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Monday, May 11, 2009

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009) - Gavin Hood

Another month, another superhero movie. It’s getting a little tedious at this stage. The big names, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X-Men have all been done. And yet, in an attempt to squeeze another few pennies out of a dying genre, the big studious continue to wheel out these movies. Sure, some are entertaining. Some are even genre-defying. And then, you have films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. An attempt to set up a franchise spin-off from another franchise. Seriously, Fox should just rename these films Cash Cow: Wolverine. Gavin Hood attempts to give us the mysterious back-story to X-Men’s most iconic character, Wolverine.

We all know Wolverine. The nigh-invulnerable, adamantium-boned, claw-slasher. As the anti-hero of the X-Men, he is inevitably the most popular character. But his past is shrouded in mystery. He’s a product of the Weapon X program. Where he’s come from is unknown. But in this film, which is essentially a 2-hour flashback, the missing pieces are put into place. We see kiddie Wolverine, born sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. After a disaster involving his father, Wolverine and his half-brother, Victor, also known as Sabretooth wander the earth, getting involved in the American Civil War, both World Wars, Vietnam until their both recruited into a special ops program run by William Stryker. After a crisis of consciousness, Wolverine leaves the program to lead a quiet life with his girlfriend. But things don’t quite work out when Sabretooth returns to kill Wolverine’s gal and draw him out of hiding. Wolverine agrees to take part in Stryker’s Weapon X program in return for a chance at revenge.

I liked X-Men. I liked X-Men 2. The third film was a dreadful piece of shit, thanks to Fox’s interference in production and a hack director in Brett Ratner. So hopes were high that this film would restore some of the magic that made the first two X-Men films very enjoyable. Oh, how misplaced our hopes were. To put it simply, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a complete disaster of a film. At every level of the production, the film is a failure. The script is a complete and utter mess. Characters are never fully realised or fleshed out. For a film that explores what makes established characters act and think the way they do, there is very little character development. From the moment the opening titles began, I knew the film was in trouble. But the script is not the only problem.

The production itself is quite shockingly poor. The CGI, which is an essential part of these big-budget special effects fests, is jaw-droppingly bad. At moments, I found myself really asking if what I was watching was a complete film or had the cinema I was in been slipped a copy of the workprint that was leaked to the world. I am not kidding when I say that the CGI in this film is some of the worst I’ve ever seen. At one point, Wolverine is examining his newly adamantium-clad claws in a bathroom. The effects are so bad that the claws look like cartoons. In other moments, they float over Wolverine’s hands where they’re supposed to be protruding from his hand. It’s incredibly sloppy.

The direction is piss-poor. Gavin Hood may have some small amount talent for doing drama, as seen in Rendition. However, if X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a showcase of his abilities for doing big budget, high concept actioners, he shouldn’t be allowed behind the camera again. Scenes are badly composed, action sequences are horribly shot, and the editing is all over the place. At one point, Wolverine knocks Gabit out with a punch. Literally seconds later, Gambit is sprinting across a roof and leaps off, only to land back where he’d just been punched, without any explanation as to how or why he got back onto the roof in the first place. That’s just one is a long laundry-list of badly executed scenes.

The acting in the film isn’t the worst part of the production. Hugh Jackman is pretty comfortable in the Wolverine role, and when he has things to do, he does them well. Otherwise, he wanders about looking dour and waiting for things to explode behind him. It’s unfortunate for Jackman that he’s left with a god-awful script to work with. Liev Schreiber, also a good actor, is given very little to do as Sabretooth. Turn up, growl and leap about. Not exactly a challenging role. Everyone else is barely worth mentioning. Except for Will I Am. Note to future filmmakers- rappers do not make good actors.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is terrible. It is a terrible, awful, disaster of a film. The number of awful superhero movies vastly outnumbers the good. Maybe it’s time to cease the genre and allow maybe one or two superhero movies come along every few years. Maybe when the scripts are polished, the productions are planned properly and the studios allow creatives to control the making of the film. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a prime example of a badly executed attempt to cash in on a popular property. It’s just a shame further films from this dying franchise are already in production.



galvinator said...

Ha ha! Great review! Gavin Hood shouldn't have been let near another script after the shambolic 'Rendition' release. It's great to sit back and watch these overpaid clowns not learning from their mistakes! What a sad world blockbuster cinema is. If it wasn't for the likes of a very talented few, there wouldn't be a market for these shitheads to operate in. Peace out!

teehanwolf said...

bout time you posted that review

cinemarchaeologist said...

A rating of 3/10 is generous for this stinker, but I don't really understand the prejudice against comic-book movies. They're not in any sort of general decline--since the good Marvel adaptations began (BLADE, X-MEN, and SPIDER-MAN in a row), there's been great work and there's been rot. You're right that the rot outnumbers the prime cuts, but that's always the case with everything. The problems with the bad ones reflect not a genre in decline, but the same problems that plague all of upbudget Hollywood blockbuster cinema. It's always a question of who is behind the camera.