MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Gavin Hood
Developer: David Benioff and Skip Woods
Producers: Fox, Marvel
Blu-Ray Features Rating:
Review by: John Gustafson
After what seemed like an eternity awaiting the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on Blu-ray, the emotionally wrenching and heart-string-pulling drama has finally released! That is what is called sarcasm, yet if someone was to say that to director Gavin Hood, he would take that statement as a compliment and most likely add to it with some gibberish about the underlying duality of Wolverine’s struggle to cage the beast or bay at the moon.
After listening to Gavin Hood’s commentary track and a watching the features including his greasy head, it has become alarmingly clear that Hood believes he created quite the little drama. Admittedly, the real story of Wolverine’s past is chock full of emotional bits and thematic elements anyone would be comfortable calling compelling drama, but the film version only dips its toe into the literary river. This belief only gets more comical when listening to producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter’s commentary track. Ms. Donner comes across as a haughty noble woman who thinks far too highly of herself and film credits. She continues Hood’s oral dissemination of film excellence, but to the credit of both commentary tracks, there is a lot of information that viewers learn about the movie.
The coolest blu-ray feature is the “Ultimate X-Mode BonusView.” Similar to a feature in the special edition of 300, a picture-in-picture video plays with either the producers, director, pre-visualization tools or a trivia track overlaying the film. It basically utilizes all of the bonus feature elements into one package.
There is also “The Roots of Wolverine: A Conversation with Stan Lee and Len Wein,” but it is rather forgettable. Stan Lee had nothing to do with the creation of the character except for the original X-Men, and Len Wein merely introduced him. It was other notable creators that transformed him into Marvel’s most popular superhero. “Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins” feature is about how much the cast and production crew loves Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
“The Thrill of the Chase: The Helicopter Sequence” should be avoided based purely on how bad the segment was executed and looked in the film. Who honestly cares when so many viewers could visibly see CGI imperfections? There is also the staple of deleted scenes and extended shots, but they should have been left on the cutting room floor.
The final feature introduces each of the main characters and details a bit of expository information regarding their motivations and biographies.
The 1080p video is not all that impressive and the picture inconsistencies become all the clearer on Blu-ray. A noticeable grain will pop up from time-to-time and blurred images are not uncommon. The audio also has its share of pops, drops and volume shifts.
[The Film portion of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine review was written and published on May 1, 2009, in conjunction with the film's theatrical release]
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 film lacks 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.
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Pads & Panels received a review copy courtesy of the studio for review purposes.