REVIEW: X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009]

Score: 5/10 | ★ ★

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 107 minutes | Release Date: May 1st, 2009 (USA)
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Director(s): Gavin Hood
Writer(s): David Benioff and Skip Woods

“It’s not a trick, man”

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is completely unnecessary. Sadly, the entire crux of the story—namely how James Logan becomes our titular sarcastic mutant—is explained, coherently and concisely, in flashbacks during X-Men 2. So, what we have with Gavin Hood’s effort, (you can’t blame him as he was totally a hired cog), is frivolous nonsense, showing us what we know, involving villains that can’t die since they are in movies taking place later on the timeline, and chock full of convenient subplots and introductions to characters. What ever happened to the children at Xavier’s school growing up and being recruited? No, no, they were held captive on Stryker’s island of course. Which could make sense if it was first generations like Storm, Jean Grey, and Cyclops … but wait, what is Iceman doing there? Doesn’t he have parents and a house in one of the X-Men films? Why mess with something that was good, despite a mediocre third installment? I guess money does trump all.

It all makes sense if you don’t look too deeply. I myself am not an X-Men fanatic—I’ve never read the comics nor have I seen the cartoon. Bryan Singer was my introduction to the universe and that world was fantastic. I always thought that Logan was an immortal with regenerative skin only, a power that lent his body to be experimented on in order to infuse an adamantium skeleton. Whether it true to the comics or not, I found it very weird to see claws exit his hands made of bone. But they do cover this fact in the transformation process by Stryker’s doctors, so either way the plot question is tidied up. Again, though, why even bother with attempting this story, risking plotholes and vocal fan hatred? I know people love the Wolverine character, but give him a badass fight film post-X-Men: Last Stand, don’t repackage something we’ve already seen to milk more money.

I enjoyed the wisecracks and the obvious storyline with love interest Kayla. The emotions worked and I guess that is a success. What really hit on all cylinders, in my opinion, was the relationship between Logan and Victor Creed. In a shocking move to me right at the start, the bond connecting these two is a lot more powerful than I had anticipated. Complete with a stellar credit sequence—a wonderful timeline, overproduced for sure, but I enjoy slo-mo freeze framing—we discover their history growing up with each other through the decades. You believe the strong feelings they have towards each other upon going their separate ways. Would I have liked Creed to be more fleshed out and deep? Yes. Did he need to be in order for the story and action choreography to work? No. And frankly that is the one thing this film has going for it: action. You can’t fault the pyrotechnics or the fight scenes. Heck, even the acting is pretty good … they can’t help it if the script is lacking in strong material. You can however fault the horrid special effects. I almost thought I was watching that leaked version from the internet with animatics spliced in. Wolverine’s claws looked like cartoons—it was laughable.

Credit Hugh Jackman for sticking to the character because Logan is a flawed and intricate one. The role is ripe for introspection and evolution on many levels and Jackman sees this and wants to create entertainment from it. I truly believe he sees something redeemable in the stories, something that people can relate to in this flawed hero; it’s not all about the easy money to him. He doesn’t phone in the performance and being that he is a producer, I applaud the effort. I can also say no wrong towards Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston, two very well-versed thespians as Creed and Stryker respectively. Schreiber is good in the villainous role, something I hope he pursues, whether full-blown as here, or subtler like in Defiance. And Huston really gets the double-crossing and conniving Stryker to leap off the screen. You can see Brian Cox’s version from X2 for sure, cultivating a nice bridge to the previous films.

Even the supporting cast was good pretty much across the board. The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.Am is intriguing as John Wraith, adding a little bit of humor to counteract his lack of acting skill; Lynn Collins is effective as Kayla, a nice foil to Jackman’s Logan; and Taylor Kitsch is entertaining as Gambit, the long-awaited arrival of the fan favorite mutant. I really liked the two “Lost” alums in Dominic Monaghan and Kevin Durand. Monaghan’s Bradley is a tragic figure, a past associate in the Stryker squad. I think he nailed the emotive qualities called for as you can see the sadness and acceptance of the death sentence he knows will soon befall him. And Durand, while playing a very comedic character in an otherwise serious film, adds some flavor as Fred Dukes—both the chiseled solider version and the blob-like model as well. Sadly, I cannot say very much good about Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson. I loved the wisecracking attitude and flourish he exudes at the start, but with only about five minutes of screentime, his inclusion is solely to lead to the planned spin-off for Deadpool, a character shown briefly as well and portrayed by a different actor, (Scott Adkins).

I wanted to enjoy Wolverine and include it in the X-Men universe that Singer created almost a decade ago. But sadly, the focus on story and character development he showcased may be long gone for this series. The third installment fell into the trap of introducing too many people and watching it all fall beneath the excessive weight, and this film does the same. The filmmakers try too hard to inject as much as they can, including little callbacks and unnecessary ways to bridge to the other films. Unless you are bored and feel like an action flick with some good performances, I say pop in your DVD of X2 and enjoy the flashbacks of Wolverine’s creation. Those few minutes do a better job of contextual gelling to the overall tale at hand.

[1] Liev Schreiber stars as Victor Creed/Sabretooth and Hugh Jackman stars as Logan/Wolverine in The 20th Century Fox Pictures’ X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
[2] Ryan Reynolds is Wade Wilson, later to be known as Deadpool, a highly-efficient killing machine whose weapons of choice are katana swords. Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox
[3] Hugh Jackman stars as Logan/Wolverine and stars as John Wraith in The 20th Century Fox Pictures’ X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). Photo credit by James Fisher.

One Thought to “REVIEW: X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009]”

  1. Rosie

    The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.Am is intriguing as John Wraith, adding a little bit of humor to counteract his lack of acting skill; Lynn Collins is effective as Kayla, a nice foil to Jackman’s Logan

    I was more impressed by than I was by Lynn Collins, who came across as somewhat bland to me.

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