X-tra, X-tra – X-Men Origins: Wolverine DVD review

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston. Directed by Gavin Hood. Rated M. Originally published April 29, 2009. By Simon Miraudo.

So much for a clean slate. After the immensely negative fan reaction towards the 3rd instalment of the X-Men franchise, Fox Studios decided to go back to square one with the origin story of everyone’s favourite shirtless mutant, Wolverine. How could it fail, right? Come now; in Hollywood, there are a million ways to ruin a sure thing. X-Men Origins: Wolverine has been plagued by months of bad buzz based on late reshoots and reported arguments between director Gavin Hood and the studio over the film’s artistic direction. To cap it all off, an incomplete workprint of the film leaked last month, sans score and special effects. I’m sure that producer and star Hugh Jackman had hoped for a better origin story for his pet project.

Of course – that isn’t the film, and in the end, the film is the thing. Despite its turbulent production history, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a fairly entertaining and coherent superhero flick. It may not be the best of the series (that distinction still belongs to X2), but it has given fans something they’ve waited decades for: a full-blown actioner with the great clawed-one at the center. Jackman reprises his role as Logan/Wolverine, bringing with him all the charisma and intensity we’ve grown to love.

The film begins in the early 1800’s, with a young Logan sick in bed. He rises after hearing his father attacked downstairs, and proceeds to execute the intruder with the newly formed claws protruding from his hands. Wouldn’t you know it; the intruder is not only the father of his sharp-nailed friend Victor Creed, but also, gulp¸himself. I’d be lying if I said this would be the only ironic tragedy Logan encountered over the years. The half-brothers go on the run, and eventually grow into Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. The two indestructible, ageless men hide out amongst the armies of history in an electrifying sequence that takes us from the Civil War right through to Vietnam. They are eventually unearthed by the determined Colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston) and asked to join his special team. No, not that special team. Not yet.

The relationship between Logan, Victor and their unfortunate father figure Stryker is easily the most fascinating aspect of Wolverine’s origin tale. Sadly, it eventually takes a back seat to the other mutants of Stryker’s Weapon X program and this is where the problems begin. Too many characters in the film are introduced to simply further the plot, or act as a deus ex machina when the screenwriter is too lazy to think up a reasonable solution. Sadly, this an attribute of the entire X-Men franchise, and not just this installment. Think of Storm’s storyline in the trilogy. She has virtually no arc; she is simply required to fashion some lightning or a hurricane when it is imperative to the team’s survival. This is not a fully formed character- this is a weather machine.

Storm isn’t in X-Men Origins, but there are plenty of useless characters to take her place. There is Kestrel (Will. I. Am) and Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), who exist only to take Logan from Place A to Place B. There is Blob (Kevin Durand), who exists only to box Wolverine, in the film’s most inexplicable sequence. And there is a very early incarnation of Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), who exists … so that mutant-spotters can tick him off their list? I’m not saying these characters should have been cut; on the contrary, I believe that Gambit and Deadpool in particular have been excluded from the live-action films for far too long. Despite the mostly game performances, they are horrifically underwritten and threaten to sink the entire film.

But enough moaning. This film is called Wolverine and that’s what the people came to see. In that respect, I doubt audiences will be disappointed. Wolverine has always been the most interesting character of the X-Men films, thanks to Mr. Jackman’s intense and funny performances. He brings an under-appreciated grace and ferociousness to the role; this guy has had a hard life, and his eyes never let you forget it. It’s also a testament to Hood’s skills as an actor’s director that Wolverine carries the gravitas of a Shakespearean hero. The Academy Award-winning director at times does struggle with some of the action sequences (and some particularly questionable CGI). However, there are several set-pieces that are well worth the film’s blockbuster tag.

Don’t worry; for those of you unfamiliar with Wolverine’s origins, I’ve left plenty of surprises for you to find out on your own. There is a good film at the center of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In fact, I honestly think there is a great film hiding away, but it requires a lot of effort on behalf of the viewer to find it. It may be a difficult film to love, but it’s an easy one to enjoy. A little Jackman goes a long way. But a lot of Jackman … well, you’ve got yourself a successful franchise.


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One Response to “X-tra, X-tra – X-Men Origins: Wolverine DVD review”

  1. Love the original comic, am OK about movies..but lost interest as soon as Bryan Singer wasn't involved. X1 and X2 are it for me 😦

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