X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review
Loosely following Barry Windsor-Smith's 1991 "Weapon X” story, X-Men Origins: Wolverine follows brothers James Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber): men who have fought through just about every major war in American history and find themselves continually on the run, with no place to call home. That is until a man by the name of William Stryker (Danny Huston) makes them an offer they can’t refuse. Insisting that they’d be doing the world a favour he enlists them into the “Weapon X Programme” where they join a team of elite mutants. Their missions go fine until one trip to Nigeria sees Stryker order his men to kill innocent civilians who refuse to give away the location of an adamantium source which he so desperately seeks. Disgusted by this, Logan refuses and abandons the group.
Six years later and Logan is living in a retreat in Canada with his girlfriend Kayla (Lynn Collins), where he works as a logger. Their happy existence, however, is soon cut short when Logan receives word from Stryker that his old team members are being systematically hunted down and killed. Logan insists he’ll be fine, but when Kayla is murdered by Creed he becomes enraged and turns to Stryker once more. Stryker makes him an offer: to coat his skeletal frame in adamantium, having located the source. Logan will have to endure immense pain, but the rewards will allow him to take revenge against his seemingly unstoppable brother.
Poor ol’ Logan, he’s been through the wars hasn’t he? And I don’t just mean the ones accompanying the opening credits. X-Men Origins: Wolverine had been dogged by problems since day one, from trouble with location shoots to director Gavin Hood having several run-ins with Fox executives. Problems kept arising until as late as January this year when the studio ordered pick-up shots. And then the film leaked onto the internet, sparking one of the biggest outcries in 20th Century Fox’s history; a fuck-up so monumental that it threatened the film’s success even before the critics dug their claws into it. The so called work print was missing finished special effects shots, and the studio insisted that it still had reels of footage to be put back in. Claimed by almost everyone who had seen it to be utter dross, Fox’s situation became more desperate by the day, and when it became apparent that the “work print” was indeed the final cut disappointment echoed across the
It was clear that by the time X-Men 2 came about, for all of Singer’s commendable allegories and social commentary, that Wolverine was about the only personality that anybody really cared about. Hugh Jackman’s performance elevated the character considerably, and indeed much of the film focused entirely on his back-story, so much so that it might as well have had the character’s name tagged on to the film’s title. No surprise then that he’d get his own feature to shine in, without any other convoluted character strands to get in the way.
Well the wait is over and Jackman returns in the role he’s so passionately portrayed over the last ten years (hard to believe it’s been that long already!). Wolverine is a decent film, no mistake, but it’s one so horribly formulaic that it fails to live up to any kind of promise that the character’s history alluded to. In its favour is a steady pace; it doesn’t mess about in getting from point A to B, in-between inserting various flashback sequences to help form an understanding of what Logan has painfully endured over the years. But once it quickly dispenses with the history lessons it transforms into a run-of-the-mill revenge actioner with predictable family ties plotting and every single cliché you can think of; just about every scene is permeated by lazy plotting, gradually becoming worse so that by the point Stryker reveals his Adamantium bullets as an answer to Logan’s indestructibility we’re just about ready to throw in the towel.
Clearly wishing to appease fans is the inclusion of several other Marvel faces, notably Gambit (a long-standing favourite whom the writers of the previous X-Men films struggled to incorporate into the plots) and the wise-cracking, mentally unstable Deadpool. While Taylor Kitsch’s Gambit is perfectly fine, given the limitation of the writing, Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool is butchered beyond belief (irrespective of any cosmetic “butchering” that we see). Reynolds gives a nice performance early in the film, but through no fault of his own the screenwriters reduce the character to a mere drone in the run up to a shockingly bad finale that has its share of continuity errors. Other support is fine, with Will i Am particularly entertaining as Wraith.
Another big letdown is the special effects which scream “rush job”. You know things are bad when not even the metal claws look realistic, referring to a scene in which Logan looks at himself in a mirror. It’s 50/50 really, some pieces look grand, others look woeful, and at one point I simply couldn’t help but chuckle upon seeing an hilariously poor de-aged Patrick Stewart. How did they manage to balls that one up when it worked so well in X3?
While I’m certainly familiar with the X-Men I’m also aware that over the years comic characters have been continually re-imagined for newer readers. Much of Wolverine’s past remained ambiguous until the latter part of the seventies, and the nineties comics really did a lot to flesh out his story, so on that basis I see little point in arguing over how the character has been handled here. I just think in the end that it’s a great shame. I find Hugh Jackman to be one of the most entertaining actors working today; a man who seems so charming and genuinely nice that when something as disappointing as Wolverine comes about you feel a bit sorry for him. He was understandably annoyed when the film leaked and we know how much the character has meant to him. But at the end of the day the script lets it down. Solid performances from all concerned, along with one or two nice set-pieces, but this isn’t the origin film we really wanted to see.
p.s. Do stick around for the end of the credits. In a bid to get bums on seats after the whole leak fiasco, Fox stated that multiple endings had been filmed, and indeed this sets up the kind of sequel that all Wolverine fans want:
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