Kayla and I went to see The Dark Knight last night, and of course it was awesome. Heath Ledger, blah blah. Actually, I was of course wowed in my usually quirky way by some seemingly unimportant minor details. I was very impressed with Tommy Lister Jr.’s turn as a prisoner who focused all his murderous badassery into one moment of bodhisattva-esque peace, and newcomer Chris Petschler, as a Gotham PD convoy leader who rides shotgun in an armored convoy who can only watch helplessly with humorous results as his world goes to hell. Besides, sometimes it’s just nice to go see a movie with your lady.
Now, I have to preface this by saying that I really am not a comic book nerd. I read a decent amount of comics when I was a kid, but even then I didn’t do it right. I read Micronauts. Rom, Space Knight. Static. Ralph Snart. Ambush Bug. Weird shit. Sure, I borrowed my friends’ comics that were a bit more mainstream, but on the whole I liked a bit of off-the-wall every now and then.
I lost interest in comics until after high school, when my friend Ackley pretty much demanded that I read Preacher, The Invisibles, and Sin City. I was blown away, not by the hackneyed revelation that “Golly, comics are literature!” but that there was so much talent being thrown at them. You have to love the public library… on my own I discovered Kingdom Come, Watchmen, Safe Area Gorazde, Blade of the Immortal, and others. I’m still not a comic nerd. I don’t think I own a single graphic novel. (Okay, maybe that Punisher origin book I forgot to give back to Ackley…)
When the superhero movies started coming out I was generally pleased, but most of all with the X-men series. (Sin City doesn’t count. It’s like calling Casablanca one of those black and white movies.) They had kept true to the stories, given the characters clean modern looks that didn’t rely on crappy spandex costumes, and most importantly, succeeded. See, you can revise all you want, but if it sucks you might as well have sold out or done nothing at all.
When word came trickling through that beyond the trilogy of X-men films they had planned a Wolverine spinoff… well, alright! Let’s admit it. There are some great characters in the X-men world, and plenty of ridiculous fucktards, but it is Wolverine’s show all the way, and in Hugh Jackman of course they have found the charismatic leading man who is able to pull it off.
At a recent Comic-con, they screened a trailer for the Origins: Wolverine movie, and of course some clever Johnny filmed it with his phone and leaked it on teh intarweb. That is officially why I am excited, because the filmmakers are either geniuses or certifiable. I know if you’re interested you’ll go find it, but here’s the basics. Wolverine and his buddy Sabretooth are bestial, unkillable mutants with claws and sweets sideburns who are Vietnam soldiers. They’re brought into a secret government program to give them stronger powers but Sabretooth is actually a psychopath and there are some more mutants. Hilarity ensues.
Doesn’t sound like much, but for one thing, you’ve got the setting, the look… there’s maybe one costume through the whole damn trailer. And then there’s the casting, and that is why I am most excited.
First off, cast as Colonel Stryker is Danny Huston. Stryker was portrayed in X2 by Brian Cox, and as much as I am a fan of Cox and as great of a villain he was in that movie, bear with me and save your Super Troopers quotes for later. Yes, I know. Danny Huston who? Until fairly recently he was really only associated in my mind as a sort of charming smarm from tiny roles in Children of Men and Marie Antoinette. Then I saw the boss vampire in 30 Days of Night and thought to myself, “Who is this Morrissey-looking badass motherfucker?” I figured they would later make a Shadow of the Vampire type movie about how he actually was that vampire character and they just had to work around it. So he is going to be an awesome villain.
Next up, and most awesome, is a controversial casting choice. Sabretooth, Wolverine’s archenemy, has been depicted in comics as a seven-foot-tall blond dude with some sort of faggoty skin tight Cats-reject bodysuit and a fur stole. Yuck. In the first X-men movie he was played by a seven-foot-tall blond wrestler, and as one pundit put it, a ‘hippie in a pimp coat.’ As shown in the trailer, in this movie they have cast Liev motherfucking Schreiber. Yes, the voice of PBS nature documentaries and Infiniti commercials. Grissom’s temporary replacement on CSI. The goofy scientist from Kate and Leopold. He’s also one of the finest Shakesperean actors in the world, the finest according to some sources, and is boning Naomi Watts. Take that, Tyler Mane.
Everyone objects to this choice, primarily in appearance. I think he looks just fine. The question that keeps coming up… why tamper with the look of the comics, the detail of the comic, if it works? Well, it doesn’t work. That has been the focus of all the postmodern comics from The Incredibles (“No cape!”) to Watchmen to The Secret Five which I helmed for Affinity Press before it folded (“… more like the Conspicous Five!”) While people do like the escapism of comics, and I’m sure it’s easier for continuity and better for branding to have iconic costumes, for the thinking person, the mind rebels at the idea of the world’s most powerful entities looking like Wigstock has come to town. Why can’t an ordinary looking guy be a brutal, powerful berserker with some claws and fangs thrown on? And let me tell you, having seen the trailer, with whatever combination of Schreiber’s acting, physical training, stunts, CGI, and who knows what else, you will have trouble falling asleep watching NOVA after this movie.
So for me, seeing that they’ve decided to take a big risk by making a movie that bucks these trends even further than they’ve already done, well let me just say that until X-men Origins: Wolverine comes out, I’m about to lose control… and I think I like it.