X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Written by: David Benioff, Skip Woods
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will.i.am, Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan, Kevin Durand, Daniel Henney, Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins
Back when it was first announced that Fox intended to make an X-Men prequel focusing on the origin story of Wolverine, it seemed like a promising, if not particularly surprising, idea. Wolverine is easily the most popular member of the X-Men among comic book fans, and out of all the characters, he seems to have the most compelling inner struggles and back story to draw from. With acclaimed art house director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) on board, along with screenwriter David Benioff (25th Hour, The Kite Runner), the movie appeared to be shaping up as a more intimate, character-driven superhero drama.
But then as more news started to come out about the movie, it went from being a solo spin-off to another bloated action movie that shoehorned in tons of unnecessary cameos. Skip Woods (Swordfish, Hitman) was brought in to rewrite the script, and suddenly we started to hear names like Gambit, Deadpool, The Blob, Emma Frost and Cyclops in the mix as well. The movie was officially retitled X-Men Origins: Wolverine to further emphasize the supporting cast. Despite all this, there was still one thing going for the Wolverine flick: Hugh Jackman. Could the hunky Australian and his sideburns overcome the odds and put on a riveting performance? Or would X-Men Origins: Wolverine simply fall prey to Spider-Man 3 syndrome?
The movie opens during Wolverine’s childhood, where we learn that he and Victor Creed (Sabretooth) are actually brothers. When their father is killed in front of them, Wolverine’s mutant power emerges and he and Victor run away together. In Vietnam, they are recruited into a secret group of mutant soldiers who run missions for William Stryker. Logan eventually decides that he has had enough of the killing and quits, moving up to Canada to make a peaceful living as a lumberjack, but a few years later, Victor comes looking for him. Stryker offers to help by giving Logan the opportunity to participate in an experimental program that will infuse his skeleton with the indestructible metal, adamantium.
Even if you think you know how Wolverine’s origin story is supposed to play out, there are probably more than enough plot twists here to keep you interested. That said, some of the twists don’t entirely make sense, and by the end of the film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine becomes just another comic book movie that requires you to check your brain at the door. I don’t get it. It should have been pretty straightforward, but I mean, let’s face it, any movie that has to make use of amnesia as a plot device to wrap things up definitely has issues. I am also pretty sure this movie goes against a number of things that are considered to be comic book canon (don’t even ask how he gets the name Wolverine… it’s just embarrassing).
What’s more, it doesn’t necessarily coincide with the other X-Men movies either. One big inconsistency is that the version of Sabretooth shown in this film a lot different from the one we saw in the first X-Men movie played by Tyler Mane. Liev Schreiber’s Sabretooth is much more human, and even though he is sadistic and savage, he can still be reasoned with and as a result, never feels quite as dangerous. This is a problem because the movie doesn’t really have a solid villain. In fact, a lot of characters change sides a number of times, and after a while it becomes hard to know who you’re rooting for.
I will say that Liev Schreiber turns in a great performance, and together with Hugh Jackman he anchors the film and shields it from a lot of the other goofy stuff going on around them. The relationship and rivalry at the center of it all feels real when it needs to, even if the rest of the film kind of falls flat. It’s too bad someone felt the need to surround them with so many underdeveloped supporting players.
It’s pretty obvious that characters like Gambit, John Wraith, Cyclops, and The Blob were added as an afterthought, thrown in just to ensure that comic book fans would pay to see this movie. None of them add anything to the plot though, and each of them gets just one or two chances to showcase their powers before quickly being forgotten again. There’s no other way to say it: they were simply unnecessary. Even Deadpool, who plays a slightly bigger role because of his involvement in the Weapon X program, gets the shaft in this movie. Deadpool fans are not going to be happy with how much screen time he gets and how he ends up being portrayed. You could watch this movie and forget that Ryan Reynolds was even in it.
In the end, I did enjoy some of the action and special effects, but at times the backdrops felt a bit too digital and fake, not to mention Wolverine’s CG claws, which didn’t always line up with his hand. (I can only imagine what the leaked workprint version looks like.) Sadly the movie wears its PG-13 rating on its sleeves, and there are way too many fights with blades that leave no traces of blood anywhere.
I can easily say that this is the weakest of the X-Men movies to date, which is unfortunate because there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been great. If you’re just excited for the first blockbuster extravaganza of the season, you may get a brief adrenaline fix from this flick, but if you’re hoping for any sort of serious storytelling, stay far, far away. Unless of course, you plan on shooting yourself in the head with an adamantium bullet afterward. — Sean
Recommended If You Like: First Blood, X2: X-Men United, Blade, Underworld