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X-Men Origins – Wolverine: The Review

Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Will.I.Am, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney and Ryan Reynolds

Plot: Logan (Jackman) and Victor (Schreiber) are two immortal mutants who wander from war to war, eventually settling down in an elite hit squad called Weapon X.

Wolverine is one of the best things to come out of Marvel. While Robert Downey Jr.’s wise-cracking Tony Stark, MacGuire’s trend-setting Spiderman and Ryan Reynold’s box office breaking Deadpool are all on-the-nose casting coups, Hugh Jackman taking the role of the iconic Wolverine is something that never fails to impress. There is something about the anger that runs so deep through his veins that it is difficult for him not to launch into an unstoppable killing machine, the fact his superpowers act as more of a burden than a gift, the horrible past he has been subjected to… there are so many directions we can take the character. It helps that Hugh Jackman is one of those actors who not only enjoys the character, but puts his heart and soul into bringing us Logan. Continuously subjecting himself to gruelling work-out routines to get back the Wolverine physique, making sure he has a bit part in as many of the X-Men movies as possible and actively turning to the fans to get us the best product possible, Jackman is a man who cares about the character. Perhaps more than the producers too. However, the Wolverine is also a source of great tragedy for audiences, because while his stints in the ensemble movies are great examples of the depths of the character, his solo movies have been far from what we wanted from the product, none-so-more than this sorry excuse of a movie.

For a start, the producers seem to have totally misread what we wanted. An solo outing for Wolverine should give us one thing: a feature starring Logan that cuts out the noise of the X-Men movies. We want a Wolverine story that doesn’t need to cut back to Rogue’s love story or Professor X’s cat and mouse game with Magneto. However, the first thing the writers do is throw Wolverine into an unit with a whole brand new team of mutant characters from Stryker’s mysterious non-mutant ringleader to Kevin Durand’s Blob. These characters are thinly written caricatures, their only job to facilitate Wolverine’s character, to the point where you wished the starting point didn’t even involve them. Dominic Monaghan is wasted as a endearingly sad mutant, who leaves the film with the impression that a whole back story was never uncovered. Sometimes the producers try to spice things up by casting each character with someone whose appearance is more for their pop culture status than their acting ability (cough cough Will.I.Am cough cough), but on the whole, the supporting cast are far from the iconic X-Men we want to spend time with and more narrative beats for the film to cover. Wolverine himself is brought back to his past, so we can discover where he became the grumbling anti-hero we know from the previous films. And here is where X-Men Origins comes completely off the rails. A lot of Wolverine’s charm in the first film was the fact his past was a long history of unspeakable atrocities. The unspeakable part of that was important, fuelling the character’s misery with the audience’s own imagination. We were given flashbacks of the Weapon X experiment, but the actual horror of it was kept secret. Here, Gavin Hood gives us an origin story that reverts Wolverine into any old action hero. He leaves a hit team of assassins whose morality he clashed with, falls in love with a beautiful woman but a figure from his past, in this instance a brother, draws him back into the fold. Even Jackman struggles with the material, his Wolverine thrown through so generic a set of hoops that there is no time to have fun with the character. The grimace and snarls are by-the-numbers, when held up to a by-the-numbers plot. It is hard to think a stand-alone Wolverine movie could actually damage the character, but here we actually have lost some of our liking for Wolverine. It will take some serious rethinking and pitch perfect acting from Jackman in the future instalments to remedy this mess.

Even the good bits of this film are weighed down with bad side effects. For example, this movie, for all its faults, is the first appearance of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool. Taking the best bits of his ground-breaking stint in Blade: Trinity and bringing out that spark in the Marvel comics, Reynolds is likeable from the first gag. The painful bits come when we start examining the character. There is only one fourth-wall breaking gag (and it comes after an unnecessary wait to the post-credits sequence), and by the time, the final twist comes around, Deadpool fans will be howling in Wolverine-esque levels of anguish. The final fight is another ‘good on one hand, terrible on the other’. The fight is visually good and when boiled down to the mere visuals, potentially the best scene in the film, but the true identity of the final villain ruins the sensation. If the enemy was a nameless or original character, we would have loved it. The other quality beat with bad consequences is Liev Schreiber’s Sabretooth. I would be tempted to say Schreiber steals the show with a villain that adds that bit of redemption to the picture. His baddie is fun, a charismatic douchebag, the kind of villain you want to watch Wolverine spend two hours tracking down and killing. But the character is so different from the original film’s depiction that the rules of a prequel are left shattered on the floor. Now, there is nothing wrong with rule-breaking in prequels, if the end result is a worthy change, but in a movie so poor, it just counts as another miss of the mark. The X-Men franchise ends up coming across as a lot better if you simply skip this instalment altogether.

Final Verdict: Not even Hugh Jackman is safe from this franchise-damaging spin-off. A bloated mess that misunderstands its audience’s needs.

One Star