Friday, May 1, 2009
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Directed by Gavin Hood
Written by David Benioff and Skip Woods
Released by 20th Century Fox
The Summer-Blockbuster season is here. In many ways, it's like Christmas morning--excitedly running downstairs to rip open the plethora of gifts hiding under the tree, unsure of what you'll find. Some gifts are more than you could hope for and others aren't quite what you expected, but they're cool anyway . Then there's the ones that you have to fake a smile and say you love, but secretly you know that you probably won't be spending too much time with.
Along the same lines, every May we head to the cinema to finally see the films we've been aching to see for months (sometimes years), teased by all manner of trailers and TV spots. We buy our tickets, get the popcorn, fight the lines, and take our seats, hoping that the next two hours will meet the expectations we've built up over the preceding months.
Well, first up this Christmas--sorry, I mean summer movie season--is X-Men Origins: Wolverine and I really wish it weren't the first movie this season. This isn't the big start I'd hoped for. Far from it.
I should mention I went into Wolverine predisposed to not like it. As far as I'm concerned, everything we needed to know about Logan's origins was summed up in the flashbacks in X2. Prequels, by their nature, remove most of the dramatic weight from the story. We already know which characters survive and where they end up. OK, fine, so maybe the filmmakers have something interesting they want to say about the character. Something that will shed new light on Logan's surly disposition when Rogue meets him in the bar in X-Men...
Turns out they don't. In fact, they don't really have much to say at all, really. There are so many glossed over ideas/concepts in this movie that by the end I found myself wondering, "Just what the hell is this movie about?" Wolverine opens in Canada in 1845 where we find a young "Jimmy" Logan sick in bed as an older boy, Victor watches over him. Things happen (devoid of any tension or emotion) and we quickly learn that Jimmy and Victor are brothers. "We have to stick together," Victor says, "and stop anyone who gets in our way." Even at eleven, Victor seems to want to hurt people. I wonder, though, who he expects will try and stop them? What drives him? What are his goals? Well, we quickly find out. Sort of.
The opening credits play over a montage of the brothers fighting in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Vietnam. It's a cool sequence, but doesn't really do anything for the story except get us from 1845 to the late 1970s. Oh, and Victor (Liev Schreiber) seems to get increasing more violent as time goes on. Why do they fight in these wars? Why did they pick the sides they did? Do they care about the politics? What do they do between the wars? Does it bother them that humanity continues to find ways to slaughter huge numbers of the populace? It's all wasted material. Logan never seems to fully embrace killing people, he's just there to help keep his brother alive... except, oh wait, they can't die.
In X2, Stryker tells Logan that he was an animal. Well, not in Wolverine. He's the one guy who has a conscience the whole movie. It would have been more interesting to see him start out a psycho killer and maybe give him, you know, an arc. Make him grow as a character. Instead, he's pretty much fully formed by the time the "story" takes off. "I know what you are!" Stryker screams at Logan. Really? Because he never does anything to show he might really be the animal everyone says he is. Maybe, for once, they really do have the wrong guy.
I'll just gloss over the rest of the plot, because, frankly, it's pretty dumb. Logan and Victor join a secret ops team where they meet William Stryker (Danny Huston), but Logan eventually leaves because he doesn't believe in what they're doing... He didn't have a problem fighting in 2 World Wars, however... Anyway, leaving turns out to be a big mistake, as Logan's peaceful existence is destroyed six years later by the men he left behind (never seen that before). In order to exact his revenge, Logan goes through the process of having his skeleton laced with an adamantium (a nearly-indestructible metal). Some more stuff happens and by the end of the film, something happens to Logan that begs the question, "well, what the hell was the point of everything I just watched?" This key event is handled so poorly, there's no emotional weight to the scene at all, no sense of tragedy. The rest of the movie didn't build to this moment and it falls flat. Are we meant to feel bad for Logan? It's hard when you have memories of past films where the character and story were much more compelling.
So, again, I come back to the fact that the movie doesn't know what it's about. It should be the relationship between Victor and Logan, but it's not. Then there's the romantic relationship between Logan and Kyla (Lynn Collins) which serves as a major linchpin in the plot. But, yet again, you never really feel anything for them, because you know things can't end up well. By the end of the film, I was really only left with one question: "why?" Nothing new was said and what was said was pretty lackluster and muddled.
If you're a big X-Men or Wolverine fan, maybe there's something for you here, but I rather think the previous X-Men films (maybe even X3) have much more to offer.
**1/2 stars (out of 5)