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This weekend I saw two movies that I’ve been looking forward to all year. The first was Star Trek and I’m sure everyone has read the reviews and more importantly heard from all their friends that it’s a great movie. No need for me to expound on that. Despite a few warts, it’s great. Go see it. The other movie is the one that needs pounding–X-men Origins: Wolverine.
Wolverine has been my favorite superhero since I was about fourteen years old. I first fell in love with the character when I read an old X-Men comic and Wolverine stuck his knuckles in the face of a Broodling and said, “Two things certain in life, bub—and this ain’t taxes. ” SNIKT!
We were studying Benjamin Franklin in school at the time and I figured that if Wolverine could quote him and sound cool then maybe I should sit up and listen a little closer to see if history class had any other snarky one-liners to offer (it did).
So in Wolverine I found a superhero that didn’t pull the final punch and give the old line of: “I should destroy you for your evilness but if I destroy you then I will become as evil as you are. Therefore I will let you live to continue your evilness when you break out of prison in issue #395.”
Wolverine had chutzpah. He destroyed. I liked that.
But twenty years later, my favorite hero, who was so fantastic in the first two X-Men films, has at last gone the way of Obi-Wan and Yoda. The Star Wars gang were the first to go, of course, killed by their own father, George Lucas, who it turns out also managed to put Indiana Jones to death (doesn’t that make Lucas the most diabolical bad guy in all of cinema?)
The third X-Men film effectively insulted another piece of my adolescent mythology: The Dark Phoenix Saga. The story was about a being of uncontrollable power and beauty that consumed worlds and wiped out entire civilizations before Jean Grey could make her ultimate sacrifice to save our world from destruction.
What did director Brett Ratner do with that epic character? I imagine there was a meeting that went something like this:
Art and Visual Effects Teams: “Mr. Ratner, this is a story of epic scope and we’ve come up with some stunning visual ideas that will reflect and reinforce the dramatic moral and personal struggles of Jean Grey and the X-Men team and we also need to coordinate with the scriptwriters to make sure they understand the cosmological, theological, and philosophical facets of this legendary storyline.”
Brett Ratner: “Hey guys, I know the Phoenix is like made of fire and energy and all giant and stuff and carries the ultimate power of both creation and destruction and all that. So that’s cool I guess but I think we should just make Jean Grey wear a leather coat and look all dirty and slutty like some kind of floating goth-mother.”
Art and Visual Effects Teams: “Say what?”
Brett Ratner: “So let’s make that happen, it might be as good as Rush Hour 2!”
I didn’t like that movie.
But at least Wolverine kept his cool factor and I suspect that’s why someone decided to make another movie—to finish off my childhood memories of him.
The following list is dedicated to the writers of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Here are a few screenwriting tips that will hopefully allow you to stop killing off my childhood heroes.
1. It worked in Conan the Barbarian and Highlander and Moulin Rouge but that’s where it’s got to stop. There’s just no excuse for a death scene where the girl lays in the hero’s arms and whispers, “I’m so cold.” (Please don’t take this to mean that it would be acceptable for her to whisper “I’m so hot,” even if it’s true.)
2. Don’t make the credit sequence cooler, more fun to watch, and more dramatic than the rest of your movie.
3. Don’t make naked men jump off waterfalls.
4. Don’t use the old, “I only gave her a potion that made her look dead” device. That only worked for Shakespeare.
5. Don’t introduce characters only to kill them five minutes later and expect us to care. And no, doing this three or four different times in the same movie still doesn’t make it work.
6. Do try to have the plot make sense.
7. Don’t introduce forty-seven characters and imply that they might be important when they are, in fact, not.
8. Don’t show important scenes and dialogue in the trailer that aren’t even in the movie.
9. Please refrain from writing dialogue until you actually know how to do it.
10. Never, never, ever make someone say, “I should kill you, but if I kill you then I will become as evil as you are,” because writing that line and making an actor say it actually makes you more evil than either of them.
Should you then choose to delve deeper into my childhood memories in order to mine such rich desposits as Thor, Voltron, The Dragonlance, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Avengers, The Justice League of America, The Green Arrow, The Showbiz Pizza Bears, Ultraman, the A-Team, or Manimal, I am available for consultation and will be happy to guide you to away from the sins of your past.
Should you choose otherwise?
Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.