Film Friday: ‘Wolverine’ & ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’

by W. Andrew Powell

Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber in X-Men Origins Wolverine

Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber in X-Men Origins Wolverine

Opening in theatres, Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the mutant Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Matthew McConaughey stars in the romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Ever since he took on the role of Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, Hugh Jackman has made this character a perfect second skin. As a long-time comic book fan myself, I was blown away that someone could actually bring this dark hero’s machismo to life in a way that didn’t seem like a bad joke.

Now, with Rendition director Gavin Hood leading the origin story, Jackman is back for a fourth outing as the razor-clawed dynamo, but the results are less than super.

Looking back at the character’s roots, from his youth in the 1800s, and skipping all the way up to the 1970s, X-Men Origins: Wolverine shows us how this bone-clawed mutant came to become Weapon X, complete with the Adamantium skeleton.

Of course, back then, Wolverine still used his real name – James Howlett – and he was also fighting beside his half-brother, Victor Creed – otherwise known as Sabretooth. Joining William Stryker’s group of mutants, the duo begin to understand their differences when James walks away from a mission that involves hurting innocent people as Stryker pushes a hidden agenda.

Years later, living in Northern Canada, Wolverine will again meet up with Victor, which will finally force him into an unfriendly alliance with Stryker and his government program. A program that will turn James into the perfect killing machine, capable of taking care of Victor and his blood-thirsty nature.

Liev Schreiber plays the menacing, sometimes over-the-top role of Victor well, although much like the rest of the film he can be more than a little cheesy. Danny Huston as the young Stryker also chews his fair share of scenery.

Otherwise though, the acting isn’t bad. Jackman once again makes Wolverine a tough, man’s-man type of hero, with just enough humour and lots of brooding anger to make the character seem believable. Ryan Reynolds and Taylor Kitsch, who play Deadpool and Gambit respectively, are short-changed in the film though, only getting a few scenes, but they perform admirably in these roles.

The problem is that Wolverine makes a ham-fisted attempt to capture years and years of back-story, and then mangles the details for American consumption. Let me just set this straight, in the source comic books, Wolverine was Canadian, and Weapon X was a Canadian project. Apparently the film studio was afraid of that prospect though, and it all gets whitewashed as another lame American super-soldier project.

I was also very disappointed with the majority of the film’s special effects, which for the most part are unbelievably bad, looking like something out of the late 80s effects vaults. You can practically see the green screen.

That isn’t even the worst problem with the film though. The real trouble is that Hood and his crew don’t live up to Bryan Singer’s fantastic vision in the first two X-Men films. As it stands, especially after the awful X-Men 3, the franchise is devolving before my eyes, and this film is merely another cartoonish stab at a story that could have been much, much better.

And yet, you can tell that they want to make another movie. If you’re willing to wait through the credits there’s a definite little tease at the end that could place Wolverine on the road to meeting Mariko Yashida. I can only hope that, if they make that film, they find a competent team, and the studio backs off long enough for them to make a good film. Perhaps if they’re allowed to move away from the beloved, but cringe-inducing, PG-13 rating, it might be worth watching Wolverine do his thing, but as it stands this bloodless film is not worth your time.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Since appearing in Dazed and Confused, Matthew McConaughey has had a remarkable career in Hollywood. At the same time though, ask most film goers what they think of McConaughey, and the response seems to be pretty cut and dry; you either love him, or you despise him. (Those results also tend to get skewed depending on whether you think he’s dreamy or not.)

In the romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, McConaughey plays Connor, a womanizing photographer who picks up and dumps women without a care. On the night before his brother is about to be married, Connor goes too far in front of the guests, nearly ruining the wedding, and turning his friend Jenny, played by Jennifer Garner, against him.

That’s when Michael Douglas, playing the ghost of Connor’s late Uncle Wayne, comes to the rescue to teach the womanizer a thing or two about his wayward ways. Following the plot of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Connor will be visited by the ghosts of girlfriends past, present and future, to show him his last chance at a happily ever after.

With its heavily-borrowed plotline, which also rips off I-love-my-best-friend films like My Best Friend’s Wedding, it’s hard to look at Ghosts of Girlfriends Past as anything except a commercial knock-off. And like him or not, McConaughey has wandered into another derivative role that will no doubt still manage to bring in wads of cash.

Strangely enough, the film was directed by Mark Waters, who helmed a number of youth-oriented films, including The Spiderwick Chronicles, Mean Girls, and Freaky Friday. And some of the critical response so far suggests that the director may have left his mark on this romantic comedy.

“The movie clumps through one witless if not wince-evoking sequence after another without the relief of laughter,” Kirk Honeycutt wrote for the Hollywood Reporter.

While Melissa Anderson of the Village Voice suggests the biggest problem. “Above all, it will make you long for a day when studio movies about relationships feel like they are by and for adults who have actually been in one.”

Film Friday is a weekly syndicated column produced by The GATE for print and online, covering the latest new arrivals coming to cinemas.

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