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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will.i.am, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand

Written By: David Benioff, Skip Woods Directed By: Gavin Hood

The Short Version

Do you read comic books? It's important.

Except with regard to Deadpool.  Deadpool is an abomination here no matter what.

As for Wolverine… well… Hugh Jackman’s still cool!

If you expect it to gel with the rest of the X-Men franchise… you’re new to this, aren’t you?

Hugh Jackman is the reason to watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine; base your choice to do so accordingly.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

GROCERY STORE GOUDA.

It’s cheese.  It’s there.  It’s tasty enough while you’re eating it.


Pairs Well With...

CANADIAN CLUB.

For Canucks who want to drink as they try to remember.

“Okay.  People are dead.”


So, do you like comic books?

One might think this a question with an obvious answer, considering that it’s sitting on top of a review for a comic book movie, but I beg to differ.  Face it, folks; the majority of the audience members that come to see most big budget Hollywood movies based on comic book superheroes have never read so much as a single actual comic book based on said heroes in their entire lives.  Yes, a significantly large number of real comic book fans do show up, but…

Like all comic book flicks, X-Men Origins: Wolverine tries to have it both ways, throwing in as many references to classic comic arcs as possible while never the less freely hacking and slashing those stories into near unrecognizability.  The regular movie fans don’t notice; the comic book devotees do.

So, do you like comic books?

Of my friends and acquaintances who really do read and enjoy comic books, by my last count, all of them hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine. 

Most everyone else I know thinks it’s somewhere between pretty cool and house-rockin’ awesome.

As for me… I’m ambivalent about it.

It’s okay as an action movie, I suppose.  After all, there’s some decent gunplay and lots of stabby stuff, and the hero does get to dramatically walk away while a helicopter explodes behind him… a helicopter that he brought down by hand after leaping off of a motorcycle, by the way.  And there are comic book superheroes with powers and whatnot.  As in-one-eyeball-and-out-the-other image noise material, it works well enough.

But if you’re looking for any kind of soul with that… yeah.  Forget it.  Not happening.  This is straight up, stuffed-to-the-gills, marketing-approved, PG-13 soullnessness.  Despite having a title character who’s supposed to be all about dealing with animal passions, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is passion-free paint-by-numbers material, where the director lets his hero kinda sorta feel feelings for a brief second or two, but then rushes along to the next item on the menu because no one could tell the writers to quit stuffing the turkey while they were already behind.  Flashes of potential abound, but they’re already in the rear view mirror before the audience even has a chance to say “hey, wait a sec, I wanted more of that!”

This is especially bothersome because X-Men Origins: Wolverine is already supposed to be the “more of that” that audiences asked for a couple of movies back, given that the major arc serves as backstory to the “Weapon X” stuff from X2: X-Men United.  But instead of keeping things tight and on task, the writers are determined to stuff as much of Logan’s entire life leading up to March 28, 1979 into a hundred minute span as possible.  (The date of the movie’s end is implied, based on evidence that I’m not going to spoil for you here... though that date, like so much else about this flick, doesn’t quite jive with other timelines.)  As a result, things are rushed, details are skipped, characters – including Logan – are rendered flat, and the comic book fans are left wondering whether their next move should be to scream or to cry.

Not that those fans are alone, mind.  People who go to these movies and actually pay attention will notice that X-Men Origins: Wolverine carries on the franchise tradition of being logically inconsistent with the rest of its own series.  (One can sometimes find two X-Men flicks that gel, but no more than that, and it only gets worse as the franchise expands.)  Looking for answers?  You’ll find them… but only at the expense of rendering parts of something else nonsensical.  Do yourselves a favor, folks: just turn off the brain cells and don’t ask questions.  It’s the key to having fun here.

Oh, and being a Hugh Jackman fan helps, too.

Let’s be honest, folks: Hugh Jackman is the only reason that anyone else is here.  He’s an outstanding actor who automatically elevates any role he plays, or, for those with baser interests, he’s pretty ripped and tends to have plenty of opportunity to take his shirt off.  He’s not unlike Liam Neeson in that he has developed a cadre of followers who will watch any damn thing he’s in, and really, I can respect that.  I understand fandom quite well, and for Hugh Jackman fans who are watching just for their favorite dude (or for Logan fans who just want to see the claws), there’s just nothing bad to be said about X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Your guy does his thing and he does it well; indeed, he does it better than the script and the director deserve.  You want Hugh?  You get Hugh.  Enjoy.

And hey, because the writers decided to overstuff the script (we went from an ensemble to a single character origin and we got another ensemble… okay…), there are some other interesting micro performances to be enjoyed.  (I say “micro” because they either have too little screen time or, even if they do get to chew lots of celluloid, they’re rendered flat at no fault of the actors involved.)  Taylor Kitsch does his best to make a few minutes’ worth of Gambit interesting, even if the script doesn’t, and his future John Carter costar, Lynn Collins, might have had some cool stuff going on if her character didn’t suddenly drop out of existence just as she was getting somewhere.  Liev Schreiber (Twilight) gets the nod to replace Tyler Mane as Sabertooth (Mane was specifically not invited), and his outstanding skills as an actor make it plain to see why… or would, if only, once again, the script let him do something with those skills beyond the basics.  It’s obvious that he’s itching to.

And then there’s the matter of Deadpool.

For comic book fans, what X-Men Origins: Wolverine does to the character of Deadpool transcends the term “suck” and heads right into “abomination” territory.  The story is shredded, the mouthpiece is inane, and then, to top it all off, they cast Ryan Reynolds for the part.  Yeah, I get that he’s a fan of the comic book version of Deadpool and all, but that just means he should know better.  He takes an already badly written character and makes him worse.  Even amongst my non-comic reading friends who otherwise like this movie, there isn’t one who hasn’t said “yeah, Deadpool sucks,” and when I’ve asked why, they’ve all mentioned Reynolds as the first problem.  As for me, I’ll split the difference and say it doesn’t matter which is worse – the character’s treatment by the script or the portrayal – because both stink.

But at least one only needs to put up with Deadpool for a few short minutes at a time.  If only they didn’t include the climax.  But hey, Hugh Jackman’s still around, and he’s cool, and look!  Wolverine!  Claws!  Shiny!  That’s all the movie really needs, right?  Right?

For certain values of entertainment, yes, it is, and in another decade, X-Men Origins: Wolverine might have kicked ass.  But now, with so much more high quality material around to measure it against, it’s just okay.  It works as background action, as long as one doesn’t give it too much thought or try to tie it in with the rest of the series using anything but the loosest of knots.  There’s plenty better out there, but there’s also plenty worse.

Bottom line, X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn’t exactly the awesome fest that everyone had been hoping for on the day it premiered… but at least it’s better than X-Men: The Last Stand.  That’s got to count for something, right?

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2013


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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