Title: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Release Date: May 1, 2009
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Gavin Hood
Release Format: Theatrical
So with X-Men: The Last Stand being such a hit at the box office, despite being the most critically panned off the original trilogy, Fox decided it was time to explore the origins of its most marketable X-Men character, Wolverine. While Hugh Jackman wanted to make a film that focused on Wolverine in Japan, following one of the character’s most successful and beloved stories from the comics, producer Tom Rothman made the decision to focus on Wolverine’s origin in the first spinoff film and do the Japan story in a potential sequel. Thus, we have given X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film that has been berated by fans and critics alike ever since its release 7 years ago. The film is so disliked that even Fox Studios made the decision to completely ignore the events of this film in any future installments.
So what can I say about this film that everyone else hasn’t said already? What can I bring to the table as a critic, a fan, and moviegoer? Well, as I sat in my chair re-watching this movie last night, I remembered exactly why I had never really reviewed it before. That being said, I’m about to say something that is most likely going to shock and amaze all of you. Something that in this day and age is practically unheard of; I liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine and still do. Yeah, didn’t really see that one coming, did you? If you were expecting me to tear this movie to shreds, you’ll get that in spades because even I have to admit there are some really bad things in this movie from both an adaptation and a film standpoint. However, despite the flaws, I have never hated this movie. I hate things in the movie, but not the movie as a whole and, to be honest, I don’t have a problem popping in the blu-ray and giving it a watch every once in awhile. I’m sure you’re all ready to write a ton of messages telling me what an idiot I am right now but before you do, please hear me out.
First of all, I’m not going to try and pretend like X-Men Origins: Wolverine is some kind of great movie; it’s not. So, just so they’re all out of the way, I’ll indulge all of you by talking about the things I didn’t like in the movie first. First, what the movie did to Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is an atrocity. Sowing up the mouth of “The Merc With The Mouth” was a terrible move on Fox’s part and I hope whoever made that decision is still hanging their head in shame to this day. I mean, are they frickin’ kidding me with this thing? Deadpool doesn’t have a grab-bag of reject mutant powers, he doesn’t have katana blades coming out of his arms (which would be impossible considering the blades are bigger than his arms to begin with) and he sure as hell isn’t a mute. Not to mention, his intro at the end as well as his demise are ripped wholesale from The Phantom Menace. This isn’t Deadpool; it’s Baraka on steroids.
Secondly, the CGI is pitiful in some areas but the worst example is Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) claws. His claws look so incredibly fake, they barely look rendered. That scene of him clanging his claws together in the bathroom still makes me cringe a bit. Third, while I appreciated the fact that they acknowledged Wolverine’s past, fighting in several wars, having bone claws and being in the Weapon X program, the movie doesn’t do enough with these things. These elements of Wolverine’s past are so interesting, any one of them could fill a movie on their own. Sadly, X-Men Origins: Wolverine sort of just glosses over them, as if to say “they aren’t important.” It’s actually a bit of a letdown.
There’s also several inconsistent moments. For example, when Remy Lebeau (Taylor Kitsch) is introduced, he’s knocked out by Wolverine in the street but suddenly emerges from a rooftop, looking perfectly fine, less than one minute later to attack Wolverine and Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). Speaking of Gambit, there was not enough of this character. I maintain that Taylor Kitsch was a perfect choice to play this character and I’ll go into more detail about this later. I loved his interactions with Wolverine but, sadly, these moments of him are too short lived and I wish they had had him play a bigger part in the climax. As someone who grew up idolizing this character from X-Men: The Animated Series, it was a serious shame to see him be so awesome, yet so wasted. Also, they looked cool but they totally got his powers wrong. Levitating cards in the air? Yeah, looks nice, but since when can Gambit do that?
Next, yes, the story of how Wolverine got his name was a little lame. However, to the film’s credit, it does fit with the tragic story they were going for and anyone who has read the comics will tell you, there have never been a consistent means for how Wolverine got his name. In the original comics, Wolverine chose the name because of his resemblance to the animal. In the “Wolverine Origins” comics, his martial arts master gave him the name due to his ferocity. Hell, in some incarnations, it was just a name given to him in the army. So yeah, there’s never been any consistent background for Wolverine’s namesake so it’s not like it ruins the character or anything, at least not for me.
But lastly, The Adamantium Bullet is by far the worst thing in this whole movie and quite possibly one of the dumbest things I’ve seen in any movie. I still don’t know how it works, why they thought it was a good idea or why a bullet made out of the same metal under Wolverine’s skin is supposed to erase his memories. What’s even more infuriating was that there was an alternate scene cut from the movie that was so much better. When Wolverine finds out that SilverFox is alive, Stryker offers to erase his memory of everything so that he can start fresh and end his suffering. And Wolverine takes him up on that offer. He’s strapped into the machine and begins having his memory wiped until he hears Kayla screaming. Then we’d have pretty much the same climax but with Wolverine losing more and more of his memory with each passing moment until it was finally gone. That would have not only been better but far more impactful than just a made up bullet to the head. My god, I don’t know what they were thinking. It was just a bad idea.
So, with all that said, what did I like about X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Why am I not tearing it to shreds like everyone else? For my first reason, I revert your attention to the photo above. This movie, from all the heavenly blessings, nailed the brutal, complex and animalistic relationship between Wolverine and Sabretooth, something that the first X-Men film (which was still my favorite in the series at the time of this film’s release) failed to do. Liev Schreiber may look different than the Sabretooth in the comics but I don’t care. He acts like the character, he moves like the character and as far as I am concerned, he was the perfect representation of this character that I always wanted, needed and deserved. Every fight he has with Wolverine in this movie just rocks. Now, before anyone tries to one up me by screaming “they weren’t brothers in the comics, you stupid moron”, let me stop you right there. I know they weren’t brothers but much like Wolverine’s namesake, their relationship has changed so damn much, I couldn’t care less. First, they were father and son, then they were cousins, then they were kids who grew up together, then they didn’t meet to the Weapon X program… no consistent relationship between these two characters has ever been established. It’s changed so much that hardly anyone even knows what their relationship is anymore.
Personally, and I’m being completely serious here, I think them being brothers makes more sense than any relationship they have had in the past. The rivalry between Wolverine and Sabretooth is so iconic and crazy that them being brothers is actually a pretty good idea. It gives them a closer connection and makes their relationship more tragic and heartbreaking than its ever been in the past. There’s actually a legitimate attempt to add depth to these characters and their backstory together and, in my opinion, it works. Liev Schreiber’s Victor Creed/Sabretooth may very well be one of the best characters this series has ever adapted and I will stand by that statement until the day I die. His moments with Hugh Jackman are amazing and if I have any complaints, I would have liked to see more of them together. There’s enough to make it work, but a couple more interactions between these two characters wouldn’t have hurt. He gets the ferocity and animalistic nature of the character down to the last detail and without having to look too over the top and silly. He’s a fun villain who taunts his victims and Liev Schreiber’s menacing presence is undeniable. That scene with him and Bulb (Dominic Monaghan), where Bulb just accepts that Victor is going to kill him, gives me chills.
Bulb: “I’m not afraid of you, Victor. I’m not afraid of dying.”
Victor: “How do you know? You’ve never tried it before.”
… God, I love that scene.
Now, there is a moment in the film where many fans have stated that Sabretooth acts out of character. This moment being towards the end where he saves Wolverine from Baraka-Pool and says, “No one kills you but me.” I’m sorry, but I must respectfully disagree. This is something I could easily see Sabretooth doing. His whole goal in life in both the comics and this film is to make Logan miserable. That is his job as Logan’s tormentor. If someone else was about to kill Logan, Sabretooth wouldn’t have any of that. He’d save Wolverine if he wasn’t the one to kill him. It’s a scene that wonderfully demonstrates Sabretooth’s egotistic nature.
I loved the little nods to the comics in regards to Wolverine’s backstory and despite what you’ve probably heard, there is a lot more from the comics in this film than you may think. Let’s just list them off shall we;
- Master Howlett not being Wolverine’s real father
- Wolverine having bone claws
- Wolverine fighting in several wars and having vivid nightmares about them
- His relationship to Silverfox
- His friendship with John Wraith
- The Weapon X Program
- His brawling fights with Sabretooth
- Wolverine’s famous line “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice.”
- Silverfox and Wolverine living in the cabin in Canada
- Wolverine thinking that Sabertooth killed Silverfox when she was really alive the whole time
ALL of this was in the comic books. This is only one of the many reasons I preferred X-Men Origins: Wolverine to X-Men: The Last Stand. There was more attention paid to getting things right in just the FIRST ACT of this film then there was in the entirety of X-Men: The Last Stand. That being said, I can’t ignore that there are continuity issues. Wolverine’s adamantium bonding was portrayed differently in X2 and Sabretooth was portrayed as not even knowing Wolverine in the first film (although I always just assumed the Sabretooth in that film was just Victor Creed’s son… fairly simple explanation). But, to this film’s credit, every single X-Men film after this had continuity issues, some even bigger than the ones here… and you can’t blame this film for that because those films completely ignored this one. And to add salt to the wound, First Class, Days Of Future Past and The Wolverine got rave reviews despite their continuity errors. Double standard, anyone?
But despite having things that were in the comics, even a couple of the changes didn’t bother me too much. I loved Lynn Collins as Silverfox, even though she bares little resemblance to her comic book counterpart. Why?Because her chemistry with Hugh Jackman is spot on. Lynn Collins is a terrific actress and her and Jackman have great on-screen chemistry, so when Wolverine believes that she’s dead, it makes the anguish he’s feeling more believable. There is enough time spent with these two together in the first act to make me care about what happens to them and their final scene together, where Wolverine looks down at her body and says that he doesn’t know her, is heartbreaking as a result. To be fair, though, I admit that Emma Frost being her sister was a massive stretch and it begs the question of why she didn’t just hypnotize one of the guards on Three-Mile Island to let her sister go. That is a big plot hole and I do acknowledge it. Again, I’m in no way saying this film was perfect.
However, her being given different powers didn’t bother me at all. In the comics, Silverfox lived with Wolverine for decades because she had an accelerated healing factor like him. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there’s already three other characters with accelerated healing factors (Wolverine, Sabretooth & Baraka-Pool), so a fourth one would have felt lame and unwanted. This isn’t like X-Men: The Last Stand where Callisto, Psylocke, and Kid Omega were given completely different powers for no reason at all. X-Men Origins: Wolverine changed this mutant’s powers for purposes of story development, character development, and variety. Personally, from a film standpoint, I welcomed the change and being that she’s only lived with Wolverine for six years in the film as opposed to decades in the comics, there was really no reason for her original power to be there. Tactile Hypnosis was a cool enough power on its own. I especially loved that scene where she makes Stryker walk until his feet bleed. Such a fitting comeuppance.
How are the rest of the actors in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Quite good to be honest. Will.I.Am as Wraith may have seemed like a walking stereotype at times but he looks and acts almost identical to John Wraith from the comics and, while his backstory is different, his friendship with Wolverine is spot on. Kevin Durand as Blob is a fine choice but he doesn’t get much to do and feels admittedly shoehorned in for a pointless boxing scene. Yeah, just add that to my list of things I didn’t care for in this film. Emma Frost (Tahyna Valentina MacManus) and Cyclops (Tim Pocock) feel shoehorned as well but I give them both a pass. Cyclops was at least useful in this film in helping the mutants escape (unlike X-Men: The Last Stand where all he did was frickin’ die) and Emma Frost, at the very least, is portrayed a million times better than she will be in X-Men: First Class (Oh, trust me, we’ll be getting to that portrayal from the BOWELS OF HELL in the next article). Before they brutalized the character, in the end, Ryan Reynolds was terrific as Wade Wilson. That scene of him deflecting all the bullets off of his swords was silly as all hell but it looked frickin’ awesome, so I’ll allow it. It was because of his appearance in those three minutes that people wanted and protested Fox for him to play Deadpool properly in his own solo film, without his mouth sewn shut. Oh, and in regards to that amazing Deadpool movie that was just released in February, X-Men Origins: Wolverine has a message for all of you; it says, “You’re Welcome.”
As I said earlier, I did like Taylor Kitsch as Gambit. He embodied the cocky nature of the character very well and even got the accent down. I’m disappointed that he wasn’t given more of a chance to shine but he still did a fine job with what little he had. While he’s no Bryan Cox, Danny Huston is a great actor and does well at playing William Stryker. Yes, it’s distracting how he and Bryan Cox look the same age, even though this is supposed to be 15-16 years prior to X2 (I mean, he’s not gonna grow into Bryan Cox), but acting-wise he still gets the job done. Is the Stryker in X-Men Origins: Wolverine the Stryker from the comics? Hell no, but neither was Brian Cox. Again, like that film, I’m just happy that they got a good actor to play him.
As far as the story is concerned, I didn’t find it to be too bad. Unlike X-Men: The Last Stand where the film’s focus shifted at the drop of a hat, this film keeps its focus where it needs to be; on Wolverine. It may feel a bit too convoluted at times but regardless, it understands that the focus needs to be on the tragic nature of this character and X-Men Origins: Wolverine puts this character through hell and back. They put a great deal of attention on his relationships with Sabretooth and Silverfox because it gets that that’s where the drama of the story truly lies. Every time Wolverine gets even a glimpse of happiness in this film, whether it be with Silverfox or just a couple of strangers who take him in and show him generosity, that happiness is soon taken away from him in a terrible way. Wolverine is a tragic character and this movie demonstrates that quite well despite its many glaring flaws. Yes, it’s an almost entirely cliche’d action picture but, so what? How many cliche’d action pictures have we all given passes to in the past? Off the top of my head, I can name a few; Commando, Cobra, Pacific Rim, Independence Day, True Lies… these are films that often get a pass nowadays for how over the top and silly they are. Why can’t X-Men Origins: Wolverine get the same treatment? It’s big, silly and loud but it also has some depth and, dare I say it, even some heart behind it and I don’t think it deserves to be brushed off just because it’s part of a bigger franchise.
Overall, I acknowledge that X-Men Origins: Wolverine has a lot of problems. The Adamantium Bullet was stupid, Baraka-Pool is an abomination and the CGI is pretty bad in much of the film. That being said, the film also has many good things that people don’t like to acknowledge. It’s far from masterful but when this film did something right, it did it right. Newsflash to everyone, X2 isn’t a perfect film either. It has just as many flaws as this film and it’s still praised as the best one for some reason. For everyone who loves X2 but condemns X-Men Origins: Wolverine solely for what they did to Deadpool in the end, please note that I have responded with a mere two words; Lady Deathstrike! That is all I have to say from now until the end of frickin’ time because they did the same thing to her! Lady Deathstrike! Jesus, at least this film got Deadpool right for three minutes. So no, I don’t hate this film, nor will I ever hate this film. It may not succeed much as a prequel, nor is it the greatest adaptation we could have hoped for, but X-Men Origins: Wolverine is still a fun action flick that I like watching from time to time and while it has several flaws, so do all of the X-Men films and my journey through them is far from over.
- Characters: Deadpool’s character is inexcusably butchered by the film’s end. While a few characters feel shoehorned in a bit, others like Wolverine, Sabretooth, Stryker, and Silverfox are given the chance to shine as they should and even the ones who are shoehorned are still enjoyable for the most part.
- Cinematography: While the fight choreography is a ton of fun to witness and the set designs are nice, the CGI effects are pretty bad and in some cases barely look rendered.
- Story: The story is full of action cliches but those cliches help to give the movie a certain charm. Other things like The Adamantium Bullet and The Continuity Mistakes were pretty dumb.
- Acting: For the most part, X-Men Origins: Wolverine has solid acting with Jackman, Schreiber and Reynolds (even if only for three minutes) being standouts.
- Liev Shreiber As Sabretooth
- Great Performances And Chemistry Between Actors
- A Better Emma Frost Than X-Men: First Class (Though That Wasn't Really Hard To Accomplish In All honesty)
- Several Moments Lifted Directly From The Comics
- Three Awesome Minutes Of Deadpool Before They Ruin Him
- Fun Action Cliche's
- Bad CGI
- Several Points Of Wolverine's Past Are Glossed Over
- Not Enough Gambit
- Adamantium Bullet? Really?