Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Let me preface this review by saying I'm a HUGE X-Men fan, and like most X-Men fans, that means I love the comics from the 70's-80's, and the first two X-Men movies. The last few years of X-Men comics have done a lot to redeem the franchise since the incredibly drastic dip in quality that the X-Men took from the mid 90's until around the mid 2000's; ever since Ed Brubaker wrote the epic Messiah Complex crossover which essentially revitalized the stagnant X-Men franchise as well as Whedon's incredible characterization and humor in Astonishing, the X-Men were finally good again. Cue X-Men 3. Oh Brett Ratner, were you aware that by utilizing the concept of the X-Men properly, one would be capable of making relevant social commentary while at the same time entertaining the eye and dazzling the mind? Instead, X-Men 3 was a cornucopia of crap served within a miasma of obliviousness to the source material and disregard to the lore established within the preceding films. As a fan you feel completely disenfranchised; it's not that we need it to be the same as the comics, in fact, that would never work on film, but when the source material is completely ignored, it signifies a deep disrespect for the genre and for the fans (both the comic fans and for the average movie lover who doesn't necessarily read the comics, but appreciates the movie). When you take a concept like the X-Men, a franchise that has been used to explore sensitive topics such as bigotry, racism and genocide, and reduce it to a bunch of guys with flashy powers beating each other up, you end up disappointing an audience who's come to expect so much more but received so much less.
So on to Wolverine. Like most comic fans, I can't stand Wolverine. He's in EVERYTHING. Like, literally. He has something like 3 solo titles, he regularly appears in New Avengers, Astonishing X-Men and X-Force, and pops up very frequently in Uncanny X-Men. So sufficient to say, you get a little too much exposure to him. I was apprehensive about this movie, X-Men 3 really let me down, but my excitement was piqued at last year's San Diego Comic Con, the Mecha of the comic world (where trendwhores from all across the world flock to once a year in order to act like they're legitimate comic fans and not bandwagon hoppers) when Hugh Jackman himself made an unannounced appearance and came with raw footage in hand. From what I heard during the panel, the crowd's reaction was intensely positive and I was sufficiently stoked. Cue anticipation and an 8-month wait, and suddenly there I was standing in-line for a midnight screening for Wolverine with some of my best friends, who I shall now take the time to introduce since we will be encountering them very frequently throughout our travels. The brothers Dooks, Ryan and Stacy, two of my closest buds who I share a love for comics, Star Wars, Transformers and much, much more with (Stacy being the other out of the group who truly gives me a run for my money when it comes to comic knowledge, and Ryan, a veritable Star Wars guru). The lovely Yrol, a movie fanatic with a deeply ingrained love for all things Star Wars, and one of the more enthusiastic and compassionate women I've ever encountered. Cam, the one other person in the group who loves the X-Men as much as I do, Kris, our wayward friend from Banff who is an unparalleled costumer, and Kayla, new to our group but a Star Wars fan through and through who also seems to love Harry Potter for some misguided reason (I kid! Sorta.) And, I'm not gonna lie, it was hard staying stoked because, honestly, Yrol and I were the only ones who were really excited to see the movie. Everyone else was just sorta meh. So finally the doors open and we race in (naturally we were the first in line, because that's how we roll) and we were able to secure our favorite seats, second row from the top and center. I was equally as stoked for the coming attractions because I had heard that the new Transformers trailer, as well as the new Terminator trailer were attached, so imagine my disappointment when neither was shown. I would soon discover that this would not be the first time I was let down that evening.
Before I go any further, I'm going to try to do this without mentioning too many spoilers, but if you haven't seen it yet then it might be a good idea to stop reading here. Just sayin'. So it gets about half an hour in, and I'm hooked. The childhood scene at the beginning was great, and the scenes that flashed during the credits of Wolverine and Sabretooth during the American Civil War, and the First and Second World Wars were fantastic (and man, was I crossing my fingers for a Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos nod, which sadly didn't come, but would have made my head explode), and their subsequent recruitment into Weapon X by Stryker had me hooked. Even the maskless Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds, was forgivable because he was just so badass (he cuts a bullet in half with a sword! Look me in the face and tell me that isn't awesome!). So Wolverine becomes disenfranchised with the whole bloodthirsty killer thing and quits the team, moves back to Canada, and shacks up with the super hotty, Silverfox. And let me tell you, their chemistry was not only believable, but incredibly touching. And up until this point I was impressed, they'd managed to take a character that I wasn't particularly fond of, and made me care about him. And that's when the ass fell out of the whole thing. Without going into gritty detail, Wolverine quickly fell into the exact same trap that X-Men 3 fell into; pointlessly throwing in X-Men characters that added no value to the story, and a vacant and almost directionless ending that fell very short of expectation. The final fight scene was so anti-climactic, that it took me right back to Iron Man, which was an amazing movie, with a really bad final fight between Iron Man and Iron Monger. I mean, with Wolverine, the whole movie was about his relationship with Sabretooth; wouldn't it have made more sense to have the giant slobber-knocker be between Wolverine and Sabretooth, not Wolverine and (quite possibly) the worst thing that came out of that entire movie? I mean, the "Deadpool" of mutant powers, really? These are the ideas that Hollywood finds valuable?
Now look, I'm trying so hard not to be one of those Internet fanboys who hates everything, because I really don't. It actually hurts me so much more because the first half of the movie had so much depth, so much integrity, and so much promise, and to see it take such a heartrending turn for the worse was difficult to swallow. I hope and pray that the average moviegoer who pays his $12 ticket price finds value in the movie, but for me, knowing and loving the X-Men franchise as much as I do, I just can't bring myself to like it. If you're a fan of the X-Men, then I recommend going and seeing it and forming your own opinion of the prequel, and if you just want to go see a really great action flick, I suggest waiting until May 21st for Terminator Salvation, which will surely knock your socks off! :o)