I spent a fairly underwhelming morning this past weekend at the movie theater watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I’d already read quite a few negative reviews about this film. As such, I went into it not expecting much and was grateful for that preparation. This film falls alongside the many expensive and average adventure movies that have preceded it. It aspires to reveal the origins and motivations of one of the most popular of Marvel superheroes, Logan, aka Wolverine, but simply meanders from one explosive exploit to the next with the barest insight into the personalities of this character or his comrades and adversaries.
It begins somewhere in Canada in the mid-1800′s when Wolverine is a young boy named Jim and on the verge of the revelation about his “condition” (claws which, at this time, are extensions of his bones.) He also learns that his friend, Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber), is actually his older brother and he, too, is a mutant whose fingernails extend like cat’s claws. The two of them also have powerful healing abilities that, other than decapitation, prevent them from succumbing to fatal injuries. We then learn via a black and white slow-motion montage (why is slo-mo so overused as a method of weight and emphasis?) through war to war, from the Civil War through Vietnam. Sometime thereafter, he and Victor find themselves working for a government agent named William Stryker (Danny Huston) in a black ops-type of group populated by other mutants with a variety of useful gifts. Aside from the 1990s X-Men TV cartoon, I’m not all that familiar with the X-Men canon but I do understand that Wolverine was famous for his berseker rage. We do see a couple of justifiably emotional outbursts but the rage is only hinted at a couple of times and never truly comes to fruition. Instead, it’s Victor who grows increasingly brutal, seemingly savoring each of his kills. Disagreeing with Victor’s behavior and disaffected by Stryker’s methods, leaves the ops for a quieter life as a lumberjack in Canada. After Victor kills his beloved Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), the story sets him on a course of revenge against his brother. He’s lured into Stryker’s Weapon X program and acquires his adamantium claws and skeleton which leave him nearly invulnerable. He’s betrayed a number of times and, ultimately, loses his memory (this had been established in the prior X-Men installments).
The writer of this film gives us little reason to care about any of the characters. They are basically shifted from one fight to the next and very little else happens. We really don’t get a good appreciation of Deadpool, Stryker’s big bad. I liked his creepy look and think Deadpool could have been a decent opponent to Wolverine. Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of him in this film to judge. About all of those fights: as brutal as these characters are supposed to be, there is absolutely no blood. I have no great need to see a lot of gore but how can Victor murder one of the characters by inserting his hand inside the victim’s torso and pull it out looking as it did before it went in? Did the poor guy not have any bodily fluids? There is a lot of slashing and stabbing of characters who do not have healing abilities but little evidence of the injuries beyond the claw marks.
The effects in general, which sometimes seem to be the “reason” for a film like this, looked really cheap. I understand this film was more expensive than the other better X-Men films but it’s difficult to tell. In one scene set in a Nigerian village at night, I could see the little puffs of smoke made by the smoke machine used to create the foggy background. In another scene where Wolverine examines his new adamantium claws, there is obvious CGI evidence where the claws emerge from his knuckles. I could comment on how awful Victor’s mode of movement on all fours like an animal looks like something out of a TV movie or the terrible computer created backgrounds but there’s no need.
As far as the actors are concerned, all of the lead actors did a decent job. Liev Schreiber was effective as a merciless animal and Hugh Jackman, always one of my favorite actors, did his best as the title character. Danny Huston was sufficiently driven as in his role of Stryker and the mercenaries, including Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas and Meriadoc Brandybuck himself, Dominic Monaghan, were fine as well.
In short, I’m grateful to AMC’s pre-noon matinee weekend ticket prices. Had I paid the full $12.50 ticket price, I may have been really annoyed. At $6.50, I didn’t hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I was merely underwhelmed.