X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Lynn Collins
Director: Gavin Hood
Runtime: 107 mins
Release date: 29 April 2009
Runtime: 107 mins
Release date: 29 April 2009
After Bryan Singer’s adaptive and modern takes, and Brett Ratner’s explosive and throwaway finale to the X-Men trilogy, there was an opportunity for 20th Century Fox to take the best discovery from those three films, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, and deliver a spin-off that was greater than its parent franchise. Wolverine's origin story from the comic books has an interesting, involving and brutal past that would easily span several films and that could allow a director to play with more mature themes than the previous family-friendly movies dared. Zack Snyder had been in the running to direct but his R-Rated version was apparently shot down by producers Jackman and Lauren Shuler Donner who wanted to aim for a PG-13 rating, a decision that can only have pleased the studio considering the bums-on-seats draw of the Jackman’s characterisation. It has therefore fallen to Gavin Hood, director of critically acclaimed Tsotsi, to take the furry Canadian by the sideburns and steer him down an origin story.
Somehow Hood, with ample help from screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods and star/producer Jackman, has managed to take that truly great opportunity and blow its brains out all over the walls of a dark, dark alleyway in a town called Crapsville. The 107 minutes running time has been used for three things and three things alone:
1. To show off Jackman’s muscular body.
2. To demonstrate a raft of disappointing CGI effects and set-pieces.
3. To try to hide the films flaws from X-fans by providing screen time for several characters that didn’t make it into the main series.
After a promising introduction that makes a brief nod to Paul Jenkins' Origin limited series and a well judged opening credits sequence it soon becomes clear that story is likely to take a backseat once the mutant-power showboating begins. The slightest sign that 10 minutes of uninterrupted story and character development could be on the way is soon squashed beneath claws, rage and mutant-manliness. It appears that rather than develop actual characterisation through a combination of decently written dialogue and proficient acting performances the creators believe that all we require as an audience is an obviously expensive demonstration of abilities and talents that instantly introduces and defines a character.
The biggest problem appears to be the scope of what Hood has to try and pack into the runtime. The film teleports John Wraith-style all over the place, from location to location, punch-up to punch-up with barely a pause for breath. As a result we hardly get opportunity to explore Logan’s emotional state as a man forever on the brink of succumbing to his animal side. Jackman has the proven acting depth to be able to deliver a truly haunted and isolated performance but he’s simply not given the chance to flex his acting muscles. Instead it’s an endless parade of his bench-pressed biceps displayed thanks wholly to that white sleeveless t-shirt - at one point Wolverine’s jacket even disappears without reason so that the t-shirt can get more screen time!
Limiting the growth of the title character would normally be acceptable in a blockbuster if the special effects payoff at the end of each ‘jump’ was up to scratch but unfortunately X-Men Origins: Wolverine fails to deliver on that account. The CGI and green screen work is poor, with very noticeable lighting problems for many of the big set-pieces and even in one scene where Logan is simply driving a car along a country road. The location for the finale was an interesting choice and I had hoped that it could raise my opinion of what was turning into an unpleasant experience, but alas the pointless grandstanding and questionable effects even turned that into something of a joke. Note to the writers: characters with a healing factor are not going to be terribly troubled with a fall from great height! When a potential blockbuster is lacking in its rudimentary components of script, story and acting talent then the CGI usually manages to cover some of the cracks, but all it serves to do here is widen those cracks with a car-jack.
There are some good points to note: Liev Schreiber delivers a wonderfully feral performance as Victor Creed and Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool could easily make for a decent ‘spin-off from the spin-off’, but as for anyone else appearing in this movie they’re simply not allowed to dive in and show us more of what they can do.
That’s it. Really! Two things of note and I’m struggling to find much else to give praise to.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine fails to deliver what it promised on so many levels, tears the cinematic X-world even further away from its comic book roots and leaves the X-Men franchise standing somewhat precariously on the brink of becoming unsalvageable. I don’t believe that the superhero movie bubble is about to burst quite yet but anything 20th Century Fox gives us these days certainly seems to be fuelling that argument. 2/10