Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weeks Too Late: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Directed by Gavin Hood & written by David Benioff & Skip Woods.

Preconceptions: I know, I know, Wolverine isn't a new DVD release, new in the theaters, or a sadly missed over bit of fun. I had heard many, many, MANY bad things about Wolverine. I heard that it was overly complicated, had too many criss crossing plot threads and a ridiculous number of characters. I heard that the special effects were truly laughable. It was supposed to be a hideous pile! Why on earth am I watching it? Well, I'll admit my answer smacks of a lack of sophistication: seeing Iron Man 2 got me all pumped up to see more super hero action. This was one of the few super hero movies I hadn't seen yet, there was this, Daredevil or Elektra. I sooo wasn't going to watch Elektra, and I deeply enjoyed Hugh Jackman in this role, so I thought, what the hell, and gave it a watch.

General Review: It was no Iron Man 2 but, hearing what I'd heard about it, that's not exactly a surprise. However, it wasn't a shattered, post apocalyptic, wasteland of a movie either. If you choose to watch this you won't need a hazmat suit or to beware of disgusting freaks trying to eat your flesh (so in this, it has a one up on Thir13en Ghosts and possibly Elektra). No, it wasn't a strong movie for the many reasons I'm about to go into, but it wasn't the irredeemable mess that word of mouth had led me to believe.

I might only have faint praise for this movie, but I do have praise. It was coherent, linear and not incompetently directed. The opening sequence was genuinely skillful. It walked us quickly through Wolverine's long life, through various wars, without being confusing or cumbersome. We were also out of his origin story (which as far as I can tell took place in the Secret Garden-as written by the deeply lame Andy Kubert) very quickly. I approved of this. Hugh Jackman was a delight (as ever) and manged to sell some tough guy lines (and, come to think of it, some nice guy lines) that would have fallen flat with a lesser actor.

While I'm on the subject of actors-I genuinely preferred Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth. I even bought the ridiculous jumping around that looked so bad in the original X-Men movies. Ryan Reynold's portrayal of the lippy Deadpool left something to be desired, but he did seem to get the meat of it. In fact the only character who I felt was noticeably lacking was Taylor Kitsch as Gambit. His lack of charm left my pants firmly on, something that should be difficult to do playing Gambit as I, like many comic-y girls born in the 80's, should know.

Lets look at some of the other common complaints I heard about this movie. There were a number of characters. Yes, this did mean that not all of them were completely fleshed out, but no, it wasn't distracting or irritating. I wasn't confused about who anyone was and I wasn't annoyed by people constantly poking their heads in and saying things like: "it is I, Breadman, with all the powers of a loaf of bread! I received my mighty powers when bitten by some irradiated bread!"

The special effects were lacking at times. I'd become so accustomed to Wolverine's claws seeming realistic that I was surprised by them looking like they'd been drawn in in MS Paint. They didn't always look crappy, but there was definitely a fecal smell in some scenes. And yes, there were a few moments where I went "whoa, greenscreen." They weren't so bad that I couldn't tell what was happening. And while they took me out of the moment more than once I've been to movies with much better CG where poor directing left me lost as to what had just occurred.

The story didn't have too many plot threads. Each one pretty naturally led to the next one. It was at least a half an hour too long, though. I really would have been content to stay in Wolverine's war days and never reached the lab rat section of his history. Maybe they knew there wouldn't be a second movie and wanted to cram all the Wolverine action they could, I don't know. But it would have been quite a bit better for being chopped down. It started to drag at about the 45 minute mark.

The ending, don't worry I won't spoil it, is more than a little cheesy. It's a bit of a desperate attempt to tack the end of Wolverine onto the beginning of X-Men. Actually, as we were nearing it I wondered if we were going to get to the right story point for the two movies to fit together. We did, but only barely.

As a ridiculous parody of myself comic nerd I found myself falling into the "Wolverine never did that! That guy had nothing to do with that!" trap more than once. For this, you must forgive me, and I promise not to bitch about anything like that here. Well...just one bitch... What's awesome about Wolverine is what a bad ass he is. Sometimes he gets softened when he falls in love or learns to be a Samurai or whatever, but even Wolverine a bit wussed up is still a pretty nasty guy. He barely kills anyone in this movie. He lets so many people live who had a firm snikt-ing coming. More than plot holes or unimpressive CG this is what bugged me the most.

All in all, not nearly as bad as I was expecting. It didn't make a ridiculous sham of the only good Canadian super hero. If you hit a rainy afternoon, where you're aching for a littler super hero action, you could do a lot worse than Wolverine. Don't expect amazingly great things from it, but it's not a bad movie to turn your brain off and enjoy.

Random Thoughts (I will spoil you here, candies for all): I get that sewing up Deadpool's mouth was supposed to be a call back, I do. But the opportunity for a simply great turn around of convention was missed here. So often you have the limber, jokey super hero cracking wise at the bulky strong baddie. Having Wolverine be utterly silent while facing chatty bad guy Deadpool would have been extremely entertaining.


  1. your review was good. i disagree about ryan reynold's cameo...i thought it was great, but yea the weapon xi or "barakapool" sucked eggs. i like gambit, didn't have a problem with the characters...but i almost created a drinking game for every time says that they will or DOES decapitate some one else, and i don't even drink!
    the movie felt rushed to me, it felt like the script needed just a little more tweaking to be great.
    i agree that chatty deadpool vs silent wolverine would have been brilliantly fun, but alas we will have to wait until AFTER green lantern is done to get Deadpool in full glory.

  2. Heh I liked Deadpool's weapon XI story in the comics, that was neat and I didn't mind seeing a bit of it in Wolverine.

    It had the seeds for a really rad movie, and while it so didn't suck it wasn't what it could have been.

    Also: needed more killing.

  3. My highest praise goes to the title sequence of this film. More super hero movies need this type of opening to give the origin away and avoid doing a whole movie about how a young boy gets bitten by a radioactive spider.