Pop those claws back in, bub.
The fatal mistake that X-Men Origins: Wolverine makes besides its God-awful title is focusing more on the “X-Men” part than the “Wolverine” part. We’ve seen three X-Men movies now, guys. We get it. Mankind fears and hates mutants. Mutants are the next stage in human evolution. Blah blah blah, all that jazz. But with a Wolverine-centered movie, I was hoping that they would focus less on the recurring themes of the series and make it a more personal narrative to everyone’s favorite X-Man. Unfortunately, the studio didn’t want the same thing. Instead, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is more focused on making comic book cameos than it is in making a compelling story for its key character. It’s more of an X-Men movie than it is a Wolverine movie, and it’s not a good one at that.
In this prequel to the X-Men trilogy, we discover the origins of Wolverine, A.K.A. James Howlett (Hugh Jackman). When his unusual mutant powers break out and James discovers the claws in his body, James goes on the run with his brother Victor Creed, A.K.A. Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). After fighting in the Vietnam war together, the two brothers join a mutant task force called Team X that is led by Major William Stryker (Danny Huston). But after one too many violent genocides from the task force, James resigns from Team X and tries to live a normal life by himself and his lover Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). Now Sabretooth and Team X have come back into James’ life, and he has to sink once again into his Wolverine alter-ego to free himself of his past forever.
Right off the bat, I need to point out the biggest flaw with this haphazard of a movie: it’s too much. X-Men Origins: Wolverine tries to do too many things all at once, and it does all of them badly. It tries to be a Wolverine origin story, an X-Men prequel, an introduction to new mutant characters, and a fun action movie on top of all of this.
Let me leisurely break down why it fails in every one of these goals:
1) The screenplay is too by-the-books. Skip Woods, who wrote Hitman prior to this, focuses too much on explaining Wolverine’s history and not enough on how it impacts him as a character. There’s no teeth in it, no grit or compelling force that makes his story worthwhile or meaningful to us. It feels more like fanfiction written for discussion rather than an established continuity for the X-Men universe.
2) Speaking of the X-Men, there are two X-Men here in the movie besides Wolverine. They are the younger Scott Summers/Cyclops, portrayed by Tim Pocock, and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, here with the use of his legs. There is absolutely zero reason to have them in this movie. They contribute nothing to the story, nothing to Wolverine’s origin, and nothing that makes any worthwhile impact on the film. They’re only there as forced cameos so that viewers can point at them and be like “Uh Look! That’s them before the X-Men movies! Huh huh.” Except that this now creates a massive plot hole, once you question how they could be so close to the action, yet not remember him years later.
3) So we already have three characters we don’t care about in the movie. Want to add 15 more just for fun? No? Well too bad, here they are anyway. In most of the X-Men movies, its hard to keep up with the full roster because of how many characters are jam-packed into them. But now it’s getting ridiculous. Besides the aforementioned characters, there are a slew of other mutants here that are not memorable, or useful, in any of their scenes. We have will.i.am as a teleporter, Kevin Durand whose mutant power is literally being fat, Dominic Monaghan as a living battery, Taylor Kitsch as someone who can light cards on fire, and Ryan Reynolds with his mouth sewn shut who has blades coming out of his arms. The logic of that one just baffles me completely. If you have literal swords in your arms, how do you plan to even move them around? One wrong move, and you have a giant blade sticking out of your elbow. Imagine how inconvenient that would be at the dinner table.
4) There’s no excuse for this one. No excuse that in even in a Wolverine movie, the visual effects and the fight scenes are garbage. In X2, we had a great demonstration of Wolverine’s savagery as he ripped, stabbed, and mercilessly shredded people in the mansion raid scene. Here, that grit and violence is gone as Wolverine blows up helicopters, topples over buildings, and even gets into boxing fist-fights just like any other stock action hero would. Some of the fight scenes are so ridiculous that having Arnold Schwarzenegger in them would make more sense than Hugh Jackman. I can’t make this up. It’s so cartoonish and stupid that I was left wondering if this is why Stan Lee didn’t film a cameo for this movie. I wouldn’t put it past him if that were the case.
Does it sound like I’m spreading myself thin here? That’s probably because I’m writing about a movie that is spreading itself thin. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not only the worst title out of the X-Men movies so far: it is also its unequivocal worst film. I detested every moronic minute of this insipid, idiotic, pretend-thriller. Nothing landed in this movie. The characters, the acting, the writing, the choppy editing, the fights, everything falls apart and fails to deliver anything of any value. Fans complained about X-Men: The Last Stand, but at least that one expressed some interesting ideas. X-Men Origins: Wolverine fails to even be stupidly fun. It just reaches stupid.
I give this film one point, and one point only, and that is that Hugh Jackman, as always, makes a great Wolverine. His snarl, his ferocity, his fierce presence commands the role. He is perhaps one of the greatest superhero casting decisions ever made, next to Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Wesley Snipes as Blade. The problem isn’t Jackman’s performance. The problem is the movie doesn’t know what to do with his performance. Because of this, Jackman’s efforts are in vain as he’s thrown through a silly script and an even sillier movie, downplaying his emotions and his efforts in the role. Say what you will about the previous X-Men movies, but Wolverine deserves better treatment than that.
By the end of the film, Wolverine’s story concludes exactly as you expect it to: with his memory wiped, forgetting everything he just went through. I wish I were in his position.