Maybe Not the Best He Is at What He Does…

With THE WOLVERINE heading to theatres soon, let’s look back at the previous cinematic solo feature for Logan…

Well, it wasn’t that bad…

I’m speaking, of course of the newest Marvel cinematic offering, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, which continues to do pretty well at the box office despite mediocre reviews and overwhelming competition from the blockbuster STAR TREK revival. Accordingly, I went in to this thing with fairly low expectations, and while it wasn’t the worst Marvel movie I’ve ever seen (I’m looking at you, RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER), it certainly could have done with a few rewrites, and some of the creative choices remain headscratchers. Still, if you’re looking for a fun, action-packed diversion for an hour and a half, you could do much worse.


Make no mistake, this film lives or dies by its star. Without Hugh Jackman anchoring this operation as Wolverine, this would go from kinda decent to awful in a heartbeat. Jackman really gets the character, investing Logan with the necessary mixture of humor, anguish and berserker rage, and lord knows he’s never looked better in the part. (Jackman is bulked up like never before here, which explains why Wolverine spends a surprising amount of screen time without his shirt, and occasionally without his pants…) Credit must also be given to Liev Schreiber, who manages to hold his own against Jackman as Logan’s brother/antagonist Victor (a.k.a. the comics’ Sabertooth, although he’s never called that here). Truth be told, this really is a two-man operation, with Jackman and Schreiber and their relationship being by far the most compelling thing in the picture. When Schreiber was originally cast, I was a little unsure of how he’d pull it off, but he’s great here, coming across as menacing and imposing. (In a nice touch, when Victor leaps into battle, he does so on all fours like his tiger namesake – I don’t know if this was done digitally or with old-fashioned wirework, but it works well on-screen.)

Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to their example. It’s almost too packed with cameos by other X-characters, some, like Gambit and Cyclops, handled fairly well, and others less so, like the Blob, Emma Frost, and especially Deadpool. I can understand the impulse; Wolverine has always been a character that works best in a team dynamic, I think, which makes the very nature of solo adventures for the character a little tricky. But what gets missed here is that Wolverine works best when he’s the star of said group dynamic. Here, all Wolverine does in his team of military mutants is glower disapprovingly at them and eventually quit in a huff.


The script is actually halfway decent, and does a good job of managing a satisfying ending when the hero can’t really defeat the villain, since they’ve already met in a later movie, and has to wind up an amnesiac by the end. There’s also a clever bit of plotting sleight-of-hand in having Cyclops appear here even though they can’t really “meet” until many years later. But the directing is kind of hit and miss – the “scream-at-the-sky-while-the-camera-pulls-up crane shot” is practically a cliché ever since Nicholas Meyer did it with Shatner in WRATH OF KHAN, and it’s done twice here, once with a scene of 10-year–old L’il Logan. It’s supposed to be a dramatic moment, and instead the audience was chuckling. Not a good sign.

As for the visual effects, they too are wildly uneven. There’s a fantastic sequence in the middle involving Wolverine in combat with a helicopter, and it’s great stuff. But some of the smaller things stick out like a sore thumb: there are lingering shots of Wolverine just standing where it’s very obvious that his claws have been added digitally. They just look like cartoons stuck to the ends of his hands. With the CGI stuff, if it’s not absolutely top-of-the-line, you can’t give the viewer a chance to really focus on it, because the eye can always tell. There’s a scene where Logan’s in the bathroom staring at his claws, and he looks like Judge Doom at the end of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? with the cartoon buzzsaw hand.

But that’s not the worst CGI moment, and those of you who still intend to see this may want to step out for a brief SPOILER ALERT. In a surprise cameo at the film’s end, we see a supposedly younger Professor Xavier arrive on the scene to rescue some mutant children. But in an attempt to make him appear more youthful, practically every line from his face has been scrubbed clean. He looks more like a wax museum dummy than Patrick Stewart. There’s also the fact that he’s walking, but that’s a whole other discussion…

So, yeah. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Eh. Maybe it’s that films like IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK and THE DARK KNIGHT have set the bar pretty high, but this one just barely ranks as “acceptable” for me. If you’ve got some time to kill and are craving some popcorn, you’ll be happy enough.

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