I remember being giddy every time I watched the trailer for the first X-Men movie back in 2000. Finally, my comic book heroes were coming to the big screen! Jean Grey was wicked hot, and casting Captain Picard as Professor X was a stroke of genius. Fast forward to 2009. I knew that Origins had been on the horizon for some time. Was I excited about it? Hey, who saw Southland last week?
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is one of those movies I want to be good, but am afraid of getting my hopes up over. Forget good, I just want it to be decent. After all, there are tons of X-Men fans out there. Don’t they deserve good X-Men movies? Sure they do. Unfortunately, what they get is usually one good movie, which spawns a series of diminishing-returns sequels. This is where Origins landed.
After a stylistic intro that is arguably the best part of the entire movie, the story picks up in Vietnam. Half-brothers James (Jackman) and Victor (Schreiber) are offered jobs with an elite group of mutants run by General William Stryker. Their job is to travel into various third world countries, taking care of all of Stryker’s nefarious shit that’ll pay off later in the film. After watching his teammates kill innocent civilians, James says he’s had enough of the entire thing and leaves. Six years later he’s living in the mountains, chopping down trees and gettin’ joshed by the fellas every time they see him and his girlfriend stealing a smooch. He’s riding high, until he’s tracked down by Sabertooth, who kills his girlfriend. Stryker reappears and tells him that he’ll be able to track down Sabretooth and get sweet sweet revenge, as long as he submits to a secret military experiment, the specifics of which you might already have heard about.
You’ve got some good stuff here. Hugh Jackman is Hugh Jackman. He’s a good actor and does as good a job as he can with what was given to him. I don’t think that will really surprise anyone. Although they don’t have tons of screentime, Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Durand deliver some laughs as Deadpool and the Blob. But the movie’s real standout is Liev Schreiber. His performance, and his role in the film kind of makes you wonder why they wasted his character in the first film. I understand there’s not enough to spend fleshing out every single character they introduce, but come on, it’s Sabretooth.
I grew up watching X-Men cartoons, buying X-Men trading cards, and playing X-Men outside with my friends. While they would get to play cool characters like Wolverine, Cyclops, or Beast, they’d make me play as someone like Toad, and make them all ham sandwiches. My point is that, for me, it’s impossible to approach this movie without that fanboy perspective. So, as a fan, I hate it when movies like these go back and fill in the holes in some character’s backstory so that half of what you saw before no longer makes any sense. In that regard, Wolverine doesn’t disappoint. Or it does. Doesn’t. Does. Yeah, it does. My thoughts on everything are a little unorganized, so I’ll give you one long laundry list. (avast mateys, there be spoilers here)
1. The timeline. If Logan joined Stryker’s team toward the end of Vietnam, the latest this movie could take place at is around 1980, yet we see flatscreen computers and Scott Summers in high school. So, in the 23 short years between this film and X-Men 2, Cyclops hasn’t aged a decade? Forget that, what was the point of having him in the movie in the first place? It reminded me of bad fan fiction. Adding fun references doesn’t do much to help the script.
2. Changing the characters. Toward the end of the movie, we see Deadpool go from wisecracking mercenary to Mortal Kombat reject. Adamantium swords coming out of his arms? Seriously? Characters don’t need to be portrayed exactly as they are in the comics, sure. But are they going to make Wolverine fly and Cyclops be able to change his shape. Well honestly, they might, but you get my point.
3. Speaking of pointless cameos. Later in the film, Cyclops and the others are rescued from Stryker’s base by Professor X, in a cameo by Patrick Stewart. The scene isn’t much different from this…
Cyclops: Hey, a helicopter! And someone’s coming out!
Professor X: You must all get on my helicopter, so I can save you.
Cyclops: Hey, your helicopter has guns and missiles. Why didn’t you try doing anything before?
Professor X: … I’m a telepath.
4. Will.i.am. Hey, isn’t that Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas? Wait, this isn’t a Black Eyed Peas video, why is he talking and doing things?
5. Wasted potential. I always thought Gambit was one of the main characters, like Bishop. I know fans have wanted the filmmakers to put him in the movies for a long time. Why throw his character away after fifteen minutes of screentime? “What’s that, Logan? You have amnesia now? Well, cutting off a mule’s ears doesn’t make it a horse. That’s Creole. I’m from Louisiana. See you around the bayou, mon ami.”
6. About six or seven more scenes of Wolverine fighting Sabretooth, please. About six or seven more scenes of Wolverine fighting Sabretooth, please.
Because I’m an X-Men fan, I can justify giving this movie a B-. Standing on its own merits, Origins gets a C. The actors give us a few bright spots between some cool action scenes, and really, the first twenty minutes or so are pretty good, but after that, this one goes way downhill. Make it a Blockbuster night, assuming there’s still a Blockbuster once this one hits DVD.