Embarassing is about the only word that can be used to describe X-Men Origins Wolverine. It is a perfect example of the banal side of the Hollywood junk factory, where film executives make decisions on what we see without knowing a single thing about the subject matter.
Marvel has made a crucial mistake in signing over the rights of the X-Men franchise to Fox. From the very beginning they have lacked confidence in the series. In the first film, director Bryan Singer was highly restricted with what he was allowed to do and even with those restrictions, he created a well crafted film that gave X-Men fans a glimmer of hope of what future films could be. It proved to be successful so Fox gave him much more leeway for X2 which was not only vastly superior, but pushed the boundaries of comic book adaptations at the time.
Then Fox made a crucial error. Instead of paying Singer what he asked for to make the third film, they decided they wanted to save money so they gave it to veteran Hollywood hack Brett Ratner, the “genius” behind the rush hour films. The result was an insult to the source material. One of the most beloved story arks in X-Men history turned into a painful joke with major characters being killed off without so much as a thought.
The Dark Phoenix saga had the potential to be an incredible cinematic experience. In the comics, when Jean Grey turns into Dark Phoenix, she is the most powerful being in the universe and decimates worlds. In X3, she is an emo brooder, who stands around glaring at people then eventually dies without so much as a real conflict worthy of her comic book counterpart. Bryan Singer spent time developing Jean Grey so well that when she turned you would feel for her and the team but the way it was handled in X3, she was given a back stage in the story that should have been about her.
Then we have the new film – X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As if crapping all over cannon wasn’t insulting enough in X3, Fox has actually found a way to make it worse. The so called “origin” of Wolverine is handled in the opening sequence with poor acting from some child actors and no emotional weight whatsoever. Then we are treated to Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting in every major war over the next 100 years of their life. Yeah, it looked cool but it didn’t offer anything to developing the story of the two brothers and their motivations.
The film centres around two things, the relationship between the two brothers and the love between Wolverine and his girlfriend, Silverfox, that drives him to becoming Weapon X upon her death. Neither of those major themes are explored satisfactorily. In fact, they are both glossed over in favour of flashy action and the introduction of more mutants than you can poke a stick at. It’s great to see mutants from the comic book series introduced but when they are mere caricatures of themselves and are only there to be killed off, it makes them feel like Ensign Ricky, the red uniformed star trek away team member. They guy you just know is about to be eaten by a sludge monster.
Not everything in this film is a total loss though. As usual, Hugh Jackman puts in a great performance as Wolverine. However, like previous films he still isn’t as vicious as Wolverine really is. That being said, he does the best with what he has been given. Unfortunately, when you are delivering a poor script and put into the hands of a truly horrid director, you’re not being given much.
The secondary characters are there as scenery. Some truly great characters are given barely any screen time. Dominic Monaghan plays who? Oh yeah he’s the guy that touches his head to control electronics who appears in four scenes then gets killed off and we are meant to care about him? The Blob is there as a weight joke and is killed off in conversation. They may as well have named his character “Fatty Boom Sticks” and be done with it, he was so far from what the Blob is meant to be. Deadpool, an incredibly complex character, is reduced to a pitiful last minute adversary, as though he was the final boss in a poorly written video game. Gambit, a character that fans have been waiting to see on screen, is in the film for all of five minutes and even then isn’t given enough respect to have him played by an actor that can deliver his Cajun accent with consistency.
There are very few great things about this film. It has some of the worst visual effects seen in years and massive plot holes that make little to no sense. The final climactic battle comes off as a goofy bluescreen extravaganza and the characters are barely likeable. What this film needed was more focus on the relationship between the brothers and more time spent on Wolverines girlfriend. In order to understand why he volunteered to become Weapon X, we should be given some history of why her death was so traumatic to him that he needed to seek revenge. This, “I love you, I love you oh now I’m dead, avenge me!” crap just doesn’t wash.
It isn’t hard to make a good comic book film. You have the source material. These stories have been proven to work, all you need to do is make them appear on the big screen. Hollywood apparently doesn’t pay attention to the comic book films that work. If you want to repeat the success of films like The Dark Knight, look at what they did that worked. They were respectful to the source material. They hired excellent actors and talented directors.
What you don’t do is churn out something just because you know that since it has the name Wolverine in it, that people will go along and see it. Yeah, you will make a bucket load of money, but at what cost? It would have been just as easy to make something exceptional with a little more thought put into it.
Here’s a tip for Hollywood executives and it’s really quite simple. If you are making a film from a comic book there are only a few things you need to do to make it successful while also being a film fans can embrace. Firstly, hire a screenwriter that is a fan of the source material. Secondly, don’t hire Brett Ratner, Michael Bay, Paul W. Anderson or Uwe Boll – or Gavin Hood. Find a director that is respected, a director that is actually talented. Thirdly, once you have a good writer and director, back off and let them do their thing. Obviously you want to make sure they come in on-budget but when it comes to the creative side, have faith that they know what the hell they are doing.
It pains me to say it but X-Men Origins Wolverine is not worth seeing at the cinema. It’s not even a rental. Wait for TV for this one and even then tape it (yes people still own VHS and yes Im old) and watch it when you have nothing better to do. It doesn’t contribute anything to the story of Wolverine other than that which we already know from the previous X-Men films. It only exists to sell action figures.