X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Film review by: Witney Seibold
A film like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is probably cursing films like “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 2” for setting the bar so high. Had “Wolverine” been released in 2000, it would have been the pinnacle of superhero entertainment. Sadly, when contrasted with superhero movies that have bothered to take themselves seriously, “Wolverine” comes across as immature and over-the-top and even a bit silly.
Mind you, this does not mean the film is bad. Indeed, “Wolverine” is a perfectly entertaining film. It’s not smart, it’s not complicated, it’s not deep, but it doesn’t strive to be. It’s a fast-paced, exciting, engaging action film. It has a lot of interesting characters, a lot of flashy, fun superpowers, some good actors, and the most rudimentary of motivations. “Wolverine” passes with flying colors.
James Logan (Hugh Jackman) was born in Canada in the 1840s (Canada wasn’t formed until the 1860s, but never mind). He and his brother Victor (Liev Schreiber) were born with mutations that give them ultra-fast healing powers, animal-like senses, and retractable bone claws. It’s not explained why, but these two brothers fought in all of America’s major wars, including the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and even Vietnam. Their undying bloodlust attracted the attention of one William Stryker (a very good Danny Huston, impersonating Brian Cox from “X2: X-Men United”), who has assembled a team of other superhumans to mysterious ends. James and Victor become good friends with a guy who can plug up tanks with his fist (Kevin Durand), a guy who is a supernaturally good shot (Daniel Henney), a guy who can control machines with his mind (Dominic Monaghan), a guy who can teleport (Will.i.Am from The Black-eyed Peas), and a guy who can cuts bullets in half with a sword (an underused Ryan Reynolds). I mention them all because they will all show up later in the film.
Eventually this klatch of supersoldiers becomes too brutal for James, and he retires to the woods of Canada with a blue-eyed hottie (Lynn Collins). She is killed (oops), and James volunteers to become infused with an indestructible metal called “adamantium” in order to get revenge on the person(s) responsible for her death. The rest of the film is his involved hunt in tracking down the killers. Most of the film takes place in the early 1980s, but we know from the first “X-Men” film that James/Wolverine will lose his memory before the film is over.
I saw a late night screening of this film, and most of the viewers, upon exiting, did little more than complain about how the film deviates from the comic book source material. These deviations, though, will not be spotted unless you are a hardcore comics reader. You may need to see the first two “X-Men” films to fully understand some of the story’s minutiae, but it’s still clear and exciting on its own terms.
“X-Men Origins” was directed by Gavin Hood who has made soulful political films like “Tsotsi” and “Rendition.” He’s an odd choice for a superhero blockbuster, but he handles the material as well as could be expected. There’s not a huge amount of style in his direction. There’s not a huge amount of wit to the screenplay. There’s not a whole lot, indeed, of interesting traits granted to Wolverine, who merely grunts like Dirty Harry, and is motivated by simple revenge.
For a movie aimed at 16-year-old boys, though, it’s spectacular. I recommend it.