X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Bad movies need to stop being made or else I am going to die. Today’s plan was to write a screed about reviews in response to Shamus‘ review lore. But first I am going to have to kill X-Men Origins: Wolverine in the face for being such a slipshod, lazy and uninteresting movie. Even as someone who doesn’t have an investment in the X-Men franchise, it wouldn’t have taken much to make this movie enjoyable. The premise of the franchise is sound: dudes have cool powers, get discriminated against because of it, and blow shit up in a variety of ways using those powers.

If you’ve seen the trailer for Wolverine you’ve seen all of the cool bits. The extent of the long awaited Gambit’s involvement is really throwing a few cards and using a sort of shock stick (I’m not a scholar; I don’t know the technical terms). What you have left after that is a total lack of momentum and a lot of smirking from Liev Schreiber. Hugh Jackman’s arms really cannot carry a movie by themselves, not even in conjunction with the unmercifully brief showing of Ryan Reynolds’ arms. It’s just not on.

Twitter is the place to go if you want a fairly instantaneous review from me, and I said all that needed to be said in 123 characters:

Wolverine was poorly shot, badly motivated and the characters seemed little more than cameos. I would recommend against it.

But I’ll write a little more and get the word out. I would suggest that if you were a kneejerk reactionary who doesn’t think about his choice of words, you could suggest that several of your favourite X-Men characters have been “raped” by this movie. If you want to say stuff like that, I’ll see you for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in a couple of months!

In 1845, young Jimmy accidentally kills his real father with bone claws that extend from his hands. He goes on the run with his newly discovered brother, Victor, and they grow up to be Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber – but not yet Wolverine and Sabretooth – and they fight together through many wars.

However – and this is where it gets really good – Victor gets carried away with the brutality of the Vietnam War (just call him “The Comedian”) and he and Jimmy get executed. But they don’t die! So they join a secret government organisation of mutants led by William Stryker (Danny Huston) which eventually culminates in Jimmy becoming Logan/Wolverine/Weapon X and having adamantium injected into his bones. Also he and Victor become arch nemeses for reasons that are entirely beyond my feeble human brain.

Inevitably, the only scene wherein the movie even attempts to shine is the invasion of Nigeria set piece just after the opening credits, which turns out to be an elaborate exercise in introducing characters who exist only to be killed later on in the film. Who knows why Dominic Monaghan has an affinity for light bulbs and electronics in general? Certainly not I; the certified Marvel and DC Expert I attended the film with had no clue, either. The point is, he’s introduced, he has a few lines – he’s a fairly big name, even (he’s Meriadoc Brandybuck, for eff’s sake!) – and then he’s killed later on to prove a point. This opening gambit (ha!) is the only part of the film that comes close to a legitimate spectacle; as for the rest, there’s only so many explosions one can take in a movie, and I saw all of them in the trailer. Seriously.

To summarise the film we’ve got: cheap love story, a lot of smirking, exactly the same Wolverine/Sabretooth fight a million times, an exceptionally large cast of people we don’t begin to care about, and an increasingly annoying series of deus ex machinations.  There are only so many times that Wolverine can be placed into a deathly peril before being saved by some mutant at the last second that a man can take, particularly when seventy of them are along the “the only one who gets to kill you is me!” variety, not to mention that we’ve already seen three other movies set after this one in which he resolutely failed to die.

Wolverine’s perception of who the villain is changes constantly, despite being permanently obvious to the audience (Danny Huston is evil? Who would have thought!?). When one of the reasons for his rage is proven to be a lie, Wolverine chooses to maintain the rage anyway. Yeah, Sabretooth is a dick. Whatever. Is there any point in stabbing him repeatedly in the chest if it does nothing to him?

Roger Ebert used his largely accurate review of the film as a beat up of Wolverine as a character in general. I don’t think that that is a fair reading; Wolverine is probably not a bad dude. Certainly, Marvel and DC have always had a talent for becoming convoluted or frankly contradictory. That’s across more than forty years of material. It’s not supposed to happen in the space of one movie.  Sabretooth is a key figure in Wolverine‘s confusion; for reasons entirely undisclosed, he wants to kill Wolverine but also wants to protect him from nasty bad military organisations (sometimes). It’s also rather unsatisfactory to suggest that they spent one hundred and thirty years fighting in wars as brothers-in-claws simply because there aren’t enough wars to sustain a relationship for that long. What did the two of them do in between smoking cigars and stabbing people with the American flag? To create a character whose sole function is bloodthirstiness smacks of laziness; to pretend that he has a legitimate bond with another character whose sole function is … actually, Logan is ridiculously character-free here. From my vague recollection of the original X-Men trilogy he was a bit tortured, and definitely cynical and sardonic. Here his only nod towards characterisation is calling people “bub”. Also he gives someone the finger with his claws. I remember that from nine years ago, too, guys!

It’s cynical to say, but Wolverine cost twice as much to make as the original X-Men movie and it’s almost certainly not twice as good or fun. Something about Singer’s work rubbed me the wrong way but that was just me. I know for a fact that with Wolverine the problem is with the film itself. At $150 million dollars you expect good looking special effects, but they can’t be mustered here. It’s like no one could be bothered, knowing that people would pack in to the cinemas anyway, and they figured that near enough is good enough. Continuing the trend of fights that can’t be followed by the human eye, any melee combat is conveyed with quick cuts and camera shots that generally avoid any important information. For a movie with an incredibly obvious trajectory (except for the Deadpool stuff, which is so far wrong that no one could ever have seen it coming), the muddiness and obscurity of its visual communication is a huge confusion.

Still, there’s something of the Judas in me for saying that this movie sucked. Directly after seeing it, I ran into people I knew through work and told them what I thought. They were disappointed, but it’s not going to stop them from seeing it. Further friends were heartbroken to hear that I thought it was a terrible exercise, and I’ve been told to keep my mouth shut about Star Trek by at least one person. I don’t exactly see why that’s an issue, because Star Trek is going to be awesome, but frankly the people must be warned of Wolverine.

I just feel sorry for Ajay, who had to see it twice in one day out of a sense of loyalty to his other friends. I would say that hopefully they enjoyed it, but to be honest I would probably turn up my nose at anyone who enjoys this level of cinema. I’ve seen a fair few bad movies lately: Dragonball Evolution, Fast & Furious and now this. Each film showcased a different form of badness. Wolverine is a victim of laziness and apathy on the part of the people responsible. There’s a scene after the credits are up (two different scenes, depending on the cinema that you attend); I’d say don’t bother staying around for them, but honestly you shouldn’t be going to Wolverine in the first place. I’ve already fed the machine my $11, but maybe it’s not too late for you. Get out while you still can.

Post Script: I neglected to mention in the body of the review the awful pancake monster that descends upon Three Mile Island in a helicopter towards the end of the film. If $150 million can’t fix that, then the value of the dollar has truly embraced nothingness. Congratulations on your Zen economy, Hollywood.


  1. Wavatar empty_other May 4, 2009
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