Thursday, May 22, 2014

Children of the Atom, Part 4: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

File:X-Men Origins Wolverine.jpg

            Countdown to X-Men: Days of Future Past, Part 4…

            It was a matter of time before the X­-franchise spun off Wolverine into his own film. God only knows why - the X-films were pretty much Wolverine movies anyway. But, the character is undeniably popular, and the previous films all but paved the way for the further adventures of everyone’s favorite Canadian furball. Or rather, the previous adventures, as the title suggests: this outing finally sees the mysterious origins alluded to in the first and second X-Men films, as here we see how Wolverine got his adamantium-laced skeleton. And, oh yeah, also his jacket. We mustn’t overlook the jacket.  

            The biggest fault with all the X-films so far is the overabundance of mutants, so you might think to yourself, well, at least we won’t have that problem by focusing on a single character. Sadly, however, that’s not the case. X-Men Origins: Wolverine crams in even more characters than the others, and for the flimsiest of reasons, at that. I don’t know why a movie focused on Wolverine needs the characters of Emma Frost, Gambit, the Blob and a younger Cyclops, but the film stuffs them in, with at least a dozen others. All of them show up for a handful of scenes, existing solely to numbly walk Wolverine through the loose jumble of scenes that is the “plot”; alternately providing either exposition, or someone for Wolverine to fight.

            You might also ask yourself: well, if that’s the case, then surely the film is worth watching for Hugh Jackman in his defining role. I mean, even when the films around him weren’t all that great, at least Jackman was a bright spot, right? Wrong again. Jackman looks thoroughly adrift here, not helped by a script that goes for the most rote emotional beats at each and every turn. The confidence and the swagger from the last trilogy here is replaced by lots of confusion and angry posing. Faring a little better is Liev Schreiber as Logan’s half-brother Victor aka Sabretooth (somewhat incongruously with the first film) - although he really isn’t given much more to do than Jackman, Schrieber at least looks like he’s having fun. The rest of the cast is much the same, with talented folks like Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins (as Deadpool, Gambit and Kayla Silverfox, respectively) all leaving an impression despite dropping in and out of the movie with little rhyme or reason. The only other major role belongs to Danny Huston as a younger William Stryker, a role in which he all but twists his nonexistent villain-mustache through - quite a far cry from his elder self that appears in X2 in Brian Cox.

            The film is aggressively stupid, almost daring you at times to take it seriously. We jump right into things with a flashback to Logan’s childhood, a confusing and rushed scene which--in its attempts to remain true to the comics--makes no sense. I mean, why is the character called “Logan” anyway? If his given name is James Howlett, and his real father is also the father of a character called “Victor Creed,” where does the epithet “Logan” come from? The film is filled with such inconsistencies, each one more stupid than the last, almost as if the film were designed by a committee of thirteen-year-old boys. All of this might have been tempered with the right measure of tone, but Gavin Hood’s direction is way overmodulated - making the events play out so melodramatically that it swallows whatever real drama there is whole. Just count how many times a character screams up towards the heavens, and the camera zooms out on them from above - how does anyone think an overdone and overwrought shot like that still has any effect in this day and age?

            The film’s biggest concern is sweeping through all the “boring” parts and getting right straight to the fighting, so you’d think some measure of craft might have gone into the construction of the film’s many fight and chase scenes… but you’d be wrong yet again. The action in the movie boils down to shoddy, ramshackle effects and a bunch of characters striking ridiculous poses - a bunch of “cool” moments that feel, once more, designed by a host of teenage boys overfed on anime and Rob Liefeld comics.

            Between this and X-Men: The Last Stand, it’s a miracle the franchise was killed outright.     

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