After two good movies, the X-Men film franchise took a dive and is now nicely poised to collapse under the weight of its own garbage. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the poster-child for the descent of Marvel-branded films into total crap. It’s a descent made doubly infuriating because things started off so well: After two initial exhilarating, wicked and stylish films, X3 arrived, born from the same dark, hellish outer zone as Resident Evil 2, the Star Wars prequels and the latter two-thirds of the Matrix trilogy. It’s a zone inhabited purely by films you wish could be sucked back out of the world and unmasked for the utter pap that they are. And it’s the same zone from which Wolverine comes, crawling with crap.
If X3 was the red-headed stepchild of the first two X-Men movies, then Wolverine is the slow cousin with the hygiene problem. A compelling initial action montage sets the audience up for an amazing ride, then immediately dumps that same audience into the gutter. Between disregarding canon and stuffing too many mutants into way too small a space, the film comes off as nothing more than a ragged collection of fight scenes held together by a half-assed wisp of a story.
As a character, Wolverine has a compelling backstory, one from which any few elements could have been extracted to make a fabulous action film. Hell, even just concentrating on the relationship between Wolverine and Sabretooth could easily have made for a fantastic ride. So the choice to ignore established history, play with one than one mutant family tree and stuff the screen with more big-ticket characters than one could hope to use rankles all the more. In fact, several of the mutants in the film seem to have been jammed in just to create opportunities for further spin-off movies. This kind of decision is becoming more common in big-budget Hollywood efforts, but it is still dishonest filmmaking, and flies in the face of the theory that everything in a given movie should serve to fill out that film’s story. In other words, this sort of bald marketing, coming at the cost of the movie’s integrity, just sucks.
After his powers initially manifest (complete with comically clichéd ‘no’ yelped to the heavens), the young Logan runs off into the Canadian wilderness and ends up fighting in a smattering of Hollywood’s favourite wars, though he inexplicably ends up in the Second World War as a US ground-pounder, rather than attached to the Canadian parachute regiment that he’s supposed to be with. Also, the experimental Canadian weaponised mutant programme in which Logan finds himself in the comics was moved south of the 49th parallel for the cinema, in what is possibly the biggest wholesale re-writing of a comic character’s canon ever. This won’t matter to anyone who isn’t a long-time Wolverine fan, but it clearly shows marketing taking precedence over respect to the material. And this staggering drunk of a movie’s flippant approach to Marvel Universe history extends to the writers’ grasp of real-world history as well: If the Marvelverse is some almost-us parallel existence, then it’s perfectly acceptable that Wolverine could have first manifested his powers in Canada’s Northwest Territories in 1840, but in this world, that area was still called Rupert’s Land. It would become the Northwest Territories twenty or thirty years later, and finally join Canada in 1880. This is the same sort of gleeful ignorance that let Nick Nolte get away with calling his best officers ‘loo-tenants’ in 2004’s Hotel Rwanda, though no self-respecting Canadian soldier would use that pronunciation. Sure, these are small things, but these small things are only a Google search away from getting right.
Possibly the worst part of this whole sorry mess is the hash made of Deadpool. To turn such a cool and storied character into a low-rent Sylar is enough to put any self-respecting Marvel fan into a tailspin; knocking him off in an orgy of low-grade film making is good for an apoplectic fit or two.
But Wolverine could have been so good. The cast was full of actors who could have given terrific performances if they’d been given more than maybe ten minutes of story. As it is, cutting most of the characters off before they could become interesting (and let’s face it, B-movie-grade dialogue) just leaves one feeling unsatisfied, and not in the hungry-for-more sense.
In the light of all of X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘s structural weaknesses and lousy dialogue, there’s simply nothing here to recommend it to the film-goer. If you still haven’t seen this movie, give it a miss.