01 May 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Urban: A superhero movie in the same mold as Spiderman 3.
Lucas: Poor writing, poor directing, poor CGI.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is director Gavin Hood's first major effort. It stars Hugh Jackman, playing Wolverine for the 4th time, focusing on the origin of his character, and his central role in the X-Men franchise.

I will start this off by saying this movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. The film compares well with Spiderman 3 as a comic book film that aimed to please a younger audience. There were plenty of little jokes throughout the film, and there were scenes that were obviously attempts to move the audience, but they fell flat because the attention to detail wasn’t there. The lack of darkness and depth really affected the film, causing it to seem like something intended for much younger audience, rather than the overwhelming majority of the audience, which were adults.

I should have lowered my hopes. This movie was a vehicle for the studio to cash in on a popular franchise. The story and writing were disjointed, the directing was mediocre, and, perhaps most unforgivably, the CGI was awful. While certain components were strong, they were assembled into something completely lackluster.

The most disappointing thing was there was plenty of source material that could have been used here. Instead, it seemed as though the production team set out to create a new story that is only loosely based on the original. The result, is a real mash of stories, characters, and themes that doesn’t fit anything very well. For me, the entire project was off course. For readers of the comic book, Wolverine really isn’t the leader, or fact-finding investigator that he is painted as in this film. Wolverine is the enforcer, and the guy who is always looking to break up the game plan with an individual mad dash that either blows the entire plan, or works because of his audacity. Neither characterization is to be found in this picture. At various times, the story alludes to the mutant/racism issue that is the focus of the first three X-Men films. Major Stryker alludes to his work as an attempt at a pre-emptive strike against the mutants, which is an interesting idea that has obvious political parallels to our current times. But aside from this one line, we never are allowed to ponder the ramifications/meaning of this move as another big fight immediately proceeds this line.

Yes, there was no strong direction for this. No purpose. Who is the bad guy? Stryker? Sabretooth? Deadpool? There was a mish-mash of fan-favorite characters who had been missing in the first three movies, but they couldn't come up with a strong, unused bad guy. But even with re-hashes of Sabretooth and Stryker, they couldn't settle on one. Ryan Reynolds was excellent as Deadpool for the two minutes of screen time he has at the beginning, but they he disappears for the entire movie, only to show up for another two minutes at the end... with his best characteristic, his mouth, sewn shut. Choosing any one of the threads the movie hinted at in the beginning, sticking with it, and developing it would have yielded a much more satisfying story.

I guess I don’t understand why they begin the story in 1845. Unfortunately, the most artistic part of the film is the opening credits, which portray Wolverine and Sabretooth (brothers) as they fight side by side in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. This is unfortunate, because no explanation is given as to why these two decide to fight in American Wars (they are Canadian) and gives no clue as to why one of the brothers begins to go a little too far with the bloodshed after his 130th year. Overall, the lack of explanations is probably the biggest cause of frustration with this film. It is never explained why Major Stryker decides to inject Wolverine with Adamantium, or why after he is injected, that he suddenly decides to erase his memory, or why Wolverine is in a murderous rage after the adamantium is injected, or why his brother can’t be injected with Adamantium, why Patrick Stewart suddenly show up……. The list of what is unexplained goes on and on. On a final note, the timeline is very uncertain. Wolverine fights in Vietnam,,,, then 6 years later is a lumberjack in Canada, but the medical facilities where he in injected with Adamantium look very much modern day. The three mile island accident took place in 1979, which I guess, is built in to the storyline, the shots of Patrick Stewart in heavy makeup, with the superimposed helicopter are so grainy that they look as though they were filmed with a camera from that era.

The action scenes looked good, the fighting wasn’t extremely martial arts, and it was filmed with an eye for impact. I just couldn’t help but notice that no one ever had any blood on their blades. In fact, the total lack of gore (considering that Wolverine has blades coming out of his hands) was a little bit mystifying.

I was extremely disappointed by the CGI. I remember seeing, just a couple weeks ago, that there was a leaked copy of the film on the internet... but the special effects weren't done, there were still green screens and wires. I thought it must have been an older copy of the film, but after seeing the finished copy, I'm guessing they were rushing to meet the release date. Certain scenes were obvious green-screens (explosions, especially). The claws in the bathroom scene looked like they were from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. If there's one thing you need to get right in a mindless summer action movie, it's the special effects, and this film couldn't even get that right.

There are just so many things that could have been done better. It is too bad that this didn’t find its way into the hands of a more accomplished director/production team. Considering the extremely harsh reviews that this has been taking, its obvious that the bar has been raised for superhero movies.

Oh yeah,,, the ending. Not cool. Pulling the amnesia card is the lamest trick in the book.

Yes, I think the ending was a symptom of a flaw that permeated the whole production. By showing events that happened before the previous movies, but still remaining continuous with them, the movie was painted into a corner from the very start. But even with that problem, they could have done a better job than what ended up on film.

Urban: Not Recommended, but watch it because everyone else will.
Lucas: Not Recommended.

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