Review: “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”

May 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Loosely based on the graphic novel Wolverine: Origins, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is touted as the first Hollywood blockbuster of the Summer 2009 season.  Unfortunately, it means that this season is off to a bit of a rocky start.  It has quite a bit to live up to, considering last year’s critical and commercial success of Marvel’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, as well as meeting expectations set by the immensely successful X-Men franchise.

The problem with the movie isn’t that it’s necessarily bad, as some critics may make it to be, it’s just that it’s not as ‘smart’ as some comic book movies.  No, I won’t compare this to The Dark Knight, since it’s basically been agreed upon that it has been elevated to the rank of ‘film’ and not ‘movie’.  But, if one were to look at, say, Iron Man, or Spider-Man 2, those films had something running beneath the surface that made it connect more with audiences.  With Wolverine, there’s really nothing but pure testosterone-driven  action.  Not that action is entirely a bad thing.

The movie starts out in 1845 with a young James Howlett running off into the woods with his brother Victor Creed committing a terrible crime.  What followed was one of the few highlights of the movie: a slick opening credits sequence.  Very reminiscent of the opening credits for Watchmen, the credits here take us through many of the major wars of the past 200 years: the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam; each vignette showings us James and Victor (Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber) fighting with an incredible ferocity, although it is clear that Victor enjoys the carnage much more than his younger brother.

After being executed for murder during the Vietnam War, the two are recruited by William Stryker (Danny Huston) into a covert team, each member possessing an ‘ability’.  However, things go south when James, now called ‘Logan’, prevents the massacre of a small village in Nigeria by members of the team.  Logan quits, going off into the Canadian wilderness.  Flash forward about six years (we’re in the 1980’s by now), members of the team are being hunted by Victor, and Logan, now settled down with a pretty schoolteacher, is next on the list.

The rivalry between Logan and Victor should make for an interesting dynamic, since the two are brothers and have fought together for over 100 years.  Unfortunately, Creed’s motivation for wanting to destroy Logan isn’t very clear, so I didn’t really buy the physical struggle between the two.  Also, the random piling up of famous and not-so-famous Marvel characters did nothing to advance the story or make it more interesting.  Only Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) had any real effect on the story.  Before the movie’s release, there had been quite a bit of fanboy fuss over the inclusion of Gambit.  Unfortunately, Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) wasn’t needed at all and failed at providing any comedy relief that didn’t  sound corny.

All of these extra mutants and unnecessary scenes just pad a script that needed to be more streamlined.  It clocks in at just about 2 hours, but it easily could’ve been a shorter film.  Also, some of the dialogue sounded like it came from another movie.  For example, Stryker explains to Logan why they must join forces to go after Creed, and he uses language like ‘giving in to the darker half’, as if he’s the Emperor trying to convince Luke Skywalker to kill Darth Vader.  Something more simple would’ve been far more effective.

The high point of the movie is Hugh Jackman himself, who is obviously very at ease in portraying the feral mutant anti-hero.  He wears the role like a comfortable suite, and makes Wolverine’s motivations believable (at least as far as the script is willing to take it), despite being the 4th time he’s done the part.  Schreiber plays Victor Creed with a snarl the entire time, and I honestly liked that.  You could tell he was probably having as much fun playing the mutant who would become Sabretooth as much as Jackman was playing Wolverine.  Also, the final fight atop a nuclear power plant is pretty inventive and actually quite exciting to watch.  Other than that, the action here is pretty straight forward, although there was way too much wire-work for my taste.  Oh, and there’s also that extremely cliched walk-away-in-slo-mo-while-something-behind-you-explodes shot.  I.  Hate.  That.

Still, X-Men Origins: Wolverine should satisfy the target audience, as well as movie goers expecting lots of action.  It’s not as good as X2: X-Men United, but better than X-Men: The Last Stand, and I’m not afraid to say it: better than the original X-Men.  While I’m grateful that Bryan Singer’s premiere comic book movie jumpstarted the whole comic-book-to-film craze, it suffers from really slow pacing and uninspired action scenes.  Anyway, who knows if Marvel will continue with their ‘Origins’ line of films (Magneto is the next proposed film), considering they have X-Men: First Class in the pipeline.  X-Men Origins: Wolverine proves that even blockbuster comic book movies need strong scripts.


FYI, for those interested, stick around after the credits.  Different theatres got different prints of the movie with different surprise endings.  I saw one with Deadpool, supposedly, there’s one about Logan and Japan.  Also, rumor has it that there’s a young Ororo Munro, a.k.a. Storm, in the movie, although I don’t remember seeing her.  She’ll probably show up as a deleted scene in the DVD.

(images from Yahoo!)


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