Superhero Showdown 2009: Watchmen vs. X-Men Origins – Wolverine

With the release of the highly anticipated movie adaptation of Watchmen now less than a week away, and the return of Hugh Jackman as everyone’s favourite feral mutant in May’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which film will reign supreme? Welcome to Superhero Showdown 2009!


2008 was the year that Hollywood legitimised the comic-book genre. With the runaway success and critical acclaim of The Dark Knight, not to mention Marvel’s Iron Man and – to a lesser extent – The Incredible Hulk, cinemagoers were engrossed in the adventures of costumed heroes to the tune of box-office billions.

While superhero films like the Spiderman and X-Men trilogies struck box-office gold in previous years, many critics were quick to dismiss the genre as being little more than popcorn-movies aimed at children, nerds and fanboys, and lacking in any real artistic merit. The Dark Knight – with it’s compelling narrative, stellar performances and brooding atmosphere – changed that view by proving that a comic-book movie could appeal to a mass audience while presenting a story as detailed and engrossing as any other genre.

Fast-forward to 2009 and we are met with a whiff of deja-vu; the year’s two big comic-book releases (naturally, I’m discounting Punisher: War Zone) consisting of a dark and gritty epic from D.C., alongside a spectacular action blockbuster featuring one of Marvel’s most cherished characters.

Watchmen

Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Malin Akerman, Billy Cudrup, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson


Watchmen is set in an alternative 1985, where ‘superheroes’ have been outlawed and the threat of nuclear annihilation has never been greater. The story follows masked vigilante Rorschach, who becomes convinced of a plot to eliminate and discredit retired heroes during an investigation into the murder of a former comrade. As the Doomsday Clock counts down, Rorschach must enlist the aid of his surviving peers, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre II, and the god-like Dr. Manhattan, to unravel a diabolic conspiracy that threatens the entire world.

Zack Snyder looks to have created a visually-impressive and faithful adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel. The film has generated an impressive amount of hype and is sure to be a hit, having already gained rave reviews in addition to the popularity of the source material. While strong adult content is bound to be a limiting factor to overall box-office appeal, the film will likely gain a huge cult-following when the extended cut hits DVD and Bluray later in the year.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber and Ryan Reynolds


Hugh Jackman becomes the first person since Superman legend Christopher Reeve to portray the same hero in four consecutive films with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, released in May. This prequel story promises to unravel the mysteries of Logan’s haunted past, including his involvement in the Weapon-X program and his relationship with friend and future nemesis, Sabretooth.

The film will also feature appearances from a host of well-loved Marvel characters including Deadpool, Gambit, Silver Fox and Cyclops. How this all fits with previously established continuity, we shall have to wait and see. Regardless, Wolverine’s popularity and the broad appeal of the cast will ensure that the movie is hugely successful at the box office this summer.

PREDICTION

Despite Warner Bros. dominating last year’s worldwide box-office and the buzz surrounding their latest release, it would be a major surprise if Watchmen comes close to matching the revenue that X-Men Origins: Wolverine will generate. Reviews, word-of-mouth and so on will likely favour Snyder’s effort, but when the dust settles this summer the adamantium-clawed mutant will have slashed his way to twice the worldwide gross of Watchmen. However, he’d need to enlist more than a few of his old X-Men chums to have any chance of beating Dr. Manhattan and Co. in terms of quality and lasting appeal.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think.

Gary Collinson