X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/10/09
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds, cameo by Patrick Stewart

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is a fan service film that exists solely to milk the franchise. Unfortunately, the service that it provides is not at all satisfying, and the execution and presentation are dull and uninteresting. The film opens with two young brothers named Victor and Jimmy who have mutant powers and are nigh invulnerable. Feared and shunned by normal society, they both join the army and fight through numerous wars until Jimmy/Logan (Hugh Jackman) grows tired of all the killing. Victor (Liev Schreiber), on the other hand, revels in it and a rift begins to form between them. They are ultimately recruited by William Stryker (Danny Huston) to become part of an elite mutant task force, but Logan eventually goes AWOL and ends up in the Canadian Rockies. Sadly, his peaceful life doesn't last long, since both Victor and Stryker are out to get him. Stryker manages to coerce Logan into undergoing a horrific experiment to fuse his bones with Adamantium, giving him an almost indestructible skeleton, and Weapon-X is born. With vengeance as his sole motivator, he hunts down Victor and gets more than he bargained for. The film leaves us with Logan's memory erased and a bunch of young mutants coming under the care of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), setting the stage for the first "X-Men" (2000) film.

First of all, you can't fault the actors for the mess that the film is. Jackman and Schreiber give excellent physical performances, and Jackman's pained delivery is always a treat. He's also naked, which my sister astutely pointed out as a highlight. Danny Huston makes an excellent villain who is complicated, cunning, devious, and even a bit sympathetic. Ryan Reynolds does a superb job as the supremely annoying Wade Wilson, and has great physical presence as the creepy Deadpool. Even Taylor Kitsch's arrogant portrayal of Gambit ends up being endearing. So where does the movie go so horribly wrong? I think it must be in the clumsy narrative and the immature dialog. When the characters aren't saying something stupid or annoying, they go into long-winded discussions about the human condition. Nothing these characters say sounds remotely like anything a normal person would say, but then again, these aren't normal people. The film's lack of subtlety also hurts the proceedings, but at least it's not weighed down by ham-fisted moral and social issues like the other "X-Men" films are. The action scenes are loud and fast, but devoid of any emotion. There are some pretty scenes and nice explosions here and there, but they don't carry any impact. Heavy use of digital effects also spoils the fun, and Wolverine's claws look worse than ever. While some of the fight choreography looks interesting, it's ruined by choppy editing and sloppy camerawork. Thankfully, the music score is consistently pleasant and sets the appropriate tone and pace. Overall, "Wolverine" never feels like it's out to accomplish anything other than sell movie tickets to Hugh Jackman fans, which is a disappointing step backwards for comic book film adaptations.