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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
ImageI’ve been an X-Men fan since I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. Unlike most super heroes, the X-Men weren’t lauded for their powers. Despite superhero teams like The Fantastic Four or the Avengers being accepted by the public, the X-Men were spit upon by society, due to being born as mutants. It was a sense of social awareness that made the title such a success with its readers, along, of course, with the cool powers we got to see on display month after month. I was a huge fan, reading the comics, watching the cartoon; I even had the trading cards and action figures. Like most everyone else, my favorite character on the team was Wolverine. Aside from having the coolest powers a young boy could ever want (who wouldn’t want claws and a healing factor?), Wolverine had the most attitude and proved over and over again that he was the best at what he does. When the series was translated to film, Wolverine got the most attention, especially in the third flick. So, when a solo X-Men movie was announced, it only made sense that Wolverine would be the star.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the tale of Logan (born Jack), as he goes from unsure young boy to the amnesia-stricken killer we meet in the first X-Men. Starting with the discovery of his mutant powers in 1845, Logan (Hugh Jackman) runs off with his brother Victor (Liev Schreiber). Working together as a pair, the two fight in four wars (The Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Vietnam). After Vietnam, the duo are approached by William Stryker (Danny Huston), who invites them to join a secret mutant strike force. When the team begins killing innocent people, Logan abandons them, and his brother Victor. Relocating to the Canadian Rockies, Logan finds love and a simple life, until Victor returns and kills Logan’s girlfriend. Stryker pops out of the woodwork, explaining to Logan that Victor has gone rogue, and offers Logan the chance to make himself indestructible by grafting a metal called adamantium to his bones. Logan agrees, and in the process becomes a new man: Wolverine. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Wolverine has at least two films wedged into its meager 107 minutes, and the result is that the picture never gets a chance to breathe. We’re meant to care about Logan’s relationship with Victor, his relationship with his girlfriend, his relationship with Stryker…and we don’t. We don’t care about any of it because the film rushes through everything. Four wars are covered during the opening credit sequences. This period is meant to establish how close Victor and Logan are. But there’s no dialogue, no real sense of camaraderie or brotherhood, and so when Logan leaves, we don’t care. Similarly, the scenes with his girlfriend are so shallow that we’re more than ready for her to die so we can get on with the action. The action, by the way, is ridiculous, even by X-Men standards. Aside from a fun scene with a helicopter and a motorcycle, the action is consistently cringe-inducing, and quite often unnecessary.

In addition to having too much of Logan’s story to fit into one movie, the filmmakers thought it necessary to force in as many mutants into small cameos as possible. Aside from Wolverine and Sabretooth, we get cameos from Cyclops, The Blob, The White Queen, Wraith, Silverfox, Gambit, Deadpool, and more. The whole thing feels like a game of “guess that mutant,” but not one of them is used to any good purpose. When you can’t even tell one man’s story well, you shouldn’t try to throw in dozens of other characters to cover up that fact.

In truth, I think a lot of the blame can be laid at the feet of the screenwriters. Gavin Hood’s direction at times appears competent (outside of a few truly laughable fight sequences), but the material he’s working with is so poor that he has nowhere to go with it. Character motivations are paper thin, and change at the drop of a dime. Time and again the plot feels like a series of excuses to have mutants fight each other. In many ways it doesn’t even feel like an X-Men film (although I didn’t find it as soul-crushingly disappointing as I did X-Men 3: The Last Stand).

And then there’s the little matter of the workprint being leaked weeks before release. Plenty of people saw it and declared it to be terrible. I didn’t download it, as I don’t believe in supporting bootlegs, but I can’t imagine the workprint being all too different from the final cut. And so X-Men fans are stuck in a catch-22. If the movie doesn’t make money, we’re not getting any more X-Men films, whether solo or with the team. But if it does make money, we get more movies in the same vein as X3 or Wolverine. I don’t know which is worse. One thing has become clear: The X-Men series needs Bryan Singer, or someone with a similar strength of vision, to pull the series out of the mire it’s in.

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