Monday, 22 April 2013

The Wolverine

The marketing campaign for The Wolverine has finally gained some momentum and so it seems only right to analyse the primary theatrical posters for the movie.

The Wolverine is the (sort-of) follow-up to the 2009 disappointment X-Men Origins: Wolverine and follows Logan to Japan where he attempts to master his demons and train with the Samurai. The film is actually set after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, and for the first time, we apparently see a more vulnerable side to Wolverine/Logan.

The film's marketing campaign has so far proved to be somewhat inconsistent, with some promotional images focusing on the character's disciplined new approach, and others being more frantic. Many of the pics simply showed him standing around, dressed in black, which is all well and good, but it all seems a bit bland.

However, the poster campaign has ventured, down a completely different route, focusing on Logan's struggles with isolation within a new city. Unfortunately neither of the images on display appear too dissimilar to the film's predecessor, aside from the location. This is somewhat disappointing as it is hoped that this film will re-ignite the faltering franchise.

The first poster is generic, it depicts a shirtless Logan overwhelmed with his berserker rage (either that or he can't find his car) kneeling on a cracked city street. The location is irrelevant at this point, as the focus is entirely on Logan and his trademark anger issues, though considering Japan is pivotal to the narrative, it should really get more of a mention.

The imagery is very bleak and unforgiving, signifying that this is a much darker film than the previous effort. The rain and grey skies are both cliched indications that all is not well for mutant-kind and perhaps hinting at Logan's own personal struggle with immortality.

The one aspect that is most striking about this image, is that Logan is on his knees and not standing tall and proud as would be expected. It is feasible to suggest that the meaning behind this is that he is no longer the best at what he does. This realisation would surely be difficult to accept, which subsequently leads to his facial expression, which could be a mixture of anguish and frustration, not simply berserker rage.

The second image (see right) is more akin to Logan's archetypal portrayal as Wolverine and is a blatant reaction to the previous image.

The first image depicted Logan in a state of anguish and desperation as he kneels on a cracked street. In contrast, this image is much more typical of the ever-popular mutant.

Here we find Logan on his feet and ready to fight whatever is in his way. His facial expression is undeniably one of absolute determination, which is a stark contrast to the previous image.

The location remains unchanged and therefore, the most notable addition is the introduction of the Samurai sword, which seems to be symbolic of Logan's character progression.

It is likely that the sword is a reflection of Logan's improved emotional state after training with the Samurai, but it is also an indicator of the certain threats that he will face. Notice how he is holding the sword away from himself in a defensive manner, it suggests that he is suspicious and reluctant to show any weakness. He clearly hasn't fully embraced the Samurai, or hasn't been accepted, and the presence of his adamantium claws act as a reminder that he will never completely conform to please others.

The fact that he is standing tall, albeit defensive, suggests that he has rediscovered a sense of purpose, which will allow him to channel his rage into a more streamlined approach. It seems as though he is attempting to control or repress his rage and not allow it to overwhelm his emotions. However, is this a sign that he is attempting to conform or adapt and will it prove to be detrimental?

Aside from those who are familiar with the source material, the only true indication of the film's setting is the Samurai sword. This is lazy, especially when you consider that he seems to be in the exact same side-street. I'm certain there will be several intriguing locations featured in the film, so why have they not been utilised?

My biggest criticism of these images is that they focus entirely on Logan. I can absolutely appreciate that he is the central protagonist and an iconic character, but a Samurai sword is simply not intriguing enough to interest those who may be undecided. X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were both very poorly received, and consequent anticipation for this movie will not be at its peak.

I am sincerely hoping that the marketing team see fit to release a set of character posters that provide some exposure to the other characters within the movie e.g. Silver Samurai. The focus cannot be entirely on the main protagonist, there needs to be greater emphasis on the threat and story. Character posters will increase intrigue and subtly introduce cinema-goers to characters who are currently fading into obscurity.

Here is the Japanese theatrical one-sheet for The Wolverine...

This subtle image has managed to sum up the two previous posters fairly effortlessly, though you have to pay serious attention to it if you want to reach that conclusion.

The focus is once again directed at the contrast between the Samurai sword and Logan's adamantium claws. However, with regard to the Samurai sword, it also serves as a divide, which highlights Logan's berserker rage (on the left in blue/grey) and his new disciplined approach (on the right in colour).

The Samurai sword also seems to be cutting into Logan's chest, which suggests that it is either symbolic of the new danger he faces, or he hasn't quite worked out how to use it.

Of course it is the former (at least I hope it is).

In my opinion, too much emphasis is being placed on the Samurai sword and Logan's apparent fascination with it. Yes, we know he's in Japan and training with the Samurai, who will become a threat, but that is surely just one aspect of the narrative, where is the main antagonist etc? The imagery seems very basic and cautious, there is certainly no WOW factor that has grabbed everyone's attention (unlike Man of Steel).

Maybe the marketing will become more aggressive in the coming weeks, or maybe it won't. Let's hope it does because right now, I'm not convinced.

Here's the synopsis for The Wolverine and even that is all pretty vague:

Set sometime after X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan travels to Japan, where he engages a mysterious figure from his past in a fight that has lasting consequences. Vulnerable for the first time, and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel, but also his inner struggle against his own immortality, emerging more powerful than ever before.

The Wolverine is directed by James Mangold and stars Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine. The film is scheduled for release in the US and UK on 26th July 2013.

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