X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schriber, and Danny Huston
Directed by Gavin Hood (Tsotsi)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity
Appropriate for ages 13+
As you may recall from the first two X-Men films, Wolverine has a problem remembering his past, thus Marvel Comics has brought us this prequel to explain how Logan became Wolverine, one of the most famous of super heroes. In the mid 1800s Logan (Jackman) and his brother Victor (Schriber) both discover that they have uncanny powers of self-healing and retractable claws. Together they fight in war after war, decade after decade. When they kill an officer in a skirmish and a military firing squad is unable to harm them, they are put into a special forces unit with other mutants, doing the dirty work for Uncle Sam. When Logan refuses to act on an order and walks away from a mission, his brother (who is now called Sabretooth) sets out to destroy him.
Going into the X-Men franchise almost a decade ago, the one hero comic fans wanted to see the most from the group was Wolverine, and much of the first two films was about him, so giving him his own origin movie is a good, if not profitable, idea. In order to give Wolverine more depth, the filmmakers did something unusual by going to South African director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) who has never directed a tent pole picture. While this has worked in the past with directors like Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson, this film felt a bit sloppy at times, almost like Hood was in over his head a bit. Too much of the film looked green-screened and the pacing was off in many of the scenes. I’m sure Fox was in control of most of the big action sequences, and some of them are spectacular sequences, but it’s the slower scenes that stick out. If you are seeing this just for the action, however, there is enough to keep you excited throughout.
Looking at the amount of writers that have been assigned this project, it is apparent that Fox and Marvel had script issues also. Too often did characters do or say things that they probably wouldn’t have done or said had the situations actually been happening (I can’t prove this point, but I’m working on it). What I can say for sure is that the plot devices used here to maintain continuity between this film and the first X-Men could have and should have been different. Due to spoilers, this is a conversation for after everyone in America has seen the film.
What did work well in the film are the terrific performances from the lead actors. Jackman and Schriber are incredibly gifted actors and they both are very fun to watch here. Danny Huston also makes a weaselly good Stryker, although he wasn’t quite as strong in this role as Brian Cox was in X2.
I usually don’t comment on this in my reviews, but I’d like to criticize Fox for their paranoia surrounding this film. I have been doing this a long time and I’ve never seen this much defensiveness from a studio. It is unfortunate that an unfinished copy of the film leaked before it was released, but to be this worried is ridiculous. The studios claimed that when a copy of the Hulk got out a few years back, it cost the movie millions at the box office. I call bull on that. How about the fact that Hulk wasn’t a very good film. I think that the recent successes of Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, and X-Men prove that when Hollywood provides a quality product, people will come – in droves. If the reviews of Wolverine come in strong, and the public likes it – it will make a lot of money. If not, it won’t. This much concern gives off the aroma of a bad film, and while it’s not brilliant, this movie is far from horrible. C+