Way back in 2000, X-Men arrived on the big screen and (along with Blade) helped reinvigorate the stagnant comic book scene that had pretty much died upon the release of Batman & Robin. X-Men successfully translated the fantastic and rich world of the mutant universe to a believable live action world. It was brought to the big screen under the steady direction of Bryan Singer, a man who seemed to get it when it came to portraying these characters on the big screen. Among the characters that graced that initial film was Wolverine. One of he most popular characters to grace the page instantly became one of the most popular characters to hit the screen. It was only a matter of time before the character got his own feature. It took three X-Men films, but it's finally here. Unfortunately, it fails to live up to the promise delivered by the first two X-films.
With such a large pool of tales to choose from, not to mention innumerable factoids surrounding the character's origin, it should not have been too hard to find the right pieces to build an adaptation from. Which begs the question in the harsh afterglow of my screening: "What went wrong?"
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not really a bad movie, it is just a bad X-Men movie, in much the same way X-Men: The Last Stand is a bad X-Men movie. They suffer from too many characters and an undeveloped plot. Wolverine is a decent action film and given a different name and some character modifications probably would have gone over better with fans.
I went into this movie with low expectations tempered by a small glimmer of hope that it would be done right. In the end, the film is enjoyable and has some fun action sequences but feels like squandered potential. Rather than write a script that developed the characters or allowed any chemistry to build, they wrote a script that depends too much on flashy action. Wolverine, despite another good turn from Hugh Jackman, is reduced from a troubled, complex anti-hero into a guy who screams a lot and always seems to be running towards something.
Wolverine opens with a clever and nicely done credit sequence that shows Logan and his brother, Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber), battling side by side in wars throughout the ages — the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — before we see the brothers have a difference of opinion and head their separate ways. Of course, their parting is not a pleasant one, and one that will have long-lasting implications for them both.
The story is pretty straightforward. As Logan attempts to live a new life away from the violence that was life with his brother and the military group that he was a part of, he cannot seem to stay away as trouble always finds him. Members of his old team are being cut down one by one and only he can stop the culprit, but first he needs the right tools.
This story tells how Wolverine came to be Wolverine, how he got the name, where the metal on his skeleton and claws came from, everything. We do indeed learn these things, but it is dealt with in such a fashion that I did not care.
The one thing that helped the first two X-Men films be so good was the way you cared about the characters; the flow of the story made you become invested in what was to happen. This film is more about the posturing than the caring.
You see, this is what happens when you get too many cooks in the kitchen, when executives think they know the best way to direct a franchise. People begin to think with dollar signs instead of logic. Yes, the film, will make a ton of money, but it will all be in the short term, as long term viability will be compromised by lack of true artistic input.
Perhaps I have been spoiled by the likes of Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and Watchmen, where we got films that had true vision, where the filmmakers understood what they were working with and the studios let them do their work.
Gavin Hood is the man behind the camera for this outing, and he seems like an interesting choice for this, much like Bryan Singer was for the original film. Could this Academy Award winner (Tsotsi) be able to bounce back from the disappointing war drama Rendition and hit a winner? Apparently not. The film is devoid of any genuine vision, and quite frankly looks to be on the cheap side. The effects work was not up to par (the claws looked awful), the editing was choppy, and the performances mediocre. Nothing seemed to add up for the project.
The one good thing to come out of this is Hugh Jackman who, even when hampered with a bad script, can pull off the role. Aside from him, Liev Schreiber does a fine job as the menacing Sabretooth, taking the role over from Tyler Mane from the first X-film. The rest of the cast is pretty much just there, including Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson.
Bottom line. That glimmer of hope I had when entering was extinguished by the time the end credits rolled. What can I say? The title says "Wolverine," but this is not Wolverine. Perhaps one day, when the studio gets bored with the character, a young upstart director will get his hand on the property and show us how it is really done.