Some movies reveal who they are at the first viewing. A film like “Transformers” is obviously horrible from the beginning, and makes few attempts to mask its stupidity and pointlessness. An example of a good film like this might be “There Will Be Blood”, which succeeds fully despite obvious flaws at the end.
Some great films improve over time. “Children of Men” and“No Country For Old Men” are two films that I have revisited multiple times, and have shown me new facets that I wasn’t able to appreciate in the first viewing. A recent film like this is my favorite movie of last year, “The Wrestler”. But there are some films that entertain you just enough to get you through the initial screening. Afterwards, you’re left with a disquieting aftertaste that slowly seeps into your consciousness, causing anger and shame over the fact that you’ve been had.
My first encounter with this aftertaste happened the first time I saw “Return of the Jedi”. Having loved “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back” I was pumped to explore the dark secrets of the final chapter. Instead, I was confronted by rubber puppets, unblinking Ewoks with zippers running up the back of the costumes, and a sonambulistic Harrison Ford lifelessly droning his lines. It kept me entertained while I watched it, but after a while, my mildly pleasant feeling turned to a hatred that has continued until today.
Many films fall into this category. The simple truth is that the moviegoing experience is enjoyable, so it’s easy for a film to sneak past critical eyes even when it isn’t particularly good. I enjoyed the first “X-Men” movie for the most part, but after the passage of some time, I began to dislike it.
When I first saw the completed cut of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” the other day, I thought it was mildly enjoyable and diverting. It’s a comic book adaptation about a mutant guy with claws – it’s not trying to be “Citizen Kane” or anything. But in the days following the screening, that disquieting aftertaste returned to me.
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Several disturbing questions wafted into my mind like the last fart from a cadaver.
1. Why did Stryker spend “half a billion dollars making him indestructible” if, in the very next scene, he suddenly wants to kill him?
2. Why would Stryker dispatch Agent Zero to kill Wolverine, yet not give him the adamatium gun that is sitting on his desk?
3. Why did Wolverine walk away from Stryker in the lab without “gutting” him, which was his stated purpose at the beginning of the scene?
4. How did Wolverine get his jacket back from the Island? His brain had been blown out, and he wasn’t wearing it when he was shot. So how did he remember it when he left?
5. Why is Cyclops in this movie? He obviously would have known something about a guy with claws rescuing all of them from the Island, yet in the later movies he knows nothing at all about him.
6. If Wolverine’s girlfriend has powers of persuasion, why doesn’t she use those powers to stop Stryker in the first place and save her sister? Or when she’s lying on the ground dying, why doesn’t she convince Stryker to pick her up and take her to the lab to save her life??
7. Why did Sabretooth feel the need to kill his only blood relative??? And then he changes his mind for no apparent reason at the end. Why??
8. Why is this screenplay so episodic and idiotic? Plot points exist only to cram mutant encounters into it, like the clumsy segues into The Blob and Gambit scenes.
9. Why does almost every mutant battle in this movie begin with two combatants running at each other? It might be marginally exciting the first time; after ten times, it becomes a joke.
10. Why does a movie that cost $140 million dollars have special effects that look like they were made on an Apple 2E in 1983? The Gambit/ladder special effect is now my nominee for worst special effect of this decade. Prove me wrong.
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I left the “Wolverine” screening mildly entertained. I realized it had faults, obviously, but it packed enough action to distract me from its flaws. But that disquieting aftertaste is rarely wrong. This movie is an abomination, and hopefully the worst film of this summer.