What a dull mess. X-Men Origins: Wolverine takes the least charming X-Man and tries to make him an engaging action star. This in itself is not a bad move, if handled delicately, but director Gavin Hood and his team have fumbled the ball so much that instead of making Wolverine likeable, they’ve promoted his grunts and groans to ear-shattering roars. Yeah, sure, he’s supposed to be an animal, but even lions know the art of volume control. Watching Wolverine in this movie is like visiting the zoo during an animal call roar-a-thon.
I am sure a specialist must have been on set constantly to monitor the condition of Hugh Jackman’s throat. It is inhuman, the consistency with which he maintains such decibels. He has a naughty half brother, Victor (Liev Schreiber), whose name he bellows no less than ten separate times before charging full speed in an attempt to slay him. But of course, in efforts to make Wolverine sympathetic, he cannot kill his own brother, even though his brother so clearly wants to rip his lungs out, which by the way there is no law against.
There is absolutely no thought to intelligence in this film. Every scene is either a contrived passage of agonising exposition, an action scene, or a setup of an action scene. No time is given to develop the feelings and emotions of the characters. If anything grim happens to them, they respond in basic movements, dictated by the screenplay — yells, groans, shouts, scowls, more roars. It’s as if they are waiting around for bad things to happen just so they can practice their looks of fear. In their defence, however, the screenplay doesn’t give them much to work with.
Why do we need to know about Wolverine’s past anyway? When we first met him in X-Men (2000), he said he couldn’t remember who he was, where he came from, or why he had dog tags around his neck stamped Wolverine. Clearly he had lost his memory. This means that whatever happens in Origins will amount to nothing, since at the end he must somehow have his memory wiped clean, automatically negating all prior events. Maybe the story is a precursor, since last year’s Days Of Future Past negated all the events of every single X-Men film. There is an argument to be made, though. Days Of Future Past worked backward in time to change the history of older movies; Origins works against its own history. It erases itself. Imagine typing out a full essay for class, then, in a fit of madness, deleting it all and presenting a handful of nothing. How would you explain such startling behaviour? I have the answer: Consult the makers of this film.
What I don’t have the answer to is much of anything else. The casting is all wrong. I have seen Liev Schreiber in better roles, in better movies. Scream 3 (2000) is one of them. Yes, Scream 3. This, sadly, is a poor career move. He makes Sabretooth, once played menacingly by the towering Tyler Mane, look like a Cabbage Patch Kid with claws. Oh yes, he can climb walls and hop around on all fours. Big deal. Cyclops can shoot laser beams from his eyes.
Danny Huston, as Colonel Stryker, seems more amused by himself than with the movie, which I suppose is a fair call. But where is the aggressive narcissism of Brian Cox? The smugness in the face of danger? Where is the evil?
And what about the ragtag troupe of misfits the story conjures early in the film? Will.i.am proves his career should still be in the music business. Kevin Durand needs a treadmill. Daniel Henney shows us how to jump from the top of a knoll right into the cabin of a flying helicopter without earning a scratch. Dominic Monaghan no doubt pulled the shortest straw. And Ryan Reynolds is more effective with his shirt off than with his mouth open. The social dynamics of all these actors, and their respective characters, are so misplaced the entire movie seems lopsided to accommodate their egos. I could not find a single thread of chemistry linking anyone together.
What’s the plot? — I hear you ask. Does it even matter by this point? Never mind. I must oblige at least this courtesy. Stryker wants to build the ultimate mutant by kidnapping other mutants, extracting their powers, and combining them all in a vat of mischief. Some viewers will know the identity of this ultimate mutant weapon. Some will not. Others will regard the plot and hope the weapon turns out to be The Powerpuff Girls, which in all honesty would make for a better film. Or am I just having a fit of madness?
Best Moment | Nope.
Worst Moment | Oh, all of it. The CGI in particular is embarrassing. Poor Patrick Stewart looks like an anthropomorphic egg.