X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Wolverine’s appeal is as obvious as it is universal. He’s the classic if not archetypal anti-hero, the guy with the bad attitude who’s dangerous enough to back it up. Think a mean James Dean or Brando with claws. Except Wolverine somehow always manages to be on the right side.

Comic book geeks are always obsessed with origins, which is why a movie with such a ponderous title can be a hit, and Wolverine is such an interesting character, his start must be an absorbing tale. In the three X-Men films, Logan cannot remember his early years, he just found himself drifting one day with almost instantaneous healing powers and foot long retractable metal claws made of an indestructible material and a powerful evil mutant named Sabertooth who seemed to hold an especially nasty grudge. It turns out that Wolverine was born James Logan in Canada in the 1840’s. When his mutant powers and aggressive nature manifested themselves at an early age, he is forced to flee his family with his older half brother, Victor Creed, another mutant who becomes Sabertooth.

The two grow up, looking out for each other and being violent men by nature serve in every war from the Civil War to Vietnam. Logan begins to tire of it, but Victor revels in it, turning into a sadistic killing machine. That’s when William Stryker finds them and offers them a place in his elite team of mutants.

I won’t ruin the rest of it for you.

This film has a pretty good cast. Hugh Jackman show no signs of tiring of the character even after playing him four times. He captures Logan’s rage and his struggle not to give into that rage. At this point if Jackman didn’t want to do it, they would just have to stop making Wolverine movies. Nobody else would be acceptable. Liev Schreiber is a mix of homicidal maniac and protective big brother as Victor. Danny Huston makes the role of Stryker his own, while at the same time making you think, “Yeah, he could be Bryan Cox in twenty years.”

And yet X-Men Origins: Wolverine doesn’t quite work. The problem is the approach. It’s as if Gavin Hood the director thought, “Action film! It shouldn’t be any long than ninety minutes.” And yet the story spans over a hundred years and has several complicated twists. Major parts of it happen in different time frames. Every section gets short changed and we wind up with an unengaging drama whose scope doesn’t match it’s running time.

I don’t know where they will take Wolverine from here but I hope they find a better direction than this.


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May 2009
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