5. Wolverine/Logan/James Howlett (Hugh Jackman, X:Men, 2000, X2, 2003; X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006; X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009; X-Men: First Class, 2011)
While we were all thrilled with Stewart’s casting as Professor X in the upcoming X-Men movie, the casting of Wolverine caused us to raise our eyebrows a little bit.
When Dougray Scott was forced to drop out and some guy called Hugh Jackman was called to step into the role, we were all a bit confused. Logan was a short, rough and tumble animalistic guy, and this guy was tall and seemed sophisticated. He didn’t even have any acting credit that we could give him, no one had heard of the guy, and looking into him he was mostly known for musicals. Just seemed like a bizarre choice overall.
When we finally saw him on screen – well, he was still tall, so that was different. Other than that? Jackman turned in a fantastic portrayal of everything we liked about the comics Wolverine and absolutely killed it, establishing Jackman as a Hollywood star and Wolverine as an incredibly popular character not just with comic fans or fans of the TV show but the public in general.
Everything we know and like about the comic book Logan is portrayed onscreen. He’s a bit of a loner, but learns to work with a team. He can be feral, but is insanely protective of his friends and has a noble quality to him.
Jackman does a fantastic job showing us all the aspects of this character. One of the best aspects of him is the fact that he has a clearly definable and palpable relationship with each of the other characters (except Storm, which as I said in her ranking, the blame is pretty much entirely attributed to that character and Berry since he has chemistry with literally everyone else.) With Rogue, we clearly sense that he’s developing a paternal relationship with her and wants to protect her. With Scott, we see that they are in some terms fierce rivals (as hilariously evidenced by his one-claw salute when Scott demands to know if the Wolverine he sees in front of him is the genuine article or Mystique) but have respect for each other, the chemistry with Jean is genuine, with Beast we see a friendly back and forth between opposites, and with Professor X we see an initially somewhat hostile and dismissive relationship (“What do they call you, Wheels?”) develop into a respectful and paternal one. Even with someone like Nightcrawler, who Logan hilariously dismisses as some weird dude who happens to be here that he should ignore, the relationship seems earned. The movies also aren’t afraid of slowing down a bit and showing us the slower character moments, either, as evidenced by the Coke freezing scene with Bobby that pretty clearly tells us that the relationship between the two (without spelling it out too much) is “I know you intend to date my surrogate daughter, but I’m okay with it since you seem like a genuinely good guy.”
I suppose the biggest complaint about this character is that, in films that should be more ensemble pieces, he gets far too much focus and attention. There is definitely a lot of truth to this, especially in regards to the Cyclops character being shafted. But, honestly, can you really blame the producers when they knew they had such a good character and performance going, that they knew for a fact was going to connect with the audience? If this character wasn’t such a delight onscreen, I would have more of a problem with it, but since I enjoyed seeing him so much, my argument is more along the lines of “Don’t take screentime away from Jackman’s awesome portrayal of Wolverine to develop other characters – take screen time away from Berry’s lackluster Storm” (especially in X3). On another note, it’s pretty funny and fitting in some way that the biggest complaint about the movie character (that he takes up too much screen time and prominence) is also the biggest complaint about the comics character, who seems to be in pretty much every superhero team at the same time while also having his own book lines.
Regarding the previous point, I did like how the first two movies also kind of realized that it had a large amount of focus on Logan and actually poked fun at that aspect to some degree. In the first movie, Xavier and Logan think that Magneto is hunting Wolverine for some reason, but when Magneto shows up to confront Logan and Rogue, we see that he actually wanted Rogue and dismisses Logan as arrogant for thinking he was after him. And then in X2, Magneto mentions that Jean could go through someone’s memories to find Stryker’s base, and then when Logan thinks he’s talking about him he dismissively replies with “You always think it’s about you, isn’t it?” and reveals he’s actually talking about Nightcrawler.
And to that point, there’s been a lot of praise for Logan’s interactions and relationships with the other X-Men protagonist characters in this film, but I’m going to take a moment to praise what I actually thought was one of his best portrayed interactions in the film: his interactions with Magneto. As discussed in the previous paragraph, Magneto just sneers at Logan’s arrogance and sense of self importance. And he has every right to. Logan is always the confidant badass – after all, he can’t really be hurt or killed, so he lives thinking he has nothing to fear. With Magneto in the mix? He has EVERYTHING to fear. As Wolverine’s bones are coated with metal, he’s nothing but a toy to Magneto, who never takes him seriously. You can sense that Logan really has true fear and apprehension when around Magneto – after all, (as we saw in the comics in X-Men vol. 2 #25) Magneto probably has the power to rip Wolverine’s very skeleton out of his body if he so desires. Jackman does a fantastic job portraying the fact that Logan’s self-assurance, “bad ass”-ness and confidence is taken off the table when he’s dealing with Magneto. Having the main villain inspire such terror in the character and being so completely dismissive of him gives us quite a lot of humanization. It’s not just his powers or abilities that Magneto dismisses, it’s Logan as a person as well, as evidenced by the line (regarding the fact that Stryker was the one to give Wolverine his adamantium skeleton, being one of the only people able to manipulate the substance) “The Professor trusted you were smart enough to discover this on your own. He gives you more credit than I do.” Given the fact that he’s an indestructible “bad boy,” Wolverine has a great deal of Mary Sue potential, so having the main villain constantly cut him down so utterly and completely, on all levels is a fantastic way of counteracting that and making us sympathize with him.
Another complaint about the character is the fact he, well, appeared in X3. Regarding the character in particular, people complain that he loses a lot of the “feral loner” traits that define Wolverine and becomes too much of a straightforward action hero type guy. Now, while I do have a myriad of complaints about X3, which you’ve read in some of my earlier entries, this portrayal of Wolverine actually wasn’t one of them. I actually felt that having him become a slightly more straightforward hero worked quite well with his arc in the previous two movies, and it was earned. After two movies, he had more than enough experience to cooperate and work as a leader of a team in dangerous situations. And since this particular mission involved rescuing Jean, the woman he loved, there was really no reason for Logan to hem and haw about his heroism. I don’t particularly think that Logan’s straightforward heroism in the movie was a crutch, and think it was a decision by the filmmakers. They certainly didn’t forget about Logan’s previous feral loner nature – after all, Beast’s first lines to him are “Wolverine, I hear you’re quite an animal.” And then, throughout the course of the rest of the film, Logan proves to Beast and others that he’s gained enough experience and maturity to shed that label, and is capable of suppressing his feral nature to become a genuine hero. And it’s not like the comics Wolverine is incapable of shedding this label for the greater good or anything – heck, he’s currently the head of the school for mutants in the current comics.
Now, X-Men Origins: Wolverine…yeah, that movie is a problem. It’s a quite bad movie with terrible editing and pacing. That being said, Jackman’s acting is still quite good and we still like the character, and his relationship with Liev Shreiber’s Victor is quite good and the best part of the film bar none. His memory loss being attributed to some sort of stupid adamantium bullet being in his brain and not Weapon X brainwashing – yeah, that part sucks and I have no defense for it.
As dumb as that moment was, the fact that X-Men First Class completely ignores many aspects of X3 and Wolverine: Origins makes me slightly more inclined to ignore those movies as well when considering the portrayals in them. And, as I previously mentioned in my Spider-Man rankings…think about it, what happened when Jackman’s Wolverine showed up in First Class? The audience cheered and laughed. No one cared that X3 and “Origins” were disappointing. We love Wolverine! We thought about Jackman’s fantastic portrayals in the first two films. A character-defining and actor-defining role that is well deserving of a spot in the top five.
4. Rorshach /Walter Kovacs (Jackie Earl Haley, Watchmen, 2009)
Now, considering that this character is in the top four, you would probably expect a lot in in-depth analysis on him.
But in all honesty – I can’t quite do it. As I said in earlier Watchmen entries, I’m not really here to analyze the deeper issues behind the character except when necessary, because at some point, I’m just analyzing the comics character. And this character is basically the comic book character portrayed onscreen almost exactly. If that’s what you want, I recommend the book “Watchmen and Philosphy (http://www.amazon.com/Watchmen-Philo.../dp/0470396857
) which explores each of the character’s philosophies in great detail.
I can’t really analyze the differences between the film character and the comics character – because, really, there are almost none.
My job here is to analyze how the character was portrayed on the silver screen. And my answer to that question is, more than any other character – perfectly. I can’t really analyze this character too much – because the character we see on screen is the same character we saw in the comics, almost word per world and scene by scene.
I suppose I should describe the (very few) changes the character makes from the comics.
The first is that his mask is never really explained. I can understand why this would take up a bit too much time, but I found it a bit odd as the fact that Rorshach’s mask changes images is pretty much the only “supernatural” or unexplainable thing that happens in the movie. Also, I thought that Kovacs’s rationale for using the mask was pretty telling – he uses this particular mask because “the black and white never mix,” explaining a lot about the character, and I wish that had made it onto the film.
Another note is the fact that the character’s origin changed. Now, while I say “origin,” I mean of the character as we currently see him. At the point of his “origin,” Kovacs was already a masked vigilante named Rorshach who fought crime – but really, this scene turned him from a more mild-mannered Rorshach into the one we know from the series. In the comics, Rorshach leaves a child molester and murderer to die in a fire, giving him a hacksaw and saying that its more chance than he afforded the little girl he murdered. The movie Rorshach, however, brutally murders the man and says that dogs must be put down, considering the man no better than the dogs he fed the girl’s remains too. I can completely see how this brutality would affect him much more than leaving a man to die in a burning building, so I bought it.
That being said, despite the horrors Rorshach commits, we still feel a great deal of sympathy for him and understand his world view to some degree, and actually really like him. He is arguably the most important character in the Watchmen narrative, and pulling him off to the sense that we both genuinely like him as well as raise questions about his philosophies is a critical principle of that.
All in all, this character is a masked vigilante with a somewhat terrifyingly black and white view of the world who commits several atrocities – and yet, when he is vaporized by Dr. Manhattan, almost all of us feel quite sad about it, even those of us who knew it was coming. A perfect portrayal of a great superhero, that Haley knocks out of the park.