February 10, 2010

Plot problems in Wolverine

Most critics didn't like the Wolverine movie much. Here's a typical opinion:Verdict: At best Wolverine is undemanding, placating to an audience too young to appreciate the comics it's based upon. The older audiences will only turn their nose at the poor fight choreography, drastically drab visuals and a story so effortless it "for shames" that of its video game counterpart. This clunky prequel doesn't even make an effort to maintain a semblance of balance between story and spectacle, characters and special effects.I liked the Wolverine movie better than the critics did. My opinion is similar to this critic's:For a movie based upon a comic book, it's good fun. I wasn't expecting much, since most critics panned the story (what there was) but gave Jackman and Schreiber high marks for their respective acting skills, as do I. The big surprise was that this was actually good. My kids had a good time and enjoyed the action sequences and could follow the movie's plot easily. Their ages ranged from 6 to 11. Not that it was that simple, but there weren't a lot of silly complicated story sub plots to follow. Some films suffer from too many details. We learned why Wolverine is the way he is in the previous X-Men films (which take place later in the time-line of events). Fight sequences are well done, the cast does a great job with their parts, and the one-liners are funny. It's a good example of why it past the time to use mediocre actors and instead use good and capable actors in an action film.I guess I can't get enough of the ol' Canucklehead. And it was a hoot to see characters like Deadpool and the Blob along with Scott Summers and Professor X.

Rob finds flaws

Wolverine starts off as a great action film. It seems to have Logan (Wolverine) down pat, with a simplified but valid version of Logan's origin. Then the plot questions start piling up.


  • The evil Col. Stryker tricks Logan into getting his bones laced with adamantium, an indestructible metal. Logan becomes Weapon X (Weapon 10), an unstoppable killing machine. Why does Stryker do this? Supposedly so he can use the same process to somehow create Weapon XI (Weapon 11), an even more unstoppable killing machine.

    This is poor planning for several reasons. What if something goes wrong in creating Weapon XI? Then Stryker has an enraged Weapon X and no way to stop him. What if Weapon X kills Stryker before Weapon XI can kill Weapon X? What if Weapon X gets lucky and beats Weapon XI?

    I guess Stryker's plan was to erase Logan's memory so he too would be a killing machine for the military. But erasing the memory of someone with a healing factor is a big gamble. Hasn't Stryker ever seen any movies where the amnesiac starts having flashbacks?

  • Stryker says he had to get Logan to volunteer to accept the adamantium. Why? Why not just drug him in his sleep and inject the adamantium against Logan's will? This would be in keeping with Stryker's belief that the US must take extreme measures to defend itself.

  • Since Stryker's motivation is apparently to use Logan as a test case for Weapon XI, why not let Logan go when he flees? Because Stryker doesn't like loose ends? If Logan is content with fleeing, Stryker should be too. It's foolish to attempt to kill an unstoppable killing machine. If Stryker fails, Logan almost certainly will pursue him for revenge.

  • Gambit's gambit fails

  • Logan goes to New Orleans to find Gambit, a mutant who escaped from Stryker's "island." Logan tells Gambit he wants to kill his brother Victor. Gambit doesn't want to get involved.

    Logan runs into Victor outside the meeting place. They fight and Logan prepares to deliver the killing blow. Then Gambit blows up the scene and lets Victor escape.

    Huh? Logan told Gambit he wanted to kill Victor, and now he's about to do it. Gambit will get his wish of not being involved if he does nothing. By interfering, he ensures that Logan will turn on him and force him to cooperate.

    It's crazy. Gambit gets involved when he doesn't want to and helps the bad guy escape. How about letting the good guy take care of the bad guy so Gambit's involvement is no longer needed?

    One critic said Gambit was afraid Logan was there to recapture him. But there's no evidence of that in the movie. Logan says he wants to kill Victor and Stryker, not to recapture Gambit.

    In any case, Gambit's best bet is to let Logan and Victor fight to the death while he flees. Not to break up the fight so Logan can concentrate on him. It may be convenient for the plot, but it makes no sense.

  • Despite vowing never to return to the "island," Gambit seems happy enough to fly Logan there. How about just telling Logan where the secret base is, or drawing him a map? There's no reason for Logan to seek Gambit's personal help or for Gambit to give it.

  • Logan confronts Stryker and learns the depths of his machinations. Instead of killing Stryker and freeing the captive mutants, as he vowed to do, Logan just walks away. Why? He might not feel like killing Stryker anymore, but Stryker still has captives to experiment on. Logan wouldn't just leave them to suffer.

  • Conclusion

    The big finish involves a lot of fighting, killing, and exploding things. The ratio of characterization to action goes down, which detracts from the movie. But the above plot loopholes are the main problem.

    I could've excused the confusion about why Stryker gave Logan the adamantium, but when Gambit started acting irrationally, I started noticing. While I enjoyed the rest of the movie, I spent half the time trying to puzzle out the plot twists. What could've been an 8.5 or 9.0 movie ends up an 8.0.

    Another flaw didn't hurt the movie much, but is worth mentioning. Logan is born sometime in 19th-century North America. He and his brother Victor serve together in the Civil War, World Wars I and II (on D-Day, no less), Vietnam, the Gulf War, etc.

    None of this ever happened in the comic books, by the way. I'm not sure Logan served as a regular soldier in any war.

    Then Logan casually mentions he's a Canadian. I could imagine Canadians serving with US troops in the 20th-century wars, but in the Civil War? I don't think so.

    For more on the subject, see Kayla Silverfox in Wolverine and Kuekuatsheu in Wolverine.


    Kim Murphy said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anonymous said...

    Geez Rob, looks like your research is as thorough as ever.


    That took me about 10 seconds of googling.

    Rob said...

    Your 10 seconds of Googling should've included 10 seconds of reading, bright boy. Then you would've noted the following:

    "Many Canadian-born men are believed to have fought in the Civil War. There are no exact figures, but estimates have ranged from 40,000 to 100,000 men, although the late Yale historian Robin Winks has shown that there is no basis to these estimates." [emphasis added]

    Canada was a British colony then and its sympathies--like those of Britain--lay with the South. But Logan and his brother were shown fighting for the North, not the South. Again, that's a plot problem.

    And you've missed the larger point. There was no (good) reason for Canadians Logan and Victor to fight as American soldiers in a century and a half of American conflicts. If they had fought with Canadian troops, that might've been different, but there was no sign of that in the movie.

    Kim Murphy said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Rob said...

    What I'd like are sources for the "50,000 Canadians" claim, Kim. It's widespread on the Web, but the websites I saw didn't look authoritative.

    Moreover, there are gross contradictions. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Army) says all 50,000 served in the North. But a paper titled "Minorities in the Confederate Army" by James S. Davis says 40,000 served in the South. Which is it?

    A credible estimate would list the number of Canadians in each army. A total for both armies with no breakdown sounds more like a guess than a fact.

    Rob said...

    Here's the kind of concrete, evidence-based source I'm looking for:


    Many historians, including Marcus Lee Hansen and John Bartlet Brebner, have claimed that "the standard authority on the nativities of the soldiers serving in the Federal armies (an investigation based upon state and regimental records) lists 53,532 as being born in the British-American provinces."

    What is the scientific base for these estimates? Most are indirectly derived from the text of a sermon given in early 1865 by abbé Hercule Beaudry (1822-1876) on the occasion of a Libera sung in Notre Dame Cathedral of Montreal for the souls of French Canadian soldiers killed in the Civil War. The very popular parish priest of St. Constant, Quebec, claimed that 40,000 French Canadians had fought in the Civil War and that 14,000 of these men had already been killed. Through the years this estimate was transformed into a fact in the scholarly literature surrounding the Civil War. Beaudry had a good reason to inflate the number of French Canadians in the Union forces: he wished to impress on his listeners the horrors of war with the ultimate goal of keeping French Canadians from immigrating to the United States. Other historians have extrapolated the number of Franco-American enlistments from an estimate made shortly after the war by Benjamin Apthorp Gould, who had been the actuary of the United States Sanitary Commission from July 1864 to the end of the war. He claimed that 53,532 Union soldiers were born in British North America. However, this frequently quoted figure was based on a very random and unscientific survey and has since been largely discredited by the research of American historian Robin Winks. The apparent precision of this figure seems to have given it quite a bit of credence among historians.

    Rob said...

    Logan wasn't Queen Victoria, of course. As an average British Canadian citizen, he probably would've sympathized with the South. As one website notes:


    "Canadian sympathy for the Confederacy was widespread and well accredited."

    With his claws, Logan wouldn't have needed the money, and he couldn't have been "crimped." The movie portrayed him as amoral until recent years, so he wouldn't have fought to abolish slavery. His reason for fighting probably would've been something like honor or glory. All these factors suggest he would've fought for the South.

    The comics wisely set his birth in the late 19th century, so he didn't have to deal with the Civil War or the Indian Wars. Good thing, too. A naive young Logan might've fought for the US Army against the "savage" Indians.