Monday 11 October 2010

Origins of the Specious

X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2009 US
Directed by Gavin Hood
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2
Please note that the following blog post contains big, furry spoilers and that the very first statement contains levels of irony which may just ratchet up into sarcasm.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not, I’m sure, a quick attempt to cash in on the commercial and artistic success of the first two X-Men movies and the commercial success of the pretty rubbishy third X-Men movie. I’m sure that the directors and producers were not in any way interested in jumping on a partially successful franchise bandwagon and were only interested in making this movie from a purely artistic perspective.

Right! Having got that out of the way... X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a partially successful prequel to events that were a running thread in the first two X-Men movies. But there are some pretty basic problems with the way this one has turned out which is a shame because it’s actually not a bad movie... quite entertaining, in fact, as a modern, action-exploitation flick.

It opens in the 19th Century with Logan accidentally killing his father with some bone claws which come up from his hand for the first time in his life and his newly discovered brother and he running from their pursuers. This segues into a really quite fresh, narrative credits sequence where the grown up brothers played by Hugh Jackman (reprising his successful Wolverine role) and Liev Schrieber are shown taking part in various violent conflicts over the years (American Civil War, World War 1, World War 2, Vietnam etc) and demonstrating that these characters don’t actually age and leading up to the time frame of the movie, which is presumably 10 or so years before the events of the first X-Men movie.

The movie starts off post credits with Wolverine and his brother being shot by a firing squad and then returning to life to demonstrate their peculiar powers. Schreiber’s character Victor has retractable fingernails reminiscent of Wolvie’s claws. They join up with a group of mutants lead by Stryker, played here by Danny Huston - filling in as a slightly younger version of the character Brian Cox played in X-Men 2. Now Brian Cox is a legend of an actor and Danny Huston is also a really great actor as it happens, but he’s not really playing it like Brian Cox and he’s really no substitute for him. It’s not his fault, he does a really terrific job in this... it’s just that it’s a bit of a tall order for any actor to fill those particular shoes methinks. The mutant team is pretty much a group of mercenaries and after you’ve seen them in action, Wolverine quits and walks out on them and his brother because, basically, he isn’t into killing innocent people.

We then flash to a couple of years later where the team is pretty much disbanded and Wolverine is living with his “one true love” when old team members start getting killed off and Stryker tries to get Logan to find out who’s killing them. Which he almost succeeds in doing when Victor is revealed as the killer and Wolverines partner lies dead and covered in blood. The plot is more twisted than that (which you’ll guess soon enough) but, suffice it to say, Wolvie is conned into having adamantium metal coating his skeleton and the events which are flashbacks in the second X-Men movie play out. Then Wolverine figures out what’s going on and goes rogue... teaming up with mutant Gambit to take out Stryker and rescue a bunch of young mutants who Stryker is using as guinea pigs.

But, like I said, the movie has some problems too.

Like not having any point and not actually being an origin story as the title may suggest? At no point in the narrative do you find out a) Why Wolverine and Victor are suddenly blessed with pretty much immortality or b) why they have retractable claw thing’s hidden beneath their flesh. What’s going on?

And as for the events which take place in flashback in the second movie... well we’ve seen the salient points before. What’s the point in doing a retread? Oh, right... for art. I remember.

There are appearances from younger incarnations from the other X-Men movies in this and an appearance by a badly CGI "younged-up" Patrick Stewart right near the end... but ultimately, it’s not even like the writers of this could give you any real pay off on the villain front. You already know that Stryker goes on to live and prosper and the events which cause Wolverine to lose his memory are, frankly, preposterous.

The nice thing about the direction and the way things are handled on this one, to it’s credit, is that it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is... which is a nicely crafted but unassuming, modern B-movie. No sense of epicness really attached to it to confuse the issue.

There doesn’t seem to be much scope for a sequel to this one but it made enough money that Hollywood is trying to get a second Wolverine story made. If they’re smart they’ll maybe set it after the events of X-Men 3 rather than try to fill in any imaginary gaps between the first solo Wolvie movie and the first X-Men movie. Wasn’t really looking forward to the prospect of seeing another one of these to be honest but it seems that, as of the time of writing this, one of the greatest living directors - Darren Aronofsky - is in talks to have a go in the next step in the franchise (he’s worked with Jackman before on The Fountain) and it’s suddenly become something I very much want to see happen.

So should you see this one?

I guess the answer lies in what you thought of the first two films! Basically, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is never going to win any awards for being a great movie but it is quite fast paced and well performed. At the end of the day it’s nowhere near as good as the first two X-Men movies... but it’s a whole lot better than the third X-Men movie so if you hated that one as much as me... maybe you’ll get something out of this one.

1 comment:

  1. Still one of the best X Men Characters and deserving of his own movie.

    Thanks for the article