The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, May 08, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Wolverine (2009)

Well, it isn't as bad as I'd heard, which is definitely damning with faint praise. Hugh Jackman makes a terrific hero, but the movie, dealing with the origins of this nearly immortal, rapid-regeneration, feral X-Man is just "meh." After a terrific credit sequence showing how Jim Logan and his brother (Liv Shreiber, terrific) fought in every American war from the Civil War to Vietnam, Logan is recuited into a secret military unit composed exclusively of mutants. After a massacre in Nigeria (which a Nigerian friend of mine took offense at) Logan quits and tries to live a normal life, falls in love...and of course, the government comes after him. The story deals with the issue of Wolverine's indestructable adamantium skeleton, his loss of memory, etc...while never really dealing with his blood thirst (oh, come on...WE know why he fought in all those wars!) and a few other things. Some of the effects are a bit tacky, but others are terrific, and the overall feeling was "popcorn movie." Before "Dark Night" and "Iron Man", before people started expecting Comic book movies to be quite so good, it would have been perfectly acceptable. As is...




Kind of interesting here. A couple of black women I know considered Wolverine to be extremely sexist. I watched it, with that in mind, and maybe I missed something. So a woman he trusted betrayed him. Half the characters in the movie are betraying each other, and most of 'em are men. So what?

And a couple of women die. So? Anyone notice that ten times as many men died? And what puzzled me is that 100% of the non-white mutants died. One black, one white, one native American. And the one black mutant died specifically because he was trying to help the white guy. All surviving mutants: white. Check. Female mutants survive? Yes, an important one. Females behaving as badly as males? No. A woman does a bad thing, but for a reason even Wolverine ultimately accepts. Maybe I'm missing something here.


I actually appreciate the reminders of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Germans, and can see how that historical cowardice could be seen as "and therefore, it is not always better to speak to your enemies." I get it. I consider it reasonable to count this as a case in which it hurt. I don't AGREE with this, but I do consider it reasonable. I would look at this as a case in which it was foolish to give an appeaser control over whether or not England went to war. A person who will not fight under any circumstances isn't much better than one who will not communicate under any circumstances. But as I accept this as reasonable and rational, it seems to me that the number of cases where people talked, and then went to war, are innumerable. And the cases in which people talked, and averted war, are also innumerable. And that the statistics go WAY in that direction. "Speak of peace, but prepare for war" would be pretty close to my motto--and having spent forty years of my life learning how to hurt people, what I know is that the people I respect most in the world are the warriors who can kill you with a touch...but will strive with all their power to have peace. They will speak to you, or to anyone, without fear. It is their teaching I have followed my entire life, and I have seen vast positive results in my own life from the attitude of communicating from a position of strength. I honor those who disagree with me--but those who believe that someone who disagrees with them must be ignorant is likely to have far more conflict in their lives than one who seeks common ground. In fifty-seven years of life as a black man in an often racist culture, I have NEVER failed to find common ground, even when those around me swore there was none. That common ground has not always been enough to prevent conflict, but it has always reduced it. Always. My attitude is clear: "I will kill you if you hurt my family. But you can kill me, as well. Is there not some way for us to coexist?" I see no reason to change it, or to think it does not work for nations as well as individual warriors.


Christian H. said...

Howdy. As you knwo I usually don't agree with your use of th word Sambo, but I have come to realize that it's a reaction to th fact that most black men don't deserve to live til the end. I mean you seem at least to be "mainstream"(read:your pants fit) but that is not the case for most of us.

I live in Brooklyn and I'd guess that .5% of men around here have a career - not just a job. As soon as gangsta rap came out every brotha bailed on America and became some kind of outlying "non-society" where the Civil Rights Acts, Title 7 and every other actual law to give us options to racism are ignored for counter-productivity and cultural ruin.

I keep saying it won't change until we do as a majority. I try all day to set a good example in my dress, attitude and intellect. Unfortunately, more "brothas" feel like being good citizens somehow lessens their "blackness," as if we didn't build a lot of this country through the economics of slavery.
I know now that no one cares though so I look out for me. If a person is fulfilling the tenets of a "free" country, I'm your friend. If you're not, I'm not.

I will lose no sleep. I mean right now my company and I are about to part company because people mistake me for someone else. Well, at least there's a financial benefit.

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Anonymous said...

thank God someone else said it...I know Bill Cosby went a wee-over the top with his criticisms, but the man had a point. We don't have to be self-destructive to maintain a unique identity. A lot of young men got caught up in the Black Panther vaccum after the late sixties and we're still paying for it.

Frank said...

I just want to make the point, again, that I am not against talking to enemies.

Talking isn't the problem.

It's how you engage in the conversation that is important.

Conversation can never be a substitute for action. You have to have the chamber loaded and the hammer cocked when you talk and you must be absolutely clear that while you would prefer not to pull the trigger, you most certainly will if necessary. And most importantly they have to believe it. And you must believe it as well.

Just as importantly, you must not accept words as a substitute for action. As Regan once said "Trust but verify", or more generally "Actions speak louder than words".

Every concession you win from talking with your enemy must be followed up with action.

As far as I'm concerned, Saddam violated this essential rule.

So has Iran and North Korea. How long we will continue to show weakness to both of these regimes I don't know. But I am pretty sure that the longer it goes on this way, the bigger the blowback in the end. What's worse, precisely because of all the public reciminations, it is very difficult for either Iran or North Korea to believe that we will do violence upon them if they do not behave. My guess is that an awful lot of people are going to have to die before we are willing again to do violence. What's worse is that if we have been more aggressive early, many lives would have been saved in the end.

And I just do not understand how people think this current path will result a good outcome.

But I still think it is not to late.

Joe judt said...

Winston Churchill put it best: "Jaw, Jaw, Jaw is still better than war, war, war."

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Christian, I wonder how typical Brooklyn is-- black people in Philadelphia (especially center city) are typically a lot better dressed than what you describe.

Harlem Children's Zone is a very successful and ambitious project to teach poor children academic subjects and good habits, starting with the parents. It's important in itself, but also interesting as a synthesis of left wing (poor people have serious problems and it isn't simply their fault) and right wing (poor people's lives won't get better unless they change what they're doing).

Marty S said...

I am curious. Does anyone have some concrete historical examples of negotiations avoiding a war. I googled this and got no concrete examples.

Steven Barnes said...

I am so sorry that you know so few productive, positive black men. I swear that they are out there, and I have nothing but them among my black friends. Honestly, you seem to be carrying some negative attitudes that will hurt your own life. We have to meet one day, Christian. You seem a solid young man who needs a touch of perspective. I would be happy to help supply it.

Steven Barnes said...

We're in very close agreement here. As I've said before, obviously we both love this country very much, and just have some disagreements about how best to protect or nurture it. I do believe either of us would gladly die to pass the freedoms we have enjoyed to our children. So long as that is true, we can work out the rest.

Steven Barnes said...

Marty S.--

I believe that the Cuban Missile Crisis was an example of talk between the leaders of countries averting disaster. Most countries have both a military AND a diplomatic corps. I doubt seriously if this would be the case if talk were actually ineffective. Now, when diplomacy breaks down, you have to throw down. And we MUST be ready for that. Many who know me think I'm obsessive about my physical safety. Others seem to think I'm a Pollyanna. I'm just someone who can give you all the war you want, but would seriously prefer peace.

Marty S said...

Steve: The Cuban missile crisis seems like a good example. I'd like to find some more. I think studying examples of success and failure is the best way to understand when talk works and when it doesn't. Meanwhile I am in complete agreement with your last statement, "I'm just someone who can give you all the war you want, but would seriously prefer peace."

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Marty, part of what's hard about finding out when talk prevents war is that you can only be sure of it when (as with the Cuban missile crisis) the sides were on the brink of war.

If diplomacy heads off a war further in advance, it's harder to tell whether the diplomacy was successful or whether war was unlikely anyway.

Frank said...

"I'm just someone who can give you all the war you want, but would seriously prefer peace."I like the Marine motto: "No better friend, no worse enemy."

The Cuban Missile Crisis is a great example of negotiating with the chamber loaded and the hammer cocked.

Kennedy sent the Navy out and the bombers were in the air. Our willingness to settle this with war could not be mistaken.

In contrast, look at how the government of Pakistan has been "negotiating" with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan. This process has been going on for well over two years and the Taliban have gained ground with each round of "negotiations" while giving up nothing at all.

The Pakistani Government conveyed nothing but weakness the whole time. Finally when the Taliban got within 90 miles of the seat of Government, Pakistan had to act. And you are seeing the chaos that has resulted.

And it is not yet clear that the Government will win this fight. But one thing is quite certain, this will be a much longer and harder fight precisely because of all the territory the Government "negotiated" away.

Anonymous said...

There are two things that will help black men to humanize themselves:

1: Don't acknowledge whiteness as a power system. There are Chinatowns and Japantowns all over, but there are no Little Africas. Maybe because we are so diverse--and have no direct allegiance or lineage to Africa--but to deconsider whiteness as a factor is a powerful tool. Read some Wade Nobles.

2. Black men (in the US) have to stop thinking that they are the only black men in the world. It is up to educated and well-traveled brothers to expand the horizons of the brothers who are stuck in the 6 block radius of their hoods.

we're taking 8 "hoods" to Ghana this Summer to blow their minds.

@Christian I'm from Brooklyn (but now live in the Bay) and I disagree. I think that it is more than just gangsta rap that killed the black male spirit. it is the lack of the ability and the drive to share and receive love that has damaged them so fully.

Shawn Taylor

Steven Barnes said...


I beg to differ with you. There is a "Little Ethiopia" in Los Angeles, and similar districts in other towns. But you're talking about immigrants who share language and custom. American blacks actually are in a uniquely bad situation: strip away language, religion, culture, and names and you have blank slates upon which any kind of inferiority-generating imprintation can be made. I see no chance of black people separating themselves into "little Africas" without an African culture to bind them together. Too late for that. So what I am committed to is helping America live up to its own values. This is the country I have, and I'm willing to fight to make it better. I have nowhere else to go.

Steven Barnes said...

"No better friend, no worse enemy." I REALLY like that, Frank. Thank you. Negotiate locked and loaded? Works for me. My guess is that it works for most of the folks on this blog, as well. Amazing how we really don't disagree as much as demagogues on both sides want us to think we do, isn't it?

Lobo said...

You know what the real tragedy of Wolverine was? Deadpool.

How many hands did that character design pass through and not a single one of them stopped and said, "I wonder why he's called the "Merc with a Mouth." Who thought it was a good idea to completely eliminate the most prominent aspect of the character and replace it with the powers of a z-lister like Mimic?

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