X-Men Origins: Wolverine had me wishing Logan would jump from the screen and end the misery with a trio of claws through the skull. This prequel X-Men spin-off attacks the brain with its lazy and inept script and then spits on the leftovers with marginal visual effects cobbled together by 14 different studios – none of which most people have ever heard of. The sad part is Brian Singer’s X-Men and Iron Man proved this superhero balancing act between popcorn and drama could have been so much more.
Wolverine’s origins begin over a century ago when the then continuously sickly boy who goes by James and his brother, Victor, are forced to run away after James thrusts his newfound claws through his father’s chest in an act of pure rage and revenge. We don’t learn if his father has mutant abilities, how James contracted his own abilities or why he was perpetually sick; you know, part of “the origin.” Director Gavin Hood found it more important and visceral to show the two indestructible brothers fighting and repeatedly being killed throughout the twentieth century’s major wars for, again, reasons unknown.
An attempt by the US military to execute James and Victor, otherwise known as Sabretooth, for war crimes fails which brings our old friend Colonel Stryker calling sometime after the Vietnam War. The Colonel has changed a lot in his younger years since Singer’s X-Men United. In perhaps his own secret reverse-mutation he seems to have grown a foot in height, forgotten his southern accent, and not yet discovered the ability to emote or project intelligence. Why Danny Huston was cast in this role should be the final question on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Stryker is persuading enough to convince a team of mutants that killing is acceptable to get what he wants without any of the mutants possessing an inkling of truth as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. Wade (Ryan Reynolds) is especially entertaining with his witty remarks and swords that slice through bullets and flesh alike even if nary a drop of blood touches the blade or floor. During these “raids” James won’t stand for the senseless killing whilst his brother Victor is all for it. So off into the woods James goes to play lumberjack and cuddle up with a hot girlfriend, Kayla, while his body does not age since he relinquished that function when reaching Hugh Jackman’s age.
Domestication and Logan are not meant to last so thanks to a visit by brother Victor, Logan is forced by Stryker into the Weapon X project where he undergoes the infamous procedure to become “Wolverine.” This “birth” sequence is grueling to watch and I admit to cringing a bit when the needles inevitably began to inject Logan with liquefied Adamantium.
From this moment on, cringes shower like raindrops for all the wrong reasons. Somehow Logan is able to hear Stryker issue an order to wipe his memory from at least 30 yards away – and from underwater, no less. Once Logan a.k.a. the half-a-billion dollar project breaks free, Stryker immediately issues the order to kill him. What a great use of the taxpayers’ dollars.
Stryker sends his right hand operative Agent Zero out into what should be the barren Canadian tundra to hunt down Logan but instead finds the mutant hanging out in a farm with a kind and sweet elderly couple surrounded by grassy fields. Zero gets blown up but somehow doesn’t have a scratch on him, then gets blown up again for good measure and an excuse to frame a dramatic shot of Logan walking away from the fireball without so much as a flinch.
I could go on for the next several pages with inexcusable contradictions of logic but for the sake of brevity will finish with the crème-de-la-crème. Immediately after Stryker’s team fails to apprehend Logan by shooting at him countless times, Stryker pulls out a gun case with custom lining for Adamantium bullets and instructs another military-type that only these bullets can kill Wolverine. That knowledge and weapon might have helped the scores of soldiers who bit the dust a few minutes earlier. When it does come time to use the bullets, Stryker decides they will erase Wolverine’s memory instead of killing him since that’s more serviceable to Singer’s already established X-Men movie lore.
By this time Wade’s return can’t come soon enough but unfortunately when it happens in the closing minutes there’s little suspense or cause to rejoice. Stryker never did like Wade’s talking so he’s achieved silence by sewing the mutant’s mouth shut. There went the best personality in the entire film. That’s OK because Wolverine and other “guest” mutants take over Stryker’s secret base by knocking off the overwhelming security detail numbering in the less-than-five.
Plots riddled with holes come with summer blockbuster territory and to a degree their existence is tolerable when balanced with amazing special effects. The entire point of a special effect is to seamlessly integrate into the film blurring the line between what is real and what was drawn in a computer. Here the CGI is so raw and unpolished that blowing it up on a giant screen exacerbates the flaws and snaps suspension of disbelief. The surprise cameo by a digitally altered certain X-Men elder to look younger will go down as one of the worst high-profile effects of recent memory. Where is ILM when you need them? Oh yeah, working on every other big potential summer blockbuster film except this one.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine spends so much time setting up potential moneymaking spin-offs for Fox with its various mutant cameos and multiple post-credit endings that it fails to succeed in telling a semi-intelligent and coherent story. There is a sizable portion of the movie-going population who will never pick up on this gross piece of lazy filmmaking and walk out proclaiming “that ruled” and “Wolverine rocks.” I witnessed them already, and they are fools. I’m not fooled, Fox. You can do much better and I expect much better from First Class and Magneto. Please, for the franchise’s sake.
– Dan Bradley