D: Gavin Hood. DP: Donald McAlpine. W: David Benioff & Skip Woods. Starring: Hugh Jackman/Liev Schreiber/Danny Huston/Lynn Collins/Ryan Reynolds/Taylor Kitsch/Dominic Monaghan/Kevin Durand/Will I Am.
The time has come. The weather is warming. The clothes are getting less. The fever is on.
Yes, sir, it’s summer movie time, with the first of many gargantuan releases being that of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. A huge release for 20th Century Fox, Wolverine‘s popularity has been even more increased by the now infamous pirating leak that had the cast and executives revealing. To their chagrin, and to mine, the film hardly warrants piracy.
All while attempting to tell the back story of beloved Logan and his Wolverine self, the film takes the easy route, giving us a story of family conflicts, lost love and the evolution of science. A story that centers Jackman’s Logan in an unexplained family of wolf-like men whose instincts somehow give them strength over other men and the ability to heal or regenerate themselves. Much goes unexplained here as Jackman and brother Schreiber (Victor) run amok until they are recruited to join a special military group of only mutants. Jackman eventually walks away from the group sighting differences in moral value and the film continues to eventually reunite the brothers in a fight about mutant development that is never unpacked for the audience. Even Jackman’s name change from Jimmy to Logan goes unrecognized by his fellow characters.
Jackman is clearly enjoying himself, strapping on pounds of muscle and learning more fighting technique that prove his commitment to the franchise. However, the Logan of the X-Men films is a little lost here. Clearly this is the back story so he will eventually develop into the clever more sarcastic Logan we love, but somehow Jackman misses a personality element here and depends too much on his physique and physical signifiers of Wolverine. So much so that consistently I found Shreiber’s Victor (Sabretooth) more entertaining to watch even if the script merely allowed him to appear out for blood and the next step on his own evolution. Huston fill the shoes of Stryker well enough, with his team of misfits only hitting at the surface of mutant culture. Poor Reynolds (Wade), whose been out and about promoting the film, hardly clocks any screen time to make him memorable.
Wolverine embraces it’s visual elements, giving us more than necessary in long shots and scenery. However, it’s visual make-up is of one tone, with a generic wash to it that makes the film, structurally, predictable. There are few surprises that aren’t hinged on Schreiber showing up again, with the majority of the fighting sequences being between them. We only get about fifteen minutes of Kitsch’s Gambit, but his involvement is the highlight of the fighting.
In all honesty I am not an X-Men expert, but I would like to believe there is a meatier story and catalyst for Logan’s transformation into Wolverine. His moral dilemma with his brother, loss of love and decision to harness his ‘true’ nature are such obvious and simple character choices. There is little conflict here, right and wrong are clearly delineated, making the film a smooth, but mostly monotonous journey.
On a side note: Let’s just hope the first part of the title (X-Men Origins) doesn’t indicate that in another year or so we’ll see Halle Berry in X-Men Origins: Storm. I couldn’t stomach that. What I could stomach was the segment in New Orleans. HOLLA. Way to make me homesick boys.