30 Apr 2009

Screen Time: X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

By Stewart R

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Lynn Collins
Director: Gavin Hood
Runtime: 107 mins
Certificate: 12A
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

7 comments:

Matt C said...

I obviously enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than Stewart because while I didn't think it was that great, I was kind of entertained to a certain degree.

It's riddled with plot holes, and light years away from the first two X-Men films, but Jackman still has plenty of charisma (even if his take on Logan seems as neutered as it was in The Last Stand)and Schreiber was pretty effective in his role (even though the relationship between the two wasn't developed at all).

It seemed too preoccupied with trying to obey the existing movie continuity while throwing in various things the prodcuers obviously thought fanboys wanted to see (Hey look! That's the first time Logan wore a leather jacket!).

The potential was there for something greater, no one's going to doubt that, but the last X-Men movie lowered my expectations massively so I went into this not expecting much.

Not great, but with pockets of genuine fun and excitement, and let's face it, us comic fans have seen the Ol' Canucklehead in a lot worse stories than this. I'd give it a 6/10, which some may think is too generous, but I didn't come out of the cinema frothing at the mouth as Stewart obviously did (he is a big Deadpool fan after all, and what they did with that character was criminal!).

Tom P said...

I just got back from watching this, I regard X2 as something of a classic, it's one of the best films I have ever watched. It F**cked me off that Origins made no effort to connect to it! The dog tags, the lab, the base, the fact Stryker's adamantium bonding process had changed. It was crap, crap, crap I never want to watch it again, I wish to have my memorys of this movie taken away. X2 is the best Wolverine origin story on film. J.J Abrams once said the question or mystery is ultimately more intresting than the answer. He is bloody correct, thank God I can watch Star Trek next week!!! 2/10

Stewart R said...

The Deadpool 'Easter Egg' ending is only serving to annoy me further... Grrrrr

Matt C said...

I thought you'd more appreciative of that as it basically sets up a Deadpool movie! (Which the just announced is in the works)

Stewart R said...

Hmmmm, what I had heard about the Deadpool scene was not actually what happened in the scence and therefore....BAH!

Will have to wait and see what any prospective writer does with the mess that he is presented with.

Matt C said...

I kind of like the idea of Reynolds playing a fourth-wall-breaking, verbal-diarrhoea spewing, completely bonkers assassin, but I doubt Fox would have the balls to put something really off the wall on our screens!

Caffeinated said...

i almost laughed out loud when the helicopter blew up, then blew up again, then one more time...