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Thursday, 30 April 2009

At The Fleapit: X-Men Origins - Wolverine (2009)

Part of the allure of the character of Wolverine has always been the mystery around his backstory and the origin of his powers, nevertheless X-Men Origins: Wolverine takes brave stab at setting down an origin that ties in with the three X-Men movies.

In fact, it's almost as though the film script was written with a tick list of established Wolverine points that had to be shoe-horned in at all costs (you can almost feel Hugh Jackman's embarrassment when, out of nowhere, he suddenly spouts Wolverine's catchphrase about "being the best at what I do" to his girlfriend, for no real reason).

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (and what an annoying mouthful that title is) is so full to bursting with "touchstone moments" and dialogue that desperately wants to be "quotable" that the story seems to have been hung on all this as an afterthought.

From the off, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), or James as he is to begin with, and his older brother, Victor (Liev Schreiber), are shown to have similar powers: heightened senses and reactions, the ability to grow bone claws and accelerated healing which grants them extended lifespans - although this is never really spelt out.

At first they are inseparable, but gradually Victor's brutal nature starts to worry James until eventually - post-Vietnam - they are together in a US Government black ops team, full of mutants, headed by William Stryker (Danny Huston), and Victor - the future Sabretooth - goes too far.

James walks away and seeks a "normal life", distanced from the death and carnage, as Logan the lumberjack.

But, of course, that's not a life you can just walk away from and six years later his past catches up with him.

There is a convoluted plot about Stryker kidnapping various mutants to "drain" their powers to create a single, super-powerful mutant and a lot of fan-favourite characters make appearances - from Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) to The Blob (Kevin Durand) and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) - although not all of them in particularly recognisable forms.

Deadpool, for instance, is not a character I have any particular fondness for or knowledge of for that matter, but the film's ultimate transformation of his established character is just a pointless deviation from Marvel Comics canon. He might as well have been a completely new character for all the connection he had to either the character at the start of the film or in the comics which bear his name.

Conversely, I was impressed by the subtle way David Benioff and Skip Woods' script wove the young Scott Summers (Tim Pocock) into Wolverine's story - without either man knowing who the other was and thus mucking up continuity for their first 'real' meeting in the 2000 X-Men movie.

There was even a young girl in the mass of mutants who might have been meant to be Emma Frost, she certainly had the ability to turn into a diamond form - but lacked the powerful psychic abilities.

But for every fan-pleasing Easter Egg like that, there was a moment of unexplained duffness, such as Stryker's totally random deduction that shooting Wolverine in the head with an adamantium bullet would wipe the mutant's memory!

And we mustn't forget that strange - almost ethereal - cameo appearance by an uncredited "old friend" from the X-Men franchise, who steps in at the last minute to whisk young Scott and a gaggle of other liberated mutants to safety, in a scene that looks as though it was Photoshopped in. Is the character actually there or is he just some fancy piece of CGI? Most peculiar.

Some of the best scenes in X-Men Origins: Wolverine actually come in the title sequence, following the mutant brothers, James and Victor, through a succession of wars (American Civil War, First World War, Second World War and Vietnam War) and the film makers missed a trick by not expanding and developing these scenes more, rather than tacking on the jumbled mass of plot the movie actually offers us.

While Wolverine may be the name on the posters, the film really belongs to Victor Creed as the screen lights up when Liev Schreiber's nasty piece of work steps into view. Without this character, the film would have been a lot weaker and those who doubted Shreiber's ability to carry off the role of Sabretooth have been proved well and truly wrong.

As the first potential summer blockbuster of the year, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is okay, but not great. It's exciting on a purely visceral level, but won't tax any brain cells; a true popcorn film that fills you up for an instant but is soon forgotten.

If it wasn't for the experience of seeing a big budget action film at the cinema, I'd say X-Men Origins: Wolverine was really a DVD film to be savoured with a few cans of lager and a takeaway curry.

Enjoy the film more for the spectacle of superbeings beating the snot out of each other in creative ways than for any deep meaning or substance.

3 comments:

  1. I totally agree with your review. I loved parts of this but other parts left me underwelmed. It could be the Iron Man factor combined with the misteps in character (Deadpool especially)and X-men canon that bothered me the most. There was no reason for the misteps especially with so much rich material to pick from. This is the forth appearance of Wolverine and for that reason we deserved and have earned MORE by the filmakers. I had the same feeling about Spiderman 3

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Cal. Seems this is the general consensus of opinion. What a shame! It could easily have been as good as the first two X-Men movies!

    ReplyDelete
  3. some parts of this movie were okay (like anything with Liev Schreiber or Ryan Reynolds)... but almost everything else was oozing with generic, canned cheese

    ReplyDelete

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