Emerging as one of the most popular comic book characters ever, Wolverine quickly became the favorite and most popular character within the X-Men movie trilogy. Judging from Marvel’s actions with Wolverine in the comic book world, pure market saturation, it’s only logical that Fox would want to bleed Wolverine for all he’s worth. The result is the first X-Men Origins movie, appropriately titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
The story of Wolverine was never going to be simple. The movie version differed considerably from the comic version, so producers decided to base the origin film on the Origins mini-series. Unfortunately this didn’t help in the confusion since the movie openly contradicts events from the prior three X-Men movies, which I’ll discuss in a bit. For now let’s focus on the plot.
The movie opens in 1854, where a young James Howlett, also known as Logan or Wolverine, kills a man whom he believes murdered his father. Turns out that Logan is a mutant who has sharp bony claws that can protrude from his knuckles at will. Scared and confused, Howlett makes a run for it into the Canadian wilderness, but following close behind is the young Victor Creed. Stopping Howlett, Creed explains to him that they’re brothers and they have to stick together if they want to survive. On the run for murder, they flee together and do what any fugitive with super-powers would do: join the army and fight in endless wars. The opening credit sequence shows an adult Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Creed (Liev Schreiber) fight in the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam.
Following an altercation in Vietnam, the brothers are recruited by General William Stryker (Danny Huston) for a top secret Black Ops squad consisting of super-powered mutants. Joining the brothers in Team X is Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), John Wraith (Will i Am), Frederick Dukes, aka The Blob (Kevin Durand), David North, aka Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), and Chris Bradley, aka The Bolt (Dominic Monaghan).
After an operation in Nigeria where Stryker orders the team to kill innocent civilians, Logan refuses and quits the team. The objective of the mission? Well it was to find the source of the indestructible adamantium, which according to the movie is a meteor rock from outer space. Fast forward a few years and we find Logan working as a lumberjack back in Canada and living a peaceful life with Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). Being Logan you know something bad is bound to happen and it does when Sabertooth apparently kills Logan’s love, Silverfox. Wanting revenge, Logan and Creed battle with the end result being a battered Logan accepting Strykers offer from entrance into the Weapon X program. A program that will lace his skeleton with adamantium, making him even more powerful. Before the process of bonding the metal to his bones, Logan is issued new dog tags, and takes the name Wolverine in memory of a story Kayla told him before she was killed.
Wolverine is born and his life quickly takes a turn for the worse, after escaping the Weapon X program. On the run, Wolverine sets out to find Sabertooth and stop him and find Stryker. Along the way he runs into former teammates the Blob and Wraith as well as some new faces like the Cajun Remy LeBeau, aka Gambit (Taylor Kitsch). After finding the location of Strykers secret base, which just happens to be Three Mile Island, Wolverine sets out for his revenge. Unfortunately for him, the Weapon X program has moved on to Weapon XI, where they’ve taken Deadpools body and spliced in mutant powers from a host of other mutants, making him the most powerful mutant in the world. Much to his surprise, someone from his past is still alive and working for Stryker. After a couple nice fights, of which I won’t spoil since they’re pretty revealing, Wolverine comes out on top but with a price. It seems that while an adamantium bullet won’t kill Wolverine, it will give him amnesia. So that’s how his amnesia from the first X-Men movie is explained.
Now how does the movie play out? Well to be honest it’s not too bad. If you put aside the ridiculous history they create, or rather destroyed, then you have a fun movie. The action is jam packed with excitement and it’s nice seeing a large number of mutants on screen. The movie is strongest during its first half with director Gavin Hood focusing on characterization. Unfortunately the last act is the films major weakness. It’s rushed and at times defies its own logic and planning. You leave feeling like there should have been more, but instead we’re left with an amnesiac roaming the earth.
Acting wise, the cast did a solid job for what they were given. Hugh Jackman puts in a good performance, going from brooding to berserker rage easily. Danny Huston is a good actor, but the role given to him was weak. Unlike Brian Cox, who plays an aging but captivating Stryker in X2, he wasn’t evil enough to be disliked, nor sympathetic enough to be liked. Will i Am played the teleporting Wraith but was probably the worst choice for the role. To be blunt, he was bland. His lines came off like he was phoning it in and he exuded no emotions. Thankfully Ryan Reynolds was anything but bland as Deadpool. Reynolds’ natural wit and delivery suit the merc with a mouth nicely, while lightening the tone of the film a bit. Unfortunately his screen time, along with Durand and Monoghan, were severely limited so we couldn’t get enough of the good stuff.
One character I was anxiously looking forward to seeing was Gambit. Unfortunately he was used merely an excuse to slow down Wolverine’s progress and add another character’s name on the roster. While I would have loved to have seen more of the Cajun in action, I found him to be somewhat of a disappointment. The biggest thing that stuck out was his Texan drawl. Now being a Cajun you’d expect a Cajun accent, but it was nowhere to be found. This leads me to a few other gripes that I had, the re-imagining of characters backgrounds. Yes it may be nitpicking, but is it really so hard to stick to the source material? Sabertooth was never Wolverines brother, Emma Frost was never Silverfox’s sister and Cyclops was never captured by Stryker when he was a teenager. These are just some of the things that felt like laziness. There’s no reason not to use the material out there considering that it’s compelling enough. It should also be noted that it goes against some of the things set in the previous X-Men movies.
At least the cinematography wasn’t lazy. The film looks great, from New Zealand’s beautiful locations, the Canadian Rockies and the striking sets at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island. Gavin Hood and his crew did an outstanding job with the look of the movie.
Being an origin story, X-Men Origins: Wolverine suffers from the storytelling. While the first half was good, the script was rushed with too much going on in the end. It could have easily been a longer movie, and it would have made for a better one. Overall though, it’s not a bad movie. It’s quite good, if you don’t care about the cannon set in the past 30 years. It does its job, but how well depends on what you want out of it.