Friday, January 13, 2012

Movie Review: "X-Men Origins - Wolverine" by David Pretty

Greetings, Canuckleheads!

Just like X-Men: The Last Stand, the awkwardly titled X-Men Origins - Wolverine is a junky, poorly plotted pastiche of random characters and disparate story lines which displays open contempt for the continuity that came before it.  It really seems like the product of a committee rather then the singular vision of a willful director.

Just check out all the disjointed images and Cuisinart-style editing masquerading as a trailer:

Despite its lethal flaws, the early scenes in 1845 Canada respect Wolverine's roots.  We get to see young James Howlett's mutant powers emerge during childhood after he witnesses the murder of his father at the hands of the estate's caretaker (who turns out to be his real pappy).

We then get a montage during the credits featuring James/Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and his half-brother Victor (Liev Schreiber) fighting side by side through a hundred and fifty years worth of human conflict.  It's a potent, economic summary of the character's early days and I'm still firmly onboard at this point.

After Victor goes all "My Lei Massacre" in Vietnam and a firing squad fails to put them both down, the two are recruited by the slimy Major William Stryker (Danny Huston) for black-ops missions. The group's questionable actions soon prompt Logan to walk away.  While living a peaceful existence in the Canadian wilderness, Logan is pulled back into his violent past when Victor begins killing members of their ex-team as well as Logan's beloved Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins).

In order to best his half-brother, Logan voluntarily undergoes an experiment by Stryker's design that sees his skeleton laced with unbreakable adamantium. The gamble pays off but in the process, Logan loses his memory and reverts back to his feral state.  The rest of the film sees our hero attempting to regain his memory, unravel the threads of duplicity and play out his inevitable revenge.

The thing that pissed me the most about this film is just how often the script thumbs its nose at good opportunities provided by the original source material.  Indeed, if the film had remained true to the comics, the roster of "Team X" would have been considerably more thematic, cool and original as opposed to  completely friggin' random.  Why Blob, Deadpool and are here is anybody's guess.  I suppose they were more marketable or somebody on the film's board of directors wanted them shoe-horned into the script.

Another inexplicable choice was jettisoning Wolverine's entire history with Canada's Department H, the group which eventually becomes Alpha Flight.  I know it's unlikely that we'll see our Canadian national superhero team in their own feature, but since their involvement in Wolverine's origin is integral I expected a mention at the very least.  Frankly, it's unforgivable that the entire element is excised just to make room for more "popular" characters like Gambit.

Frankly, if not for Hugh Jackman's participation, I'd be a lot harder on this piece of crap.  Jackman's natural charisma and clear dedication is palpable and he seems to be doing everything in his own power not to denigrate the character of Wolverine.  It's just a shame that he gets absolutely no help from the script.  This is particularly lamentable since Jackman does manage to eke out a few moments which really showcase his range, particularly in his scenes with Silverfox.
Liev Schreiber might have more depth as an actor than original Sabretooth Tyler Mane but it still adds up to another glaringly obvious continuity lapse.  Schreiber can certainly do menace well but it takes more than a pair of mutton-chops to bring Sabretooth's brutish, bestial savagery to life.

Danny Huston is good as Stryker, but frankly he can't hold a candle to Brian Cox, one of my all-time favorite character actors.  Taylor Kitsch manages to become the second G.I.N.O. in cinema history: I.E. "Gambit in name only".  It's bad enough that there's no logical reason why this character is in the script, but I also have no clue as to why Kitsch was cast in this role.  He's a non-presence who doesn't even bother to approximate a proper Cajun accent.  Boooo!!! 

Some of the special effects are really weak and even Wolverine's claws occasionally look like test footage. Except for a few stylistic flourishes during the ample fight scenes, the film's direction is completely flat and uninspired.  It's as if director Gavin Hood knew that the script was ass and cranked out the utilitarian dialogue scenes in order to get back to the mindless, popcorn crowd placating action beats.      

In order to cram in as much crap as possible, it also feels as if entire chunks of character development and exposition are missing.  For example, Wolverine goes from being called James by Victor to Logan by everyone else with no explanation provided by the script.  If fans didn't know that his real father's last name was Logan, we'd have no clue.  There's even a completely superfluous sequence involving the capture of a young Scott Summers/Cyclops, which seems to exist only to generate some eleventh hour links to the previous X-Men trilogy.

I have to chalk up X-Men Origins: Wolverine as another squandered opportunity to make a respectful comic book movie that dovetailed with what preceded it.  Again, I find myself lamenting the fact that Bryan Singer jumped ship from the X-Men series since he was doing so many great things with these characters.  After he left, the wheels really fell off.

The best thing I can say about X-Men Origins: Wolverine is that it doesn't suck as badly as X-Men: The Last Stand.

Tilt: down.

No comments:

Post a Comment