Starring:Hugh Jackman, Liev Screiber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch
Director: Gavin Hood
Writer(s):David Benioff, Skip Woods
Cinematography:Donald M. McAlpine
Original Score:Harry Gregson Williams
Running Time:107 Mins.
20th Century Fox own the rights to many big money makers, these include some of Marvel’s biggest and most popular characters Fantastic 4, Daredevil and most notably X-Men and the vast majority of the characters that fall under that banner. The idea of X-Men working as a film was at once an exciting prospect and a daunting one, for the fact remains a film cannot remain a respectable length AND dedicate enough time to all characters that fans would like to see this. This means that sacrifices but be made, chracters have to be forsaken.
In X-Men and X-Men 2, Bryan Singer handled this masterfully, and from it Wolverine became a stand-out in his own right, making a big star of Hugh Jackman. Now given all the franchises I touched upon previously (Fantastic 4 et al), X-Men were the only ones ever given the respect they deserved…until X-Men 3 was all but squandered by hack-for-hire Brett Ratner. It had good elements, granted,, but in cramming in characters pointlessly such as Arcangel to appease fans they did quite the opposite, and annoyed them by demonstrating a severe lack of respect for the origins and characters background.
Flash forward 3 years and we are faced with a film that could quite frankly have gone one way or the other, and I’m sad to report it has gone the wrong way. While not the disaster hinted at from pre-publicity X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a mess through and through and a total missed opportunity. For my money X-Men 2 explained Wolverine’s origins well enough and a damn site better than most of the tosh of display here.
But before I get to what is wrong, let me first point out there are elements, including a handful of very good scenes, smattered amongst the mess. An opening montage through the ages of wars fought by brother’s Victor Creed (Sabretooth) and James Logan (Wolverine) is inspired, and in fact it’s the relationship between these two chracters that pulls the film back from being a total disaster. Liev Screiber was the film-makers first coup in the casting process and he looks to be having tremendous fun with the snarling, grinning Sabretooth(though he is never referred to as such). On the other hand Jackman himself seems far too concerned with brooding that he forgets the spark which made Wolverine the best thing in the original trilogy, a crying shame because we were promised so much more.
Followng the very good credits scene, which helps to redeem an awful and somewhat unneccessary prologue of the young siblings, we get a setup that has Logan and Creed join fellow mutants in a ‘crack team’ recruited by Stryker (previously Brian Cox, now Danny Huston) these consist of Bolt (Dominic Monaghan), Agent Zero, and Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). Now the problem here is that X-Men 3 territory is stomped upon, so rather than have Arcangel introduced for no reason to appear in a bare minimum of scenes, we have all the aforementioned characters turn up for a couple of scenes, then simply disappear to either be killed by or aid Wolverine in his resulting quest for revenge.
Looking bored Huston appears every so often to prompt Wolverine into the next part of his ‘origin’ story, fall in love. Check. Girl dies. Check. Adamantium claws. Check. Revenge mission. Check. Then up pops fan favourite Gambit, not only is Gambit introduced and used to little effect he is also given one of the most contrived reasons for being in the film at all. It’s quite frankly embarrassing for all involved, meaning yet another character is squandered for no reason other than to sell tickets. But wait, theres more, Ryan Reynolds Wade Wilson reappears as Deadpool, mouth sewn shut and possessing every mutant power under the sun. If this all sounds a mess, well, go figure.
All this may sound overly harsh and if I have given Wolverine a hard ride it’s because I adore the X-Men world, not in a geeky comic book fan way, I don’t mind deviation from character back story if there is good reason, but to take such a cinemtic conceit, such a good idea and set of characters and waste it all on such a messy and ridiculous story, there really is no excuse. That is not to say there aren’t good things in here, the films first 20 minutes hint at a much better film, and Liev Schreiber is outstanding as Sabretooth having fun and brining the character to life. The fight scenes are often exciting and Reynolds as Wade Wilson is both acerbically funny and excellent in his all too brief action scene, as is the good but ultimately pointless Kitsch as Gambit.
The greatest scene in the film can be found at the mid point, Wolverine boxes with Blob, funny, exciting and the only time we see the ‘old’ Wolverine charm, such a shame he has to go back to brooding,
Though there is solace to be found in the dynamic between Schreiber’s Sabretooth and Jackman’s Wolverine, you can’t help but wonder why X-Men Origins: Wolverine is such a disappointment, stuffed full of interesting characters with nothing to do and nowhere to go, Wolverine, and indeed, film fans deserved so much more.