Sunday, May 3, 2009

Shanks For Nothing: Arturo v. X-Men Origins: Wolverine!


X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the movie of the year! ... if the year were 1995.

Give Hugh Jackman credit for putting his money where his mouth is -- he's listed as a producer on this flick, and his affection for the title character seems genuine. Unfortunately for him, this movie was more like Van Helsing than X-Men 2. Hell, there were moments when the movie felt like a slightly-better-written episode of Smallville.

Part of the problem is, because the film is a prequel (in film canon, it takes place more than a decade before the X-series opens), there's too many limits going in. You know Jimmy/Logan/Wolverine is gonna make it through; it's just a matter of how the dots get connected.

And to be fair, the script by David Benioff and Skip Wells does that well enough. Yes, a young Cyclops is featured in the film, but there's not enough contact between himself and Logan to mess with the timeline established in the rest of the movies. There's even a scene thrown in for the Scott/Emma Frost 'shippers among us. (One wish for the planned First Class film: a triangle between Scott, Emma and a young Jean Grey. Fanservice and soap opera all in one!)

The brightest spots amidst all the angst (more on that later) are, not surprisingly, Ryan Reynolds stealing the movie as Wade Wilson in the course of one monologue; and, somewhat surprisingly, Taylor Kitsch giving us a Gambit who is refreshingly long on swagger and short on the Pepe Le Pew-like pronouncements he's prone to in the comics. Both are one-note characters, to be sure, but they're entertaining one-note characters -- enough so that you actually want to see their roles being expanded if the series continues.

As Duncan MacLeod, Logan himself, Hugh Jackman again brings his best t-shirts to the proceedings. But the character is undercut from the get-go. First off, as we've all known since his first solo mini-series, a good Wolverine story should not be PG-13. You can't do the grim without doing the gritty. As he tells his girlfriend, "What I do isn't very nice," so to put it bluntly, this story needed blood. Maybe not Eli Roth-levels of gore, but enough to hammer home the nastiness of the circles he runs in when he's not in Westchester County.

The toning-down of the story also leaves Liev Schrieber with precious little to do as Sabretooth, who is further neutered by being portrayed as Logan's half-brother, something which Wolvie's proper origin didn't cover. The "my brother is my enemy" subplot, spread out over what felt like 200 fights between the two, took Wolverine from retro to outright dated. Not bad, per se; hindsight being what it is, if this were the first X-movie we'd ever gotten back in the day, it would be a good warm-up for whatever was to come. But by now, it's just another comic-book movie -- hardly the best at what it's trying to do.


Anonymous said...

Oh man, I loved GAMBIT so much!

Mahsino Blamoh said...

"a slightly-better-written episode of Smallville". Damn. I'm glad I chose to see Star Trek today instead.

Joseph said...

You nailed this Arturo. What a disappointment. Wolverine didn't stink as much as the Fantastic Four sequel... but it was nowhere near X2, which is the Empire Strikes back of the current crop of superhero movies.

"Smallville" Bwah!

Anonymous said...

Agree all around and one critic said it best when he said part of the thrill of Wolverine was his mystique. Did I REALLY need to know where his 'origins' came from.... nope.