X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Possibly the most joyless superhero movie ever made
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.
Men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men. If you need men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie has men. Men over here, men over there, some more men hanging out over n the corner as backups just in case they run out of men. Which they won't, because of all the men everywhere.
If you need women, though, you're kind of fucked.
Before I lay out my complaints, let me say that I have little sympathy for any argument like "But they had to do it that way, it was like that in the comics." Sorry, but "the comics" aren't in and of themselves consistent. Also, the filmmakers don't hew to "the comics" all the time anyway, tons of stuff is rearranged, so to identify any specific detail and use that defense is just silly. Except for the part where Wolverine had claws.
Let me also say that I'm just going to spoil the fuck out of this movie, so make your own decision about whether to keep reading.
So for those not in the know, here is the basic plot of the film: bad storytelling held together with scotch tape, in which Wolverine kicks some ass.
With that out of the way, let's talk about how much it apparently sucks to be a woman in the Wolverine-verse. I can just imagine an early meeting for the planning of this film. Someone must have said "Oh Thank God this movie is called Wolverine and not X-Men, so we don't have to have so many women in it!"
So there's only one woman. She's supposed to be Silver Fox, but instead she's called Kayla. She has the power to manipulate people if she's touching them, which makes her perfect for seducing and betraying Wolverine, like women do to men all the time. Kayla is a pawn. She is not an actual person, she is a plot device. She is the Woman in the Refrigerator that leads Wolverine to get the adamantium treatment in order to pursue his revenge. Anyone find that in "the comics"? Let me know. I really hope my husband is wrong, and it's there somewhere, because otherwise the writers re-did the story specifically to set her up. Twice.
Yes, twice. The first time they kill her, it's Woman in Refrigerator. Then they kill her a second time just to make sure no plot points interfere with the whole "Wolverine doesn't remember who he is" storyline. Her second death is suicide as far as I'm concerned because she was ambulatory and capable of going for help, and she chooses not to, just so she can tell Wolverine she loooooooves him. I could have almost forgiven it if she'd been any help, but all she did was wander around bleeding and crying.
Oh wait, you know, I was wrong. there are two other women. One is an older woman who helps Wolverine and her payback is to be shot. The other is Emma Frost, portrayed as Kayla's sister (the mind boggles at this reorganization of the world). Emma's power is to protect men from getting shot while they do the fighting.
Honestly, I am completely baffled by the desperate lack of women. The badass mutant ops team that Wolverine belongs to for some time is all male. Are we supposed to think that Bad Guy Stryker was just too sexist to use women mutants as fighters until X-Men 2 when he engineers the mute adamantium Dragon Lady? And overall in the X-Men film universe, where are the women mutants with the awesome fighting powers? Thinking back to the X-Men film trilogy, Mystique was the only physically powerful fighter. Like in Push, the existence of brute force and kinetic powers seems to be split along gender lines. Men can do tricks with bullets, swords, fists, and claws, while women... well, they're so cute and little tiny! But at least in the X-Men trilogy, they existed, and they could zap you with lighting and whatnot.
On the race front, we have a possible nice bit of whitewashing with the casting of Lynn Collins to play a character based on Native American mutant Silver Fox. I'm torn here, because I hate to challenge Collins's self-identification in the press as part Native American, but I find it really hard to believe that they went looking for a Native actor to play Silver Fox and she was on the obvious short list. Check out the choice comments in Another "Native" actor discovered on the blog Newspaper Rock: Where Native America meets pop culture for more on that, including the removal of the Silver Fox name from the character. I had thought the change to "Kayla" was a gendered de-mutantization of the character, but this guy nails it that it's probably more to do with de-racializing her.
Jamaican-American musician Will i am plays Bad Guy turned Good Guy John Wraith. He doesn't strike me as the classic big dumb thug role that Black men often get assigned to, but he does die for the white man so there are no points here.
Agent Zero, however, struck me as a win for the casting of Asian men, specifically Daniel Henney, who is of Koren descent. Regular readers of Heroine Content may remember my oft-expressed desire to see an Asian man cast as a commando. I struck gold with this one. Some people might see this as another "ninja" role, but it really didn't feel like that to me. He's not the inscrutable warrior, he's just a guy who shoots a lot and he's extra good at it due to his powers. He doesn't leap nimbly down from the helicopter to silently slash Wolverine's throat, he launches a rocket. It's cool. And better yet? In the comics, the character was German. Yes, my friends, we have a white character cast with an Asian actor! Hardly makes up for the rest of film history, but it was nice. (More on the casting at 8Asians.com.)
I leave you with one of my favorite tidbits from press about the film, from Lynn Collins' role was vital to 'Wolverine' story, an article I found widely reprinted across media outlets nationwide:
The Texas native was already nervous about being cast in the biggest movie of her career - she is the only major female character in the film. [...] She felt like she was representing the entire female audience. All that pressure looked like it was about to overflow when early in the filming Jackman told her there was a problem with the early footage: Her outfits weren't skimpy enough. That made sense. Collins' character is supposed to be alluring enough to win the heart of Wolverine.
Thanks for advancing the logic that the only way to win a man is by showing lots and lots of skin. Heaven knows they're not interested in anything else, like your brain or your heart, and neither is anyone else. I'll let my son know that repeatedly as he grows up so he can behave appropriately.
I'll also be sure to make fun of fat people, so I don't leave out any of the wonderful messages about society I learned from this film. Might as well get my money's worth.
I would almost remove one additional star removed for the horrible CGI claws in the bathroom mirror scene, but "Typical" describes this movie perfectly so I will leave it at one star.