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Film Review: 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'

My superpower is making witty comments about movies. I still haven't been recruited by the X-Men...

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a movie that's kind of been forgotten about, except that, as a kind of botched origin story for Deadpool, it was made fun of hilariously in Deadpool 2. That legacy is something of a shame because it's not actually a bad movie, and Wolverine is an interesting, emotionally sympathetic character.

Plot

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Hugh Jackman was chosen to play Wolverine originally in the year 2000 with the first X-Men movie, because they wanted Mel Gibson, but decided it would be too expensive. Hugh Jackman was considerably taller than the comic book character, but audiences still liked his portrayals of the character, so much that he became firmly cemented as Wolverine in the public mind.

The movie doesn't deal with Wolverine as a child, not much anyway. It mainly follows him as a fighter in a group of nearly-invincible mercenary badass mutants, who are pretty nearly immortal. The movie opens with a montage of them fighting through different historical wars, sort of similar to the opening sequence of The Watchmen.

Logan and the gang, including Ryan Reynolds as a character named Wade who resembles Deadpool but isn't called Deadpool, and doesn't wear a superhero costume, end up on a mission that involves threatening people to intimidate someone for information about a rock from a meteorite. When the information is withheld, the team kill lots of innocent people. This prompts Logan to quit the gang and move out to an undisclosed "middle of nowhere" kind of place, where he lives in a quiet, simple life as a lumberjack with a hot girlfriend. He hides his mutant abilities, and does not want to be involved in fighting again.

I won't get into spoilers but obviously, he's roped back into the "game". He agrees to be an experimental subject, which is how his skeleton becomes bonded with adamantium. But this is an X-Men movie so, betrayal and heartache ensue. He goes on a long and dangerous quest for revenge and meets some cool characters while searching for information.

The film culminates with an exciting mutant prison-break and Wolverine being forced to fight a weird experiment called Deadpool, but he's nothing like the Deadpool you'll come to have wet dreams about in the Deadpool movies. This Deadpool would be a lot less fun at parties, being physically incapable of talking. He's a deadly foe because he was an experiment in putting several mutant powers into one person, combining them. So in addition to his regeneration, he can make a sword retract from his arm, teleport, and shoot laser beams from his eyes.

Wolverine wins the fight, breaks a bunch of captive mutants free, and beats the bad guy, but ends up losing his memories when shot in the skull by an adamantium bullet. So the movie ends on a bittersweet note. The battle was won, but Wolverine might be irrevocably damaged.

Info

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Title:X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Studios

Marvel Entertainment, The Donners' Company, & Seed Productions, Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Director

Gavin Hood

Writers

Screenplay by David Benioff & Skip Woods, Comics by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, & John Romita Sr.

Cinematographer

Donald McAlpine

Music by

Harry Gregson-Williams

Main Actors/Actresses

Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Liev Schreiber, Danny Houston, Will.i.am

Year

2009

Run Time

1 hour, 47 minutes

Box Office

$373.1 million

MPAA Rating

PG-13

Awards

BMI Film & TV Awards: Film Music, Scream Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Ryan Reynolds

Review

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine is commonly thought of as a bad film, but when I saw it expecting that, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, the final fight scene, taking place on top of a nuclear cooling tower on 3-Mile Island was a bit cheesy. And you could say that some aspects of the plot are confusing. But this movie had a few important things going for it.

First of all, I really liked the character of Kayla, Wolverine's girlfriend. She was revealed to be a Femme Fatale. She can hypnotize people she touches, and was only getting close to Wolverine originally to spy on him when he quit the X-Team. But the film doesn't treat her like a sex object or one-dimensional evil bitch, the way that the Femme Fatale character type is often portrayed. It makes her more human and sympathetic, by revealing that she did have feelings for Logan, and also that she only went along with the bad guys' orders because they held her sister captive. We're used to the one-dimensional superhero girlfriend acting as a damsel in distress or sideline cheerleader. We're also used to the one-dimensional Femme Fatale. Showing Kayla as more than either of these stereotypes and making her feel genuine and sympathetic was one of the best things the movie got right.

Similarly, Will.I.am played a character who could have just as easily been another cliché of the "black best friend". But his character, John Wraith, was more than that stereotype.

It doesn't feel like a comic book movie, instead feeling like a movie about badass mercenaries who incidentally happen to have super powers. This usually is a good thing, it makes the movie seem more grounded in reality. But it can also work against it, because it may have been not what X-Men comic book fans wanted.

The worst thing about this movie is that, while it's a pretty cool depiction of Wolverine, and a good exploration of his relationship with his brother, Victor, it's a lousy representation of Deadpool. Wade Wilson is a fellow mercenary with Wolverine in the beginning of the film. But he is transformed into Weapon XI by the same mad scientist who experimentally bonds Wolverine's body with adamantium. Weapon XI is an experiment in giving a mutant multiple superpowers, to see the limit the human body can take. Weapon XI has his mouth surgically shut. The effect is creepy, symbolizing Wade losing his humanity, the constantly-running mouth that had made him stand out as an individual. But comic book fans who like Deadpool won't get any joy from seeing him like this. He is a forced-silent monster to battle in the climax, lacking his costume and human personality. Luckily, we got better Deadpool movies later.

The movie is uneven, a mixture of good things and bad things. Sometimes it doesn't make sense, and sometimes it seems off. Some people have said that Wolverine's origin story is not necessary as its own film. Roger Ebert's opinion was that Wolverine was too invulnerable for us to care about. I disagree, because the film leads us to care about him emotionally, more than physically, and that's more important. But despite some of its flaws, the movie is exciting, capable of sustaining interest, building emotional intensity in every scene. It also has very interesting and likeable characters. It's an entertaining movie, don't let the bad reviews scare you off.

Confused about Wolverine's name being both Logan and James? I was. Here is a pretty good explanation.

© 2019 Rachael Lefler

Comments

John Plocar from Weatherford on February 21, 2019:

@Rachael

You make a good point, I think that there is something to be said about a debate between being 'over-the-top' vs being 'formulaic'. Which way truly can truly make or break a film and finding that solid middle ground. I'm glad that you had a good time with the flick though. To me, doesn't much matter if a movie is good or bad, I just want to be entertained and if it does that then I'm happy. And there are plenty of movies that I have fun with that the majority probably disagree with me on lol

Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on February 21, 2019:

I can see where you're coming from when you say it felt sometimes that the studio wanted to push for more and "more" became too much, especially I would say the final fight scene is pretty over-the-top and like I said a bit cheesy. I did enjoy it a lot more than I expected to though. And a little bit of cheesy fight scenes is ok in superhero films, as long as it doesn't get too boring or formulaic.

John Plocar from Weatherford on February 21, 2019:

I actually remember seeing this movie in the theater almost exactly ten years ago with my family lol I was 17 years old at the time and I actually enjoyed it on my first experience. Then some years went by, I grew more of an obsession with film xD I revisited it probably five years ago or so and I could just see the studio notes written all over it like "Insert an action scene every ten minutes or so. More CGI. More explosions. More villains. Sew his mouth shut to make him more intense." It was a movie that constantly felt, to me, like the studio simply wrote "more" onto every page of the script instead of letting things play out in a more natural way. And that kind of ruined the experience for me at the time. Although like you said, I did like the performances from our main and supporting characters. After reading your review now, I might go back and check it out again, see if I feel any different. Thanks again for another insightful critique! =D