The Last Jedi is a Messy Masterpiece
As more film studios decide to travel the route of a shared film universe, stand alone comic book fare is becoming increasingly rare.
Despite the shared universes of Marvel and DC comics, where characters often cross paths and appear in stories together, the idea of onscreen heroes doing the same were an afterthought until recently.
Before 2012’s groundbreaking superhero film Marvel’s “The Avengers,” film studios often held the belief that general audiences would not accept the idea of shared franchises, film continuity and superhero team-ups. In the world of film, where a story must be told in the frame of 90-150 minutes, those proposals just could not be convincingly achieved.
Nevertheless, it was proven wrong last summer as Marvel studios’ superhero team adventure grossed over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide, and over 600 million dollars domestic.
The announcement at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con of a Superman/Batman crossover film due out in 2015 is one example of another studios’ direct reaction to the film’s success.
Talks of shared film universes and studio crossovers have spawned in the wake of the financial success of “The Avengers.” Sony Pictures and Twentieth Century, two studios that own major Marvel screen properties such as Spider-man, The X-Men and The Fantastic Four, have been rumored to be working on an agreement with Marvel Studios that would make potential crossovers possible in future films. It goes without saying that if you’re a fan of these films, or genre films in general, the golden age is just beginning.
Despite all the talks of crossovers and team-ups, solo outings for superheroes are still present, but not many seem to stand alone without the help of a previous or future installment.
This summer’s “The Wolverine” is a film that truly stands alone without the need to view a previous X-Men or Wolverine film, something that is rare in today’s superhero film landscape.
The film sees our hero traveling to Japan to fulfill a promise to a dying friend, all the while trying to cope with his own immortality. He soon finds himself protecting his dying friend’s daughter and acting as the hero that he swore he would no longer be.
No other characters, with the exception of the X-Men series’ Jean Grey, makes an appearance in the film, and despite her presence, the film is very much focused on the singular character of Wolverine. The film is set a few years apart from the previous and upcoming installments of the X-Men film franchise and thus does not share continuity.
Usually after the hero’s first outing, it is rare to find a stand-alone film that isn’t a reboot or spin-off of another franchise. Sequels to films more often than not require the viewing of the previous installment, if not only to follow stories and arcs but to know the character or characters within the film.
“The Wolverine” does something not often seen in other films of the genre in that it utilizes an opening flashback scene that gives you an idea of the main character without giving too much away, leaving the viewer with the mystery that makes Wolverine the unique character he is.
The type of solo outing that is required for a Wolverine film was mostly achieved in “The Wolverine”. Wolverine’s tortured psyche is more deeply dissected on film than ever before, showing the audience that an eternal life on earth truly is a terrible curse. The tone stays mostly consistent, up until the final act, while the spirit of the character remains intact.
The film is serious and gritty, yet humorous and light-hearted at times with some clever sight gags and one-liners here and there.
Some characters feel out of place while others seem to be under-developed or there as plot devices. There are also a few liberties taken with certain iconic characters in the Wolverine canon, such as the origin and identity of an important villain in Wolverine’s canon.
Despite these gripes, “The Wolverine” is solid comic book entertainment that is different enough to avoid cliche but familiar enough as to not alienate fans of the character and of the genre. As far as crossovers and team-up films are concerned, I hope for the day I see Wolverine face off against Spider-Man on the big screen!