Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Body Adamantine

For a movie that purports to explain the origins of the X-Men, the explanation of the origins of Wolverine remains murky to me. Why was the child Logan living with a man he thought was his father, but was not? Why was he sick, with a sickness which the child Victor Creed had when he was younger? Why did Creed keep so malignant a vigil beside Logan's sickbed? Did he know that Logan was his brother then? The answers may be obvious to the comic book fan, but for this quarter-fan, the movie, directed by Gavin Hood, was more obfuscating than not.

The sequence showing the two men fighting in all the major American wars--from the Civil War to Vietnam--nicely made the point that the brothers were the two faces of American military power. While Victor Creed hired out his bloodlust, Logan was the troublesome conscience. The rest of the movie did not try for too philosophical a message but plumbed for adrenalin-pumping entertainment in the form of aestheticized violence.

The movie was obsessed with bodies, particularly male bodies. Hugh Jackman, who played Logan, was ripped. The camera could not get enough of his naked body. But it was the body as a powerful weapon rather than an erotic instrument. No sex scene with his girlfriend. Instead, we are shown the scratch marks on Kayla Silverfox (played by Lynn Collins) inflicted by Logan in his sleep. The focal scene with Jackman's body was of course the mutant Weapon X program, in which the completely naked Jackman was immersed in a tank and injected with adamantine. Human flesh bonded with ultimate metal. 

Tellingly, Victor Creed (played by Liev Schreiber) was never shown naked. It was essential to the movie's moral economy that the bad guys did not show flesh. William Stryker the arch-villain (played by Danny Huston) was always covered in uniform. Wade Wilson (played by a buffed-up Ryan Reynolds), who became Weapon XI, displayed flesh the color and texture of gelatine, and so was not really flesh. The movie's fantasy, embodied by Logan, was to be both man and superman, at once tender and powerful, wounded and indestructible. 

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