Unlike with Watchmen, I have not read the comics series upon which X-Men Origins: Wolverine was based, though I understand from some who are familiar with it that it is pretty faithful to that source. I suppose this will be some comfort to Wolverine fans. For me, the film has very much the feel of trying to be faithful to something perhaps to the point where they leave out a lot of character development and explanation which might make it more comprehensible to an average viewer.
Unfortunately, as I'm a big fan of the first two X-Men movies, tolerated the third, which was just okay, and enjoyed Hugh Jackman's performance as "elder statesman" Wolverine, there's just a lot about this movie that rings very hollow, a lot that just isn't interesting, and the rest is a mess.
From the beginning, we're plunged into Wolverine's childhood, where somebody kills somebody and then somebody kills somebody else. And then somebody says something significant that's supposed to be devastating, I guess, if we knew what was going on. Then Wolverine and some other kid run away, leaving their beloved Canada for a chance to fight for whatever they don't care about in the American Civil War.
Eh? That's how I felt. I can look back and try to piece together a story there, but it's not presented in any informative or meaningful way. Sadly, this is a pattern which repeats throughout the movie.
Unlike in Watchmen, we then follow Wolverine through a series of wars which make no political or character statements whatsoever. A confrontation between Wolverine and his brother (Liev Schreiber) during the Vietnam War leads to their execution by firing squad, which is not very effective. It does lead to their falling into the hands of an evil warmonger named Stryker (Danny Huston, who's absolutely brilliant and wasted here) who puts them in a mutant mercenary special forces squad to accomplish his own devious ends.
Wolverine himself, as a character, is given extremely short shrift throughout the film. We get few hints of his motivations or emotions at all, so that the dark, determined actions he takes seem almost comic, whimsical, or stupid.
Lots of the fun of the first X-Men movies comes from trying to figure out how the blockbuster superpowers of each mutant will match up in fight scenes, and seeing it play out, with spectacular effects and complications which do affect the characters and their motives. The fight scenes in Wolverine are uniformly subpar, to the point of boring, and have so many strange complications that one can hardly follow who is supposed to be on whose side, or why. Many of the effects seem ho-hum or even silly. I suppose the film was made in a hurry, because the editing leaves a lot to be desired, and even the print I saw kept changing colors during some scenes, literally ripped from production before drying, I guess, to give rabid Wolverine fans their fix. It's not much of a fix. There are two tedious codas in the credits to emphasize the point that nothing much interesting happened during the film.
There's a romance thrown in, Wolverine gets his adamantine skeleton, more boring, underwhelming mutants show up, Ma and Pa Kent find a naked Wolverine and take him in and design his uniform, and other crap happens, too.
To sum up, Wolverine fan, X-Men fan, or no, skip it. It's a true, confused, confusing, underwhelming bomb.
Followed by X-Men: First Class (2011)
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Roger Ebert Review
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