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X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009) *1/2 advanced review by COOP

Posted on April 30th, 2009
Posted on April 30th, 2009


The fist big summer blockbuster of the season has already claimed the title of the most disappointing movie of the year so far. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” suffered from problems long before reaching the silver screen as news of panicked reshoots signaled something was amiss. Rumors of inept filmmaking caused a wave of negativity throughout the media and X-Men fans. The trailers looked spectacular so I remained cautiously optimistic. After 107 minutes of torment, I regret to report that “Wolverine” may signal the end of the X-Men movie franchise and could potentially hurt future projects… even the ones already in production.

Canadians James (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) have been around since the mid-1800’s. The two half-brother mutants cannot die, so they fight in war after war for 100 years until the savage Victor goes berserk and slaughters his fellow soldiers in Vietnam. James kills to protect Victor, leading to their mutual execution. When they both survive the firing squad without a scratch, an officer named Stryker (Danny Huston) offers them a chance to join an elite Special Forces team of mutants to put their fierce powers to good use. Thus begins the chain of events that leads James “Wolverine” Logan to lose his memory and eventually join the X-Men.

It’s a prequel storyline that has captivated millions of avid comic book readers, now finally realized on the screen. And they blew it. The filmmakers failed on so many levels and while I’m not sure who is to blame, there’s going to be a reckoning for this one. Not since “Batman and Robin” have I seen a studio blunder a popular (“The Spirit” doesn’t count) comic book property so carelessly. It’s a terrible departure in quality and an affront to the loyal fans of the genre.

The acting is fine so I’m not going to point fingers at the cast. The largest issue is the sloppy editing and pacing that blazes through plot points with such haste, you’ll constantly feel like you missed something important. Wolverine joins, then quits the superhuman team (known as “Weapon X” in the comic books) within 7 minutes of the film, leaving dangling plotlines that the story fumbles to wrap up in the last ten minutes. Popular characters get used, abused and casually discarded. The most egregious misuse happens with the character of Wade “Deadpool” Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) who shows up in spectacular fashion in the beginning then disappears until the very end, re-emerging in such a way that the character’s biggest fans will never trust Marvel Films again.

Instead of adopting a darker tone appropriate for the Wolverine character, Director Gavin Hood decided to go bigger, flashier and more ostentatious. Clearly a step in the wrong direction as this was the strategy that ruined the “Batman” films in the 90’s. Add to the bad list: A goofy “naked Jackman” sequence, the insulting “Blob” scene, dodgy special effects and plot points that clumsily attempt to connect everything to the “X-Men” films… For all that I think I’ll knock “Wolverine” down another half point from 2 to 1½.

Despite all its problems I found a few things to like. I applaud the opening sequence montage showing Wolverine and Victor “Sabretooth” Creed fighting first in the Civil War, then WWI, WWII, and finally Vietnam. Not only did it explain a great deal about their origins, but it also developed the character of Creed by showing his increasingly uncontrollable bloodlust throughout the years. By the time we reach present day (I think… when does this movie take place? The 70’s?), Creed has become a psychopath and Wolverine is done making excuses for him. This brings us to Schreiber as Creed who steals the film out from under Jackman. He’s intensely scary, evil and charismatic and it’s frustrating that the continuity of his character doesn’t hold up with the first “X-Men” film. I also liked the Weapon X team and feel all their characters (especially Deadpool) were slighted by thoughtless plotting.

I’m dismayed that I’m already seeing positive reviews for “Wolverine.” It’s designed, intentionally or not, for people who like Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin” and think comic book films should be tonally similar to a Vegas act or a Saturday morning cartoon. If you truck with that train of thought, you will probably like it, but don’t be surprised if somebody makes fun of you ten years later when a fan-consensus is reached that “Wolverine” was one of the worst comic book movies ever made.

Rating: 1 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Notice the deceptively sharp trailer below…

-Coop

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