better than what I thought it was going to be. Though the last 10 minutes were exactly what I thought it would be.