By Jack Giroux
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the failed attempt to reignite a franchise, its also the worst installment in the X-Men series. In the past year there has been superhero films that have brought something new to the genre, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine is nothing more then a mindless action romp that rehashes old generic action tricks.
The film centers around Wolverine’s mysterious past that has alway beens unclear in the X-Men trilogy. The story chronicles Wolverine’s early years from him as a child to him and his half-brother (Victor/Wolverine) fighting wars. During the Vietnam war Logan and Victor are offered a second chance by general William Stryker who’s assembling a team of mutants. After witnessing the violent intentions of the team, Logan abandons the team and runs off to live in exile. After the woman he loves is slain by Victor, Wolverine is out for blood. He turns to Stryker who enlists him in the Weapon X program, to help him get his revenge. During this quick and dissapointily dull process Wolverine becomes indestructible and unstoppable. Soon he learns the real truth behind Styker’s intentions, which leads to a full on war between the two.
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The story is the biggest problem, its a mess. Not a shred of it is comprehensible or interesting. There’s no coherence, its one mindless action scene after another that adds nothing to the story. All the emotional scenes come off as a superhero soap opera, there’s never any emotional impact. When Wolverine’s girlfriend is killed, his pain is never felt, which leads to 107 minutes of watching him act angry and brutish. Its hard to care for Wolverine despite Jackman’s efforts, this excellent character has never been so uninteresting. The story should have focused more on Wolverine and Sabertooth’s relationship. Unfortunately, that story aspect with the best potential is more of a foot note.
Gavin Hood (Rendition) seems incapable of keeping a consistent tone and telling a coherent story, much of the film’s problems are credited to his direction. He’s unable to handle an FX driven film, the tone is constantly shifting from comedy to drama, coming off rather sloppy. He plays some scenes out in a parody fashion with crane shots of Wolverine shouting up in the air viciously. Whenever he tries to induce humor, it falls flat. There are a few scenes where his eye for visuals is impressive, the opening credit sequence is extremely executed and it pulls you right into the movie. That’s the most engaging idea in the film, Wolverine and Sabertooth living their lives fighting wars and having blood on their hands. Unfortunately, its a half-baked idea like most of the film. Its disappointing that Hood got stuck directing this, his career showed much promise with Tsotsi. With his talents, he deserves much better.
The script is the main problem, its atrocious. It throws character development and logic right out the window for non-stop action scenes that don’t contribute anything to the narrative. This film is the definition of contrived and predictable, every plot point feels like a dance number. There’s too much focus on Wolverine’s love escapade and not his relationship with Sabertooth and Stryker. That is where the script should have been sharper and more focused, instead of going for all-out action and meandering story lines. There’s also a handful of cringeworthy lines, plenty of hem are purely laughable. Even the the origin of Wolverine’s named is clumsily handled.
Popcorn films constantly fail to deliver on worthwhile stories and only contain impressive action, which leads to nothing more than dumb fun. Even that aspect is incredibly lackluster here. All the action sequences are staged poorly, relying very heavily on cartoonish CGI. The horrid effects also lead to a sense of disbelief that holds the action back. The action sequences are extremely over-the-top and yet they were filmed with a straight face resulting in even more laughs. From the helicopter attack to the ever so cliche slow-motion explosion in the background scene, the film still goes for seriousness. Its mind boggling that even the special effects are bland, from Wolverine’s claws to Professor Xavier’s de-aged face, they look cheap. They pull you out of the movie, and make you feel as if your watching someone playing a video-game. Another major issue is that there’s never a sense of geography during any of those moments, all the action scenes are cut and shot poorly. There’s multiple jump cuts during the action sequences which makes each action piece extremely difficult to follow.
Most of the actors do all that they can, but due to the material they’re stuck playing unappealing characters without any genuine purpose in the story. Hugh Jackman is still spot on as Wolverine, but he’s lowered to doing action scene after action scene, which leaves him lacking any real depth. He’s playing one of the most interesting characters in the X-Men universe and yet he’s completely unappealing here. Taking on the villain roles are Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth aka Victor Creed and Danny Huston as William Stryker, both of their characters have been seen in the first two installments. Schreiber is menacing enough for Sabertooth, but due to the script, he’s constantly having to deliver cheesy one-liners. Sabertooth’s dynamic relationship with Wolverine is the best aspect of the story, but is not explored to the extent that it should be. The usually excellent Danny Huston winds up fading away in comparison to Brian Cox’s sinister take on Stryker from X2: X-Men United. Cox made a highly menacing villain that was extremely diabolical, while Huston makes Stryker a bland and unworthy opponent. Fan favorites including Deadpool, Gambit, and The Blob also make their first time appearances, but they’re savagely wasted. There’s no exposition or development for any of them, they’re just there for fan-service, and what’s done to Deadpool during the third act is beyond baffling.
The story unravels in the worst case possible, its a by the number lackluster action picture. At the end your left with nothing more than a sense of disappointment, considering the nature of Wolverine, his grand story deserves a much better film. With an array of fantastic characters wasted, a muddled story, and cartoony action, this is a crushing disappointment. Hugh Jackman is still spot on as Wolverine and the film does have a few enjoyable moments (opening credits sequence), but they all get lost in the muddled cringe worthy story.