X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Review

I got around to going to the movies yesterday and saw the new Wolverine flick. I have to say, I’m getting more and more disappointed with Hollywood. There seems to be a real tendency for spectacle over substance in recent releases, and Wolverine is good example.

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Hugh Jackman does a stand up job playing the lead again. He’s certainly made that role his own. The trouble with the movie for me was that they just crammed it full of so much action and special effects that they forgot to work on the story. As my wife commented, there was no light and shade. Unless you count the brightness of an explosion and the shadow of a falling building.

The story should be a good one. The Wolverine character is a cracker, with all kinds of possibilities to play with. In the movie the story opens with the child James Logan back in 1840-something discovering his bizarre bone claws, discovering his similarly mutated brother and learning that he’s not like other people. Don’t you hate it when that happens? The opening credits then run through a brilliant sequence of Logan and his brother enjoying several decades of war and mayhem, in every major theatre of war. Given that they heal so fast, they’re pretty much indestructible, even in front of a firing squad. But while James Logan manages to hold onto his moral compass, brother Victor seems to get more and more wild and nasty, happy to kill pretty much anyone.

The movie tells the story of how the brothers get taken into a secret government hit squad of muties, how they grow further apart and then James walks, leaving the hit squad behind and setting up a quiet life as a lumberjack in the Canadian Rockies. Can’t really blame him for that, I suppose. Xenophobic genocide would get boring after a while, I’m sure. Anyway, that’s the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie, so I haven’t given much away.

Subsequent horrors disrupt Logan’s mountain idyll, which convince him to undergo an experimental procedure at the hands of his old squad leader. They chemically bond the almost indestructible metal compound, adamantium, to his entire skeleton. His incredible powers of healing mean that only he could survive such an invasive procedure. Now he pretty much indestrucible. Well, his skeleton is – the rest of him just heals really quickly like before. Anyway, off he goes on a quest for vengeance and justice.

And this is where the film really starts to fall over.

SPOILER ALERT – I’m guessing that from here on I won’t be able to comment without giving away more of the film, so if you haven’t seen it, come back and read this when you have, assuming you want to. (Want to see the film, that is. Of course you want to read this.)

I’m prepared to suspend a lot of disbelief with the movies. I love comic books, I love movies and I’m aware of the fact that a lot of speculative fiction has to stretch the boundaries of what we might usually accept by a long draw. But there are limits.

Little things I can ignore – like the fact that Logan has these bony claws that are lumpy and round, but when coated with adamantium they become razor sharp blades. Why? Why aren’t they still the same shape, only metal covered, like the rest of his skeleton? But I can let that go. Some detail of the procedure not mentioned in the film perhaps. Other holes in the story I’m less forgiving about.

And the holes were the result of the quest for ultimate spectacle. There was no real development of characters or story as the movie steamrollered along. One massive action scene after another, with some pretty impressive special effects is all very well, but it needs a clever story. This story here is blatant and predictable and not clever at all. A great example of the genre handled really well are the recent Batman movies. While they did overcook the end of The Dark Knight a bit too much, they still managed to make a great movie, with an interesting and engaging story. They had moments of calm set against the action and not everything was spelled out.

Wolverine was the opposite. It was dark and grown up, it was a bit brutal and could have really played on those themes, but it just trucked along and left no space to enjoy or develop the story. And this is what brings me back to my initial point – spectacle over substance.

While trying to make the film as exciting and action packed as possible, they really left some gaping holes.

For example, when Weapon XI uses the stolen laser vision (which can cut through anything) to attack Victor, how come Victor’s clothes don’t even show the slightest scorch? He can heal very rapidly, but are his clothes a mutant too?

When the same vision is spinning around on the severed head, carving a nice spiral out of the concrete nuclear stack, why aren’t the surrounding stacks also being cut down?

These are just a couple of numerous examples that ripped me out of what little story there was as they were so blantantly unbelievable. There are many more, but the worst one was saved for last.

Why the fuck would an adamantium bullet through Wolverine’s brain pan erase his memories? Sure, the bullet is strong enough to get through his adamantium coated skull, I’ll accept that. And sure, he can heal so fast that his brain will recover and the shot won’t kill him. But why would it erase all his memories? Was old William Stryker such a sharpshooter that he could perform intricate brain surgery with a bullet while Logan flew through the air? It’s ludicrous.

If anyone has an explanation for why that whole bullet in the brain bollocks would work, please let me know.

It’s an entertaining film, the action is impressive (other than the rather obvious wirework) and it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and half of your time if you fancy some unchallenging visual entertainment. But it could have been so much better.

And here’s some interesting trivia to end on: With this film, Hugh Jackman emerges as the first actor to play a comic book hero in four consecutive films since Christopher Reeve as Superman.

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15 thoughts on “X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Review

  1. I also found it completely unbelievable that his psycho brother suddenly decides to bond with him after relentlessly trying to kill him half of the movie, but I suppose the Gallagher brothers from Oasis used to always do that too though…

  2. Cmon mate, Hollywood is all about the spectacle – when did they give an audience any credit to be able to think, or HAVE to think while at the movies – explosions and oh ahh factor – thats all they want people to care about in action flicks now!

  3. I saw it this weekend as well (primarily because my daughters wanted to see the Hannah Montana movie, and Wolverine was on at the same time). I agree- great special effects, especially the scenes with Gambit (who would make a great Matt Cauthon if they made a Wheel of Time movie). The plot was paper thin, and not enough attention to the how’s and why’s of everything. Could have been a good movie, but was, at best, an amusing popcorn flick.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Alan. When it comes to comic-inspired films, I think it’s difficult to create deep stories, as you risk disappointing a majority of the fanboys who expect to see something that stays close to the source material.

    As far as I know, there has never been any clear definition on Wolverine’s history, and having said that, I thought the film did a pretty good job telling his story.

    The status quo (sadly) has become style over substance, it has for awhile, and I hadn’t even noticed until you said something.

    From what I can tell, Weapon XI’s optic blast was stolen from Cyclops, and it doesn’t burn; his blast is concussive energy, which may explain why Victor’s clothes didn’t burn. As for why the severed, spinning head didn’t take out the world around it? Well, you got me. 🙂

    If I may address something Mr. Buchan said; I don’t think Victor spent the movie trying to kill Logan (he could’ve done that outside the bar at their first encounter). Rather, Victor’s motive throughout the film was to prove he could OUTDO Logan. Also, if you notice, Logan (justifiably) was the aggressor in their conflicts, and Victor just loves to fight. One of the things I enjoyed was at the end of the movie, despite the sibling rivalry, they were still there for each other.

    This is just me, but that’s why I enjoyed the movie. Check out my review here;

    http://www.averyktingle.com/2009/05/02/xmenoriginswolverine/

  5. Chris – the trouble is that once in a while Hollywood proves that it can make a good film. It only makes it more disappointing when they turn out dross like this.

    Dave – You should have gone to see Hannah Montana!

    Avery – I don’t think it is difficult to create deep stories – it’s just lazy not to. Nolan et al did a great job of storytelling with the recent Batman flicks and they certainly didn’t disappoint this fanboy.

    The optic blast left a pretty red hot burn all around the edges of the damage when they caught Cyclops, so it looked like more than concussion to me!

  6. I think the idea behind shooting him in the head to erase his memories, is that Striker (obviously well educated, in his field) was targeting the part of the brain known to store our memories. When he destroyed this part of the brain tissue, it would essentially “erase” the brain’s hard drive of his memories. However, the healing factor would allow his brain to grow back, physically, but lacking the stored memories.

    As for how he managed to pull off the shot, he only shoots Logan in mid-air to drop him. After that, he lines up a carefully aimed shot and shoots him in the head again.

    I would have thought that the adamantium bullet would have done more to his skeleton. If the bullet is equally indestructible, and had been able to rip through the protective layer of metal around his skull, shouldn’t he then have a hole in his metal skeleton? Or a raised circular mark where the damaged metal is underneath his skin? Afterall, its his body that regenerates, not his skeleton.

    As for the Cyclops blast, there is a lot of logistical problems with it. 1) It doesn’t burn people or their clothes, but if you look around the edges of the line he blew in the school, it looks to be glowing hot. 2) Why can it go through a thick, protective wall such as the reactor stack or buildings, but it doesn’t tear people in two? 3) I understand that the rose quartz or whatever special lens that Scott has in his glasses prevents the laser from passing through, but how do tinted aviators completely suppress his powers? You should see his eyes glowing or something. 4) Also, in Xmen 3, he lets loose a blast into the lake, and it kinda sorta looks like its burning the water, not just blasting it away.

    As for the discussion about why Victor and Logan suddenly got along, I agree with the view thats its a game of One-Upmanship. Victor is the older brother, but he is told that he can’t take what Logan can. He can’t survive the operation, and out of the total number of fights they’re in throughout the movies, Logan comes out as the dominant one in more of them. So its Victor trying to prove himself as better, just for the sake of it.

  7. Thanks for weighing in, Jake.

    All your points are quite valid. I hadn’t thought about the bullet through the skull part in relation to the adamantium before. His skull will grow back, but the adamantium covering it won’t. There’d be a weak spot or two there!

    And I still maintain that when you’re spending this kind of money and effort on a movie that you shouldn’t have the audience trying to shoehorn excuses in to make the plot plausible. There’s really no excuse for that.

  8. What are the glasses that Cyclops wears when the teachers asks him a question i think they are red ray bans but i want to know the name of them ?

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