X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

   Director: Gavin Hood With: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schrieber, Danny Huston, Will. i. am, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, & Ryan Reynolds.  Release: May 1, 2009 PG-13. 1 hr. 47 min. 

Director: Gavin Hood
With: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schrieber, Danny Huston, Will. i. am, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, & Ryan Reynolds. 
Release: May 1, 2009
PG-13. 1 hr. 47 min. 

 

Origin stories are necessities for superheroes. Not only do they reflect are heroes conflicts and resolves, but they incite us to follow their story whether it's their emotionality as a character or their motives as a hero, their origin story is supposed to entice us to continue supporting them into their respective battles for justice. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is a character whose origin story, even in comics, was something of a mystery. With only hints and unresolved subplots in the “X-Men” trilogy from Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is the story that fans of the original trilogy we’re waiting for, providing answers to the questions circulating the standout character from the trilogy. 

So who is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)? Well first off, his name isn’t Logan. Apparently, his name is James Howlett (Hugh Jackman). In response to Jean Grey’s (Michael-James Olsen) inquiry in “X-Men,” he is far older than the professor as he was born in 1830 ’s in the northern territories of Canada. Sickened on a chilly fall night in 1845 and accompanied by a friend named Victor (Michael-James Olsen), young James’ (Troye Sivan) father comes to say goodnight to him when Victor’s (Michael-James Olsen) father arrives screaming and clamoring. A confrontation occurs, and when young James (Troye Sivan) barrels out of his room, he discovers that his father has been shot.

Enraged with emotion, his bone claws sprout, and his grief turns into anger as he stabs Victor’s (Michael-James Olsen) dad. In his dying words, it is revealed that this murderer was his real father though, in shock, young James (Troye Sivan) turns to his mother seeking confirmation, but she merely responds in a soft voice asking “what are you?” James (Troye Sivan) then sprints out of the room and flees into the night, his newly discovered brother Victor (Michael-James Olsen) accompanies him as these two young mutants band together as fighters. Battling in multiple wars such as the Civil War (fighting on the union side), World War I, World War II, and continuing our story in the Vietnam War. 

Victor (Liev Schreiber) seems to have a thirst for hurting others, while James (Hugh Jackman) desires to save those being wronged. Both justifiable causes for their war efforts, but it tends to Victor (Liev Schreiber) being a monster, one that their fellow American soldiers try to stop. Receiving dishonorable discharges by execution and tied to posts, Victor says “wake me when it's over.” From here is where our real story begins, one involving a secret hit team led by Major William Stryker (Danny Huston). 

On this team you can find Agent Zero (Daniel Henney; an expert marksmanship) Fred Dukes (Kevin Durand; a bronze over brains kind of man), John Wraith (Will.I.Am; a teleporter), Chris Wraith (Dominic Monaghan; a mutant with electronic manipulation abilities), and Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds; a crappy form of Deadpool, basically). James (Hugh Jackman), inevitably, is morally conflicted and decides to leave this team. Seeking retirement and normality, he recluses to Canada and flounders a relationship with a beautiful young school teacher, Kayla (Lynn Collins). Someone is hunting down the old team though, and vengeance, action, and a somewhat sensical story are manifested. 

Have I just delivered a rough re-telling of the first act instead of a plot synopsis? Kind of, but I don’t really care and neither should you. Not only does “X-Men Origins” take no risks in its story by playing it completely safe with nothing focused on or given any charisma, but so much of it is played for laughs instead of emotion. I stated at the beginning of this review that origin stories are meant to provide emotionality or motives to a character, both of which are unapplied to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

What are Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) motivations? Vengeance. Nothing more is attached to his character other than that. What about his emotionality as a character? Well, he served in four of America’s most devastating wars, so he has some amplified PTSD. (Something only focused on in like two scenes) His history is one of grimness and loneliness; he’s a brutalized man whose pain is never the focus. He plays off everything for humor and the screenwriters, David Benioff and Skip Woods, struggle to make Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) anything worth investing in. It’s hard to have an origin story if you don’t care about the character at the center of this story. 

Filmatically speaking, the direction is bland. The action is assisted by visible wire works, and the VFX work is outdated and perplexedly underfunded. In one fight sequence, logs are used to crush Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and they merely fall to the ground with no impact or believable rebound from the ground. They fall flat like all of Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) cheesy jokes. Another VFX failure was the bathroom scene in which Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is studying his new claws, claws that look like something from a PS1 graphics card. For $150 million budget, it should be embarrassing to see VFX work this bad. 

The action is weirdly focused, as far as where Gavin Hood decides to give attention. He gives far more focus to an impromptu boxing scene between the clawed animal and, the now obese, Fred Dukes (Kevin Durand) than the actual adamantium bonding sequence in which the original trilogy presented him in pain and covered in blood. A scene that should have been brutal and almost frightening as it was the revealing of the ultimate weapon, Gavin Hood presents it as merely an attached moment that is integral but not significant. I am entirely confused as to why he was chosen to direct, but luckily we received James Mangold later on. 

The only thing that “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” has going for it is the ideas found in its screenplay and Hugh Jackman. Though his emotions are restricted, Jackman still depicts the character better than any. The ideas of showing the mutant brothers drenched in wars and the idea of a man choosing to leave the fight, but being pulled back into it is familiar but exciting nonetheless. If only “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” had talented writers and good directors attached to it, then maybe we could have received a brutal and more adult version of the character. Instead, we find a sad attempt at a solo Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) movie with no blood, no emotion, and an abysmally rendered Deadpool. Luckily, Ryan Reynolds made up for this tragedy later on, so did Hugh Jackman.  It seems that weapon X was far more dangerous to itself than anyone else, as "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is a failure of a superhero movie that is just a boring and underdone version of one of comics most emotionally compelling characters, at least "Batman & Robin" was funny.