Apr 2009 30

woverine2X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a film that is sure to get the summer started off with a bang, but leaving you feeling a bit disappointed.

Origins starts with young James Howlett lying in bed being tended to by his father and a local boy by the name of Victor. When Victor’s father comes yelling for young James’s mother a clash ensues leaving James’s father shot.  In the intense moment it forces James mutation out. With the claws that everyone recognizes about this character so well, James kills Victor’s father who while dying reveals that the other dead man is not his father, he in fact is. Driven by the look of disgust on his mothers face he rushes out only to be followed by Victor who tells him that because they are brothers they must stick together.

From here we are treated to an opening credit montage where it details the brother’s exploits between the mid 1800s-to Vietnam. The men fight in many wars and it seems with everyone that Victor grows more violent and malicious.  It comes to a head when Victor kills a US Officer and is sentenced to death by firing squad. With their mutant abilities they survive and are drafted into a new group led by Colonel William Stryker, who many will remember as the antagonist from 2003’s X2, although this time he is played by Danny Huston.  The team is comprised of other mutants all containing some special ability which will help the team. This is where we meet comic book favorites such as Deadpool aka Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), The Blob, Agent Zero, John Wraith, and Bolt. After a mission in Africa, James quits the team because of atrocities he does not want to commit.

We meet up with him in Canada six years later living with his girlfriend Kayla. While working at a logging site one day he smells a scent, and finds claw marks and a decapitated animal, he realizes it is his brother. He follows the scent until he finds his love soaked in blood and dead at the hands of his brother. He vows revenge which comes in the form of William Stryker, who promises him pain, but in return the tools to defeat his brother. This is when we see what we saw just flashes of in the previous X-Men movies. The Weapon X project gives Wolverine his adamantium claws and skeleton. When he realizes he has been double crossed he leaves quickly. The rest of the film is his attempt to exact his revenge.

There is a lot that happens in this movie before you get to the meat of the story. It stays fun and light, however some of the dialogue becomes kitschy and a little tired after a while.  I found myself wanting to groan and some of the one liners in this film, and believe me they are packed in here. Even more tiring than a lot of the dialogue is the story. The antagonists of the movie are supposed to be smart enough to create an indestructible man, but have no idea how to stop what they have created? The ways they have planned to stop him seem all the more stupid once you see them play out on screen.

The performances in this film are about the best thing to praise on here. The actors do the best job they can with the dialogue given to them. Hugh Jackman proves just as he did earlier in the franchise, that he is a great leading man and a pretty good Wolverine. Danny Huston did a much better job than I expected him to do. It’s not easy to follow someone like Brian Cox, but he did well.  The inflections in his tone reminded me a lot of Cox’s Stryker. Liev Schrieber who I’ve always thought was a pretty underused talent gets a chance to bare his teeth (both figuratively and literally) in this film and does a great job with it.  When I first heard he was cast as Sabertooth I found it a bit odd, but he played the role magnificently.

As for the rest of the cast, well I can’t say too much because they film doesn’t give them enough screen time.  Ryan Reynold’s Wade Wilson is only in a few scenes, enough to be one of the more entertaining characters of the film, but not enough to really feel anything when you see what is in store for his character. They tried to pack so many characters in here, but don’t seem to develop any of them at all. It’s all surface and nothing else. A death of any of these characters gives no emotion other than wondering when the next fight will take place.

The next big problem with the film is the special effects. There are times when the effects of the movie are laughably bad. The first time you see Wolverine’s adamantium claws you will wonder how the film got released with effects like that still intact. Let’s hope they can fix it a bit for the DVD release. If you’ve seen any of the trailers for the film then you have obviously seen Wolverine jumping on to the helicopter from the explosion.  Well trust me folks, it looks just as ridculous on the big screen as it does on your tv.

Overall, Origins falls just as flat as The Last Stand, with maybe slightly less ridiculousness in it. It is a fun movie if you like the already established character of Wolverine, but if you are expecting a tale that is very true to the comics, don’t hold your breath.

Grade: D+

Another take from Zac:

The X-Men franchise returns with an origin story of its main character Wolverine, and the end result is a fun, action filled summer movie that gets the season off on the right foot.

James Howlett was born in the early 1800’s, a consistently sick boy; his father is murdered by vengeful neighbor who is father to his good friend Victor. Howlett in a rage attacks Victor’s father, stabbing and killing him with claws that appear between his knuckles on his hands. With the man’s dying breath, Victor and James learn that they actually share a father and the two begin to go on the run after James’ ability is revealed to the disgust of his family. The two then spend the next 130 some odd years living side by side, fighting in every “great” war over that time before eventually finding themselves in Vietnam. After an act of mutiny and being sentenced to death, they are recruited an hour or two after there execution had been carried out, both brothers posses healing powers, by an officer by the name of Stryker who has assembled a special team of similarly advantaged humans to carry out top secret missions. While on a mission in Africa, James has seen enough and leaves the team to live in seclusion in the Canadian Rockies. Living with a local school teacher for a number of years, James is forced back into the game after a series of events unfold and he participates in an experiment which laces his bones with an indestructible metal called adamantium; and takes on the code name Logan/Wolverine. Between the healing powers and his now indestructible skeletal system, Wolverine is a weapon unlike any other, seemingly impervious to death and hell bent on hunting down his brother Victor who’s actions have put Wolverine back into action.

Gavin Hood directs this origin story and for a first time big budget director, he does a pretty good job with the picture. The movie is a hair under two hours and that does the film a favor, as it never overstays its welcome. The pace is quick and the action is frequent and the set pieces are all fairly impressive. The humor in the film almost always hit and is not overbearing or out of place. It is all character appropriate and never a cheap gag out of know where. Actually one complaint I have is the lack of a couple more scenes of the two funnier and fun characters in the film. Wade Wilson and Gambit are not in the film nearly enough, and both are easily likeable and established characters that could easily carry their own films if given to them; both the actors playing them and the characters themselves.

The story holds together alright for the most part as well. A couple of third act issues where things begin to get a bit shaky with how they bring everything together being a bit throw together, but it holds true never breaking into absurdity; above and beyond the absurdity of a comic book film in the first place that is. In fact, all of the stuff with Wolverine’s origin up until the film needs another plot about half way through is very well done. One other minor complaint to Fox on this though, there are a couple of laughably bad effects shots in the film, which is almost inexcusable for this type of picture in this day and age. Especially a long take that focuses on his claws once donned with metal, that shot needs to look money, but it was the worst effects shot in the film. Also, some of the dialogue is a bit stale and stereotypical in a couple critical scenes, would have been nice to have had just a bit better writing and knocked out a couple corny lines.

What really helps this film is the stellar casting from head to toe. Danny Huston plays Stryker and is great as he always is in that not good but not bad role, and is very good at convincing people into his web of deception. Live Schreiber is nasty and a lot of fun as Sabertooth/Victor Creed, just oozing charisma through the screen and a blast to watch work every time he was on screen. He gets arguably the second most screen time to Jackman, but you are left wanting even more. Taylor Kitsch breaks out of being Riggins on Friday Night Lights and I think will appease fan boys in the long awaited appearance of Gambit to the screen. He does a good Cajun accent, has the physical prowess and swagger needed for the character and is funny as hell when he needs to be; show me a Gambit movie! Speaking of spin-offs, Show me a Wade Wilson/Deadpool movie ASAP. Ryan Reynolds is hilarious and badass in the role and there was just totally not enough of him in the picture, as he is a part of Stryker’s team and is a non-factor for the most part once they disband. Dominic Monaghan is also solid in his brief appearances as a member of Stryker’s team, as is fellow Lost vet Kevin Durand who plays the Blob and has a couple of good lines and does a good job of looking like a badass even with layers of makeup on him. Lynn Collins is applicable as Kayla, Logan’s flame school teacher, as are the couple of other featured mutants who play a young Cyclops and Emma Frost. Finally, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. No one else could play this character ever, I think, and he is a pitch perfect representation of the character. Funny, ferocious, and a bit of a son of a bitch, Jackman gets it, and for that we should be extremely appreciative.

In the end, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a successful summer action movie that does everything it is supposed to well. The story might be a bit weak in the later half, but the action is solid, fun, and plentiful. There is just the right amount of comedy for the characters involved and the films moves along at a nice whip pace. Any minor complaints are shaken from the sheer entertainment of it all and getting to see Jackman play Wolverine again. The cast is full of great actors and they all shine, and while this isn’t the best film in the franchise, hard to touch X2, it is a fine comic book film and might be the second best X-Men film.




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