THE WOLVERINE proves Writing Law #1 – Less is More

Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine on the big screen 873 times so far, and I love the man. Does a great job in the role.

However: Even the charm and acting chops of Hugh the Jackman weren’t enough to salvage the hot mess of the first solo Wolverine movie, which I believe was titled WOLVERINE: A TRAIN WRECK OF A SCRIPT.

So it is with pleasure that I say this latest Wolverine flick, now out on DVD and BluRay and 3D smello-vision and such, is far more watchable than the first hot mess. Check out the trailer:

But hear me now and believe me later in the week: even with the same director and a SMALLER BUDGET, you could have made this latest movie infinitely better. (Spoiler alert: I’m going to fix the movie while revealing big plot points and plot holes.)

Here’s how to fix it: Cut out every possible character. Show no mercy.

Because less is more.

There’s a long list of people who get screen time, which goes for about $1.7 million a minute these days in Hollywood, yet the screenwriter and director spend tons of time on side characters that don’t really matter. The current script on screen has the following major characters:

  1. Our hero, Hugh the Jackman with mutton chops and retractable claws
  2. The Silver Samurai, our villain, except he’s really the Adamantium Samurai, which doesn’t sound as cool
  3. The sidekick bodyguard, a red-headed woman who’s amazing with a sword
  4. The wispy love interest, heir to the Yashida company fortune
  5. The love interest’s father, who seems like the possible secret villain … until he’s killed by Wolverine early on, so nope, he’s not
  6. The love interest’s fiance, an evil defense minister politician type, who’s too wussy to be the real villain and gets thrown out of window by Wolverine
  7. Mr. Ninja, who was the love interest’s first boyfriend and still pines for her until he dies
  8. Viper, an evil blonde expert in biochemistry and such, a bit like Poison Ivy without the plant fetish
  9. Mr. Yashida, now a dying tycoon, who Wolverine saved during WWII when the bomb dropped
  10. Five zillion Yakuza gangsters and other people I’m forgetting

All these characters are hard to keep track of, and the screen time would have been better spent on the hero (Hugh the Jackman!) and the villain (the Silver Samurai, who we only see for a tiny bit at the end). 

From the trailer, I thought the villain (the Silver Samurai) would have shown up earlier, and torn up Tokyo like Godzilla on a bender. And when he did show up, he was an awesome villain, and a great foe for Wolverine … for the five minutes or whatever he was on screen.

Instead, we got a huge dose of random Yakuza gangsters, who are not exactly a match for Wolverine, even if he’s weakened and such.

We also got endless scenes with this wispy love interest, and yes, she’s pretty, but she’s got relationships and backstory with just about every other character on this list. Her dad, her grandfather, her fiance, the ninja boyfriend, Wolverine, the redheaded bodyguard. Everybody is tied to her.

But guess what? The story doesn’t need her. At all.

Doesn’t need her or the ninja boyfriend, who only confuses things when he’s good, then bad, then good again.

Doesn’t need her fiance or her father, who dies so early in the script that he’s pointless. Whenever the love interest was on screen with Wolverine, teaching the caveman table manners and how to use chopsticks, I expected Peter Cetera to start belting out The Glory of Love.

Also: we don’t need the random Yakuza gangsters, who are more for comic relief in the end with that fight on top of the train.

So who are we left with, after killing off these unnecessary characters?

1) Hero: Wolverine

2) Villain: The Silver Samurai (hint: he’s also Yashida the tycoon)

3) Viper as a secondary villain, because she was scary and good

4) The redheaded bodyguard, since unlike the love interest, she was interesting every time she popped up on screen

That’s it. Four characters that we really get to know are far, far better than 10 characters we can’t keep straight. (Note: This is true for all forms of writing. As Stephen the King says, you write a mountain of words, then carve away the bad ones, like a sculptor, until only the best ones remain.)

Give us the Silver Samurai causing damage early, in Act 1, and show us much more dangerous he can be in Act 2.

Let the sneaky blonde Viper chew up more scenery and set her up against the redheaded bodyguard early and often. And if you really need Wolverine to kiss a girl, let it be the redheaded bodyguard (though that wouldn’t be a shock) or, more interestingly, Viper.

Setting up Viper as an ally at first, then showing her betrayal at the end, would’ve been a great reversal. As it was written and shot, you knew she was bad from the first second she popped up on screen.

What say you? Would you cut different members of the cast instead, saving the Lovely Model Who Was Boring, or would you expand the scenes of Wolverine in Alaska, playing with bears and rednecks in bars?

Related posts:

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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2 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, The Big Screen

2 responses to “THE WOLVERINE proves Writing Law #1 – Less is More

  1. Carcotas

    First and foremost I must say that I absolutely loved this movie. But as I will cover in my review it may largely be due to the fact that I have always held the source material of this film in very high regard. Having said that, I do recognize that their may be a sliding scale of enjoyability for this film. If you are a fan of the 1983 Claremont/Miller miniseries of Wolverine then this is the movie you have been waiting for. If you are fond of the character Wolverine and interested into delving deeper into his chronology and exploring his inner conflicts, you will certainly enjoy this movie. If however, you have no familiarity, or no desire to familiarize with the character of Wolverine, you may find yourself not caring about many of the slower moments and longing for a more evenly paced action film.

    Fans of Claremont’s Wolverine rejoice, this Wolverine does it right. The film does its best keeping characters intact while deviating from the comics in the sake of a self contained story and grander character development. There are several of the shots in this film that are near recreations of the comic’s original panels, and although story lines have been shifted and shuffled in some places, its all there. Mariko, Yukio, Harada, Shingen and Viper may develop differently than in the comic series, but their relation to each other and contextual significance is intact. As a Wolverine fan it was also nice to see a meaningful relationship blossom between Wolverine and Mariko, unlike the comics where it really is love at first sight. Instead here Wolverine falls in love not entirely with the character of Mariko, but rather with the idea of being a protector, a take that is a welcome addition to the Claremont storyline. The characters of Silver Samurai and Viper undergo the largest facelift in this film, but it isn’t entirely out of place. Let us not forget they were involved in the X Men issues directly connecting to the Wolverine miniseries. Although their characters have undertaken slight adjustments in order to incorporate ideas from the Fatal Attractions storyline, the plot does well to take from Wolverine’s side of this storyline because it was one of the few times in the series where Logan did feel vulnerable. Many fans will recognize that the plot device and character of Master Yashida cannot be found in any of the original comics, but one must keep in mind it serves as a useful device to connect all the developments of Logan’s journey. All in all I think its the best character study of Wolverine that any fan could ask for. Wolverine struggles with his animalistic urges and his commitment to reform, he grapples to find meaning in his endless immortality, and he ultimately finds purpose and resolution that he had not before. None of these developments are significantly or profoundly discovered, rather they are slowly revealed, which may turn casual movie goers off from enjoying this film. As a thoughtful exploration of Wolverine’s character and a grand homage to incredible source material though, how can any Wolverine fan say no to this movie? It is the best X-Men movie and one of the best comic based movies.

    For those who would not consider themselves fans, but are rather moviegoers intent on enjoying a superhero epic, be warned. This film is a character study, it does not grapple with any conflicts outside of Wolverine’s internal struggles. The world is not being threatened, and not many lives outside of Logan’s are even being threatened, so the storyline does not crescendo in epic suspense like the Avengers or the Dark Knight. So for those not invested in Wolverine’s personal self discovery, some of the action can seem unmotivated and the pacing an obstacle to satisfaction. The film does its job in providing action sequences, but it intersperses several moments of symbolic soul searching, cryptic metaphors and relationship building that serve as pavement for Wolverine’s self discovery. This movie can still be enjoyable without interest in Wolverine’s inner conflicts however. With an outstanding supporting cast, a beautiful setting, and gripping and intense action sequences, it plays a lot like a token Bond film for those unfamiliar with Wolverine.

    Whether you are familiar with the original comics or not, this movie will certainly provide entertaining thrills and intriguing themes. If, however, you are a fan of the original comic books, this film is a wonderful achievement.

    More about the movie you can also find it here
    http://movieinfodb.com/en/movie/76170/The+Wolverine-2013

  2. juliabarrett

    Exactly. Less is almost always more. I remember one book– received high praise, exceptional reviews. I figured it must be amazing so of course I bought it. Thirty characters were introduced in the first ten pages. Every character was so much like the previous character I couldn’t keep anyone straight (and no that was not deliberate, just poor story editing). By page twenty I was altogether lost. Threw the book away. Didn’t even bother donating it to the library.

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