Directed by: Gavin Hood
Written by: David Benioff and Skip Woods
Review by: John Gustafson
Hugh Jackman returns to the character that made him an international box office star in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which can best be summarized as a misguided and poorly-executed train wreck.
Viewing X-Men Origins simply as a film – ignoring the storied characters and connections Wolverine fans have coming into the film – it is a clichéd exercise in the typical action movie. Despite the deep backstory Wolverine has developed over more than 40 years, the film haphazardly jumps from plot point to plot point, throwing in a new character in every development without, at times, so little as a proper name drop or explanation for his appearance. Any emotional resonance a scene attempts to grasp at falls decidedly flat because of the sloppy script and the horrendous dialogue. Danny Huston (William Stryker) and will.i.am (Wraith) butcher their lines so badly the proper Wolverine would have gutted them before giving them the chance to speak again.
Special attention should also be directed toward the CGI. Somehow Wolverine’s claws, once bonded with the adamantium, look worse than they did in the original X-Men film. The big helicopter fight with a motorcycle also looks painfully dated with its blurry motion and figure animation.
As this is a comic book movie, and one of the most popular characters ever in the genre, the film must also be judged on how it portrays the Ol’ Canucklehead in his formative years and what Gavin Hood and the script get right, and wrong.
The introduction of James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine begins with the pivotal revelation from Paul Jenkins’ own Wolverine: Origin (2001). The opening scene works well at introducing the two boys who will become Wolverine and Sabertooth, but for comic fans it also serves as an immediate warning that this origin story is not one of familiarity or acceptability as the two become brotherly pals. Team X (the one with which Logan carries out secret governmental missions) is comprised of Wolverine, Sabertooth, Deadpool, Bolt, Wraith, the Blob and Agent Zero (Maverick). They’re immediately thrown together with the expectation that viewers will just accept this group as a team without the explanation as to why they are selected in the way they are. So when the group falls apart, the gravitas is lost and the situation never amounts to anything. The most egregious error the film commits is Wolverine’s voluntary entrance into the adamantium bonding process. For everything the movie does wrong, fails at, and cannot pull off, this is the most offensive change to Wolverine. Nearly everything that makes Wolverine the character he is comes as a direct result of his kidnapping and forced experimentation. The man known simply as Logan never quite recovers from the experience and it is one of the driving forces to his mythos.
The script essentially cherry picks the most iconic images from Wolverine’s backstory and blends them together in an unnatural amalgamation of 40 years. It all feels very wrong, as characters either have no place in the particular story in which they appear or lack any connection to Wolverine’s origin in any way, shape or form (Gambit, Cyclops and Emma Frost).
Ultimately the driving force of this film is the relationship between Wolverine and Sabertooth. Their shared hatred and battles are the stuff of legends, but the film never captures why they hate each other. The film details the two fighting together and killing for over a hundred years in wars and special ops missions, but one day Logan has enough and viewers are basically told they now hate each other. When Sabertooth reappears to kill Logan’s love, that is later nullified thanks to the story. So why, exactly, are people supposed to care then? Sabertooth is not the deranged killer without remorse that he is in the comics and he sure as hell doesn’t play the mind games with Logan, tormenting him over and over.
The films lack an impact in every capacity and the changes it makes to Logan’s story are most certainly not for the better. If not for the PG-13 rating, Wolverine’s berserker tendencies and animalistic range from the adamantium process would have had more resonance and a much more satisfying payoff. At the very least we would have seen Wolverine doing what he does best.
For more info, www.x-menorigins.com
Note: I felt it should be noted that I am a ridiculously huge Wolverine fan and as such I have an above-average attachment to the furry guy. Wolvie and I go way back as he was the character that brought me into comics, the first I related to, the one who brought me back to comics after years away, and the one who will always keep me reading. He’s also a notoriously difficult character to write because of his often perceived to be one-dimensional characteristics. To be fair, my expectations were non-existent for this film and I went in simply hoping to be entertained. As explained, it is a terrible movie and a poor comic adaptation at that.
Wolverine has a very matter-of-fact origin in which he is forcefully subjected to the bonding process against his will and is irrevocably changed by the experience. His memories betray him from before his days with Team X, are supposed to be completely fabricated while with Team X, and as a result of the adamantium he falls further away from humanity as he takes one step closer to his animal side. His constant battle against his baser instincts and desire for peace are a tragic tale that has given Wolverine compelling stories of sadness and joy. Logan IS a killer and has always accepted this fact, believing he kills for a purpose. To see my guy, my personal hero treated in a glossed over, smashed together, neutered tale pains my heart. I and other Wolverine fans can only hope his regenerative abilities will heal over this movie and bring about a more fitting introduction to Logan or forget about this movie altogether.