May 4, 2009
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber
Release Date: May 1, 2009
***Warning: Minor Spoilers Below***
I was never a huge fan of the X-men comics, but I did enjoy the original “trilogy” of films. Even though the third movie in the series cast at least a minimal sense of finality, a series like X-men will never die as long as there are Hollywood bigwigs who are convinced that keeping it alive will generate tons of cash.
Cue the start of this year’s summer blockbusters.
Going into Wolverine, I was prepared for destruction; really, all I wanted was a moderately thoughtful story and scene after scene of Wolverine doing what he does best–slicing through everything that stands in his way and causing havoc.
The story follows Logan from childhood to the events preceding his encounter with the X-men we all know and love from the original movie. Oddly enough, several hundred years of Wolverine’s history is crammed into the opening credits, which is immediately reminiscent of the stunning opener of Watchmen, though it’s not handled with nearly the same degree of artistry. What’s disappointing is that this would’ve been the optimal time to provide viewers with some brief but poignant glimpses between the relationship Logan shares with his older brother, Victor. By the time we’re hurled into the actual plot, all we know is that they’ve run away from home and that they’ve been in a lot of wars together. That’s it.
Nothing about their relationship is elaborated on as things progress, either. They’re recruited by a shady government official by the name of Stryker (also referenced in the previous films) to be part of an elite team whose purpose, it seems, is to hunt down and neutralize other mutants in the hope of creating the ultimate military weapon. Logan doesn’t like the way things are going, so he abandons the team. Some years later, his ex-squad mates are being hunted and killed (again, another striking similarity to Watchmen) and after he finds his wife dead, Wolverine allows himself to be transformed into the Marvel character we all know and love.
There are a few other plot twists along the way, but none have any resonance. Now, let me remind you that I went into this movie expecting only the most basic character development necessary in order to advance Wolverine from one bloody scene of mayhem to the next. That’s exactly what I got, and I probably shouldn’t gripe, but as the movie progressed, I found it increasingly gut-wrenching to see so many missed opportunities when a few tweaks to the screenplay could’ve made this an infinitely better, more engaging film. In the wake of a modern origin masterpiece like Batman Begins, I found it disturbing that the filmmakers behind this flick wouldn’t put an iota of effort into making us care about or relate to the characters snarling on screen. Really, the film serves only as a medium to introduce other X-men characters that fans have been craving for quite some time.
But let me try to be fair. X-men Origins: Wolverine does have some entertainment value. There are some well-choreographed fights/action scenes, but nothing that we haven’t already seen in other films. On that note, I have to say that the special effects do stand out in spots, while in others they’re absolutely horrible, including a computer generated Professor Xavier. When he made his brief cameo near the conclusion and spat out a few lines with a rigid mouth, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud in the theater.
So, when you add all of this up, what do you get? A cheaply made cash cow (a paradox) that sells itself on the premise of being an action blockbuster, when really it’s passable matinee fluff that doesn’t add much of anything to the X-men canon.
Let’s all hope that this was an early fluke in what looks to be a promising summer movie season.
out of 5
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.