Friday, October 22, 2010

X-Men Origins: Wolverine




When the X-Men comics finally became a feature film in 2000.  The film was a hit as it introduced the film world to Hugh Jackman as one of the group’s popular heroes in Wolverine.  X2:  X-Men United followed in 2003 to great success as did X-Men 3:  The Last Stand in 2006.  Though the last film was under the helm of a different director in Brett Ratner and received mixed reviews.  The film was still a commercial hit as plans for spin-offs in relation to the characters were in the works.  With Jackman’s popularity as Wolverine still viable, 20th Century Fox decided to tackle an origin story for the first of a series X-Men spin-off films entitled X-Men Origins:  Wolverine.

Directed by Gavin Hood with a screenplay by David Benioff and Skip Woods, X-Men Origins:  Wolverine tells the story of Wolverine and his background that spans from the 19th Century to the present where he’s accompanied by his older half-brother Victor Creed aka Sabretooth.  When Wolverine leaves a special unit group that was headed by William Stryker that also included Victor, he settles for a quiet life until tragedy occurs where he would become the monster with metallic blades that was also invulnerable.  With Jackman playing the role of Logan/Wolverine, the film also stars Liev Schrieber, Danny Huston, will.i.am, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch, Dominic Monaghan, and Ryan Reynolds.  X-Men Origins:  Wolverine is a film that ends up being a lazy, overblown film that adds nothing to the X-Men film franchise.

In the near-mid 1800s, a young boy named James Hewlett (Troye Sivan) is sick as he has a mutation where he can grow claws from his fists.  After an incident that involved the death of his real father, James and his older half-brother Victor Creed (Michael James Olsen) runs away where they would spend nearly an entire century as adults fighting numerous wars.  By the time they reach the Vietnam War, Victor Creed (Liev Schrieber) has become more volatile while James, renames himself as Logan is more compassionate.  After some troubles with the military, they meet Colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston) who invites them to join an elite team of mutants.

Years go by as Logan becomes tired of the team he’s a part of that also consist of Creed, talkative swordsman Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), teleported John Wraith (will.i.am), marksman Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), the invincible Fred J. Dukes/the Blob (Kevin Durand), and the techno path Chris Bradley (Dominic Monaghan).  After a mission in Africa, Logan leaves the team where he would reshape his life years later in Canada as a lumberjack.  At the same time, he has a girlfriend named Kayla (Lynn Collins) where he seemed to have peace until Stryker makes a visit.  Stryker reveals a plot to kill members of their old team as he makes a warning to Logan.  Some time later, Creed appears to battle Logan as the conflict leaves some tragic consequences for Logan as he turns to Stryker for help.

Stryker decides to inject adamantium, a new form of metal into Logan’s body as Logan asked to be renamed as Wolverine.  The experiment becomes successful but after overhearing Stryker’s plans to wipe Logan’s memory, Logan escapes and hides.  Logan then had to battle adversaries including Agent Zero as he turns to Wraith and Dukes for help about what Creed and Stryker are up to.  After meeting Remy LeBeau/Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) in New Orleans to find the whereabouts of Stryker’s new laboratory, Creed comes into attack where Gambit decides to help Logan.  Upon his arrival into the island, Logan finds a shocking surprise as well as the new weapon Stryker created known as Weapon XI/Deadpool.

When the idea for an origin story about one of X-Men’s most popular characters would be made into a film.  The idea seems something fans would enjoy.  All there was needed to be told about Logan/Wolverine is his background, his relationship with half-brother Victor Creed, and how he had adamantium into his body.  They got all of that but the problem is that the execution was awful. While co-screenwriter David Benioff added a lot of dramatic elements to the story, he and co-scribe Skip Woods didn’t dwell enough into Logan’s background as well as the complexity of his character.  Instead, Wolverine is made into a one-dimensional character who only has two main emotions.  Sad and angry with a bit of sensitivity and warmth.  While audiences know that Wolverine is also a character with a sense of humor.  None of the humor works with the approach the writers have for the character.

It’s not just Wolverine that is badly written.  It’s the people involved with Wolverine that don’t get much meat into their roles.  Notably Kayla, who only appears for about 20 minutes of the film early on and then, disappears for nearly the rest of the film.  The audience have no idea of how they met or when did this meeting occur.  At the same time, she ends up being just a run-of-the-mill love interest that audiences don’t really care about.  Then there’s Victor Creed and William Stryker.  The complex relationship between Creed and Wolverine is told exactly what is to be needed but the problem is that its approach is messy while their last moment together doesn’t work.  Even as it would set up the events of the first film where Creed would be known as Sabretooth.

Stryker meanwhile, isn’t as engaging in comparison to the other incarnation in X2.  Audiences know who he is and what he would do to Wolverine.  Even as there’s tidbits to his own son, whose character would have a bigger role for X2.  Yet, that isn’t explored enough in the writing as Benioff and Woods are more concerned with wanting to get the action going.  Notably for the setup and anticipation for the big villain known as Deadpool.  Unfortunately, that setup and the moment he arrives ends up being one of the film’s major disappointments.

The action-drama approach of the screenplay is very awful.  When it comes to some dramatic moments or character-related plot points, it drags the entire film in some places while there’s scenes where it moves too quickly so it can go to an action sequence.  The set-up for the action ends up being cartoonish and over-the-top in the writing where there’s moments where no one really knows what is going on at times.  Another problem of the story is when did all of this happen?  Audiences do get introduced to the future Scott Summers/Cyclops as well as Emma Frost, both of whom would become students in Charles Xavier’s school for mutants.  There’s no sense of time frame that goes on where there’s modern technology that is available in present time yet how would it relate to the other films when that was set in the early 2000s?  That’s a major reason why the screenplay is a failure in its presentation.

Yet, none of that could be compared to Gavin Hood’s direction.  While there’s nothing wrong with a by-the-books approach to directing an action film.  What Hood failed to do was make it interesting, engaging, and entertaining.  Instead, he goes for a bigger is better mentality and a move into the action in such a fast way that he could rival hacks like Michael Bay and McG in that department of overblown filmmaking.  Unlike Bay and McG, Hood does have more experience in directing drama.  Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn’t allow him to work with strong material.  Even the action sequences, filled with CGI and settings that don’t look real.  Hood was really unable to create a film that could get people excited.

Even in the way the scenes are directed where a shot of Logan screaming at the sky is presented in such a clumsy, cheesy fashion.  For many of the film’s exterior scenes, the look of the film feels very unrealistic.  Whether it’s due to Donald McAlpine’s cinematography or whatever post-production work was done to the locations.  It feels and looks like it was made by a computer.  It’s not just McAlpine’s photography nor the editing isn’t just uninspiring.  A lot of the film’s technical work doesn’t seem to wow or serve anything.  The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is very mediocre and reminiscent of every action film score out there with bombastic orchestral arrangements and such.

The casting isn’t great either as many of the actors weren’t given any substantial material to work with.  While there’s cameos from Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier along with future X-Men characters in Tim Pocock as Scott Summers/Cyclops and Tahyna Tozzi as Emma Frost.  None of them really give any kind of performance that is worth noting.  Neither do Troye Sivan and Michael James Olsen in their younger versions of Logan and Victor, respectively as audiences don’t get enough time to get to know them.  Other smaller performances such as Kevin Durand as the Blob and Daniel Henney as Agent Zero weren’t interesting enough to be invested in as they’re just one-dimensional characters.

More well-known actors like Dominic Monaghan and Ryan Reynolds are practically wasted in their respective performances as Chris Bradley and Wade Wilson.  Notably Reynolds, who is a funny actor as he’s only in the film for about a few minutes and then, reappears towards the end as close-ups of Deadpool that kills whatever momentum the film has.  Taylor Kitsch is truly awful as Gambit, a character that is very obnoxious as Kitsch sports a bad New Orleans accent.  will.i.am is really the worst performance of the film as he’s just there to appear and be Wolverine’s sidekick.  He doesn’t even act as he tries to look cool with a cowboy hat.  His role is really more of a distraction as he’s really known as the talent-less hack who is in the Black Eyed Peas.  Lynn Collins doesn’t do anything in terms of performance by rather just look sexy, comfort Logan, and get scared.  There’s really no depth to her character while she and Hugh Jackman have no chemistry for the audience to be invested in.

Danny Huston is actually the film’s best performance but that isn’t saying much since he spends half of the film sleepwalking throughout the majority of the film.  In the role of William Stryker, Huston doesn’t really give anything to make Stryker charismatic nor engaging in the way Brian Cox was with the character in X2:  X-Men United.  Instead, Huston’s performance is such a waste that the audience will end up missing Brian Cox.  Liev Schreiber tries to put some life into his performance as Victor Creed/Sabretooth but ends up being cartoonish.  Even when he tries to be the mean monster as Schreiber really was given a character that is really just one-dimensional.

Finally, there’s Hugh Jackman in the title role.  Jackman is always fun to watch as Wolverine and does have the chops to do drama and be funny.  The problem is that his character becomes less complex and more cartoonish with two emotions.  Angry and weepy.  The funny one-liners he gets aren’t funny, the action sequences has him looking quite awkward and he fails in the dramatic department.  It’s as if he’s acting with no one throughout the film while being inside a CGI studio.  It’s a terrible performance for Jackman who has done better with this character, a character that audiences loved in previous films.

X-Men Origins:  Wolverine is, truly without a doubt, one of the worst films ever made.  While fingers can be pointed at star and producer Hugh Jackman, director Gavin Hood, and screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods.  The real culprits are the executives at 20th Century Fox for their interference with the film.  Even with the additional endings they added when a leaked work print version of the film was released a month prior to the film’s actual release.  For doing that, this is a film that should be seen as an example where a studio can go way too far into trying to make a money-grabbing film only to anger the core audience it tried to appeal to.  In the end, X-Men Origins:  Wolverine is an abomination from Fox as they have destroyed one of the most beloved characters in the world of comic books.

X-Men Films: X-Men - X2: X-Men United - X-Men 3: The Last Stand - X-Men: First Class - The Wolverine - X-Men: Days of Future Past - X-Men: Apocalypse - Logan (2017 film) - (The New Mutants) - (Deadpool 2) - (X-Men: Dark Phoenix)

© thevoid99 2010

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