Tuesday, May 1, 2012

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) Review

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
"Snikted" into pieces
If 2007 was the year of the third sequel, then 2009 is shaping up to be the same for fourth sequels, which are also set up as reboots for their own trilogies. We had Fast and Furious, which brought back the four principal actors from the first Fast/Furious movie including Vin Diesel. Then we had Terminator Salvation, which returned to the gritty tone of the first movie and showed the beginnings of the future war with the Skynet machines. We also kind of have coming up what could be considered the fourth movie in the Evil Dead series in the form of Drag Me to Hell, director Sam Raimi’s return to the horror genre he started out in. And now we come to Wolverine, the fourth X-Men movie after the main trilogy series concluded with Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. The character of Wolverine has a deep and complex back-story that provides ample material for the filmmakers to utilize, but how well do they use this material?

Plot Synopsis: The movie begins in the year 1845, where we witness a young James Howlett exact his revenge on his father's murderer Logan. James and his brother Victor Creed then flee their home after James learns that Logan was his real father. Because of their healing abilities, the two brothers can live longer than a normal human and enlist in the army to fight in a range of wars that starts with the Civil War and ends in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, a commanding officer stops Victor from raping a woman and is killed in the process. James tries to defend Victor, but the two are captured by the army. After surviving the firing squad, they are visited by William Stryker, a military major who wants them to join his Special Forces team made of mutants including Wade Wilson, John Wraith, Agent Zero, Fred Dukes, and Chris Bradley. When the team’s questionable actions come into the light, James leaves the team, renames himself Logan, and settles down to live with Kayla Silverfox. Years later, after the entire team has disbanded, Victor reappears and begins murdering his former teammates. Stryker asks Logan to help stop Victor, but he isn't convinced until Victor comes for him and kills Kayla. Logan then agrees to be subject to one of Stryker's experiments, which replaces his entire bone skeleton with an adamantium skeleton that should be the key to defeating Victor.


What is it with movies these days being edited down to nothing but action scenes? Terminator Salvation is another recent case, but at least it felt mostly coherent. Wolverine, however, is not the same case. Many of the details in the plot are glossed over in murky seconds and the plot in general jumps around without building up any kind of momentum. For instance, Wolverine joins Stryker's team, they do one operation, and then he leaves. This happens in a measly five minutes. The film should have been about a half hour longer in order to clarify certain elements and expand others so that they would be more interesting. This also hurts the films supporting cast, where some of the more important characters come off as mere cameos, only adding the pointless "real" cameos. Fred Dukes, a.k.a. Blob, appears only to have an unnecessary fight scene with Wolverine and then be gone. Was there a reason to include a young Cyclops? No, but he's there anyway. Gambit has a minor presence, but most of it is dedicated to him appearing at the most convenient of times.

Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, gets the biggest shaft, which is a shame since Ryan Reynolds shows such potential in doing the character justice during his single scene as Wade. After that, when Wade changes into Weapon XI, the character becomes an absolute abomination that doesn't resemble his comic origins in any way at all. As you would expect, Hugh Jackman still proves that he is and always will be Wolverine. He doesn't get any real chances to display his inner beast rage, but Jackman crackles with intensity and conviction. Likewise for Liev Schreiber, who plays Victor a.k.a. Sabertooth with feral menace and joyous glee. The only issue is that his smart and calculating Sabertooth is inconsistent with the less intelligent version played by Tyler Mane in X-Men. Danny Huston seems to try and create a more complex Stryker, but instead comes off as bland and doesn't come close to Brian Cox's devilishly evil portrayal in X2.


All we can really ask for now is that the action scenes can make up for the lackluster script and story. Unfortunately director Gavin Hood, a good director any other day, bungles this aspect in many of the scenes. For instance, the motorcycle chase between Wolverine and Stryker's jeeps is well executed and shot, but ends with a ridiculously clichéd action-hero moment with an exploding helicopter. In fact the biggest problem lies not in the action happening onscreen, but in the way these scenes are assembled. The Blob fight and the fight with Sabertooth at the army base are the most obvious examples, where the haphazard editing jumps around as if large chunks of the action are missing. Would you like to know more? Well, some of the CGI can be blatantly obvious (like Wolverine’s claws and his clawing through the wall) and the movie uses the plot device of adamantium bullets to explain Wolverine's amnesia. Yes, you read that right, adamantium bullets.

The reason I can forgive a movie like Terminator Salvation is that it still got the action element right and was very entertaining despite its relatively major flaws. Wolverine does not have that luxury, and it falters in the process.

Initial Rating: 1.5/4    Revised Rating: 1/4 

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