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Thursday, 30 April 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009 - Movie Review

Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Lynn Collins, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan, Daniel Henney, Kevin Durand, Taylor Kitsch
Running Time: 107 minutes
Score: 7 / 10

This review by the all powerful, all mighty, full of the awesome Live for Films...that's me.

Last night my Wife and I went to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I'm a long time comic book geek and have always enjoyed the adventures of Marvel's favourite mutant. We both enjoyed the X-Men films. I thought the second was the best and the third the weakest, but they never really capture Wolverine in his true berserker state that we have seen so many times in the comic.

How did Wolverine's solo film manage then? It does have its flaws (some pretty big flaws actually) but is a most enjoyable blockbuster film nonetheless. Apologies if this review skips around a bit, but that's how I roll and also how the film progresses.

As it started up we see a young boy ill in bed being tended by his father (the guy who played Shane in Neighbours) while another young lad with bad nails looks on. Bad things happen, claws pop and a howl to the skies puts the young Wolvie and Sabretooth on the run.

During the build up to the film I had been really excited seeing photos of Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber in character during the Civil War, the two World Wars and the Vietnam War. Schreiber is excellent as Sabretooth - menacing, psychotic and just plain nasty. You'll be pleased to know that his bounding lope type thing you see briefly in the trailer is a lot better and more convincing in the final film.

I thought they would spend a bit of time developing the relationship between the two feral mutants but instead there is a mad dash through the years during the Watchmen inspired opening credits. Seeing the extras and scale of these war scenes in photos and snippets shows that an awful lot of the budget went into these scenes but they are gone within the first few minutes, yet they have the most realistic feel compared to the rest of the film. Almost as if they blew the cash early on and then went "oops, we better reel it in a bit".

This leads to one of the main problems with the film. It all feels studio bound. Even with scenes that are outside it all feels like a set. Plus some dodgy green screen (the bits with Logan and Silver Fox in the van) and CG effects (the claws in the bathroom scene, and the de-aging of a character at the end) really pull you out of the movie. The recent leaking of the film onto the internet a few weeks ago was said to just be a workprint copy with unfinished effects. If that was the case they should have spent a little longer on them.

As with the dash through the years at the start of the film we are rushed through pretty much everything else. We never really get a chance to savour the moment and wallow in our comic book memories. The most time in one place is up in the Canadian Rockies where Logan spends his time with Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins).

After the credits Wolvie and Sabretooth are inducted into the Weapon X program by Stryker (Danny Huston - who uses the same speech pattern as Brian Cox which adds a nice bit of continuity), then we cut to them on a plane with Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), Bolt (Dominic Monaghan), Wraith (Will.i.am), Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), and Frederick J Dukes (Kevin Durand). Unlike the film I'll spend a bit more time talking about the pack of Mercs. There is some good banter between them and the mission we see gives them all a chance to shine. All are good although Agent Zero's actions, along with the later Gambit scenes, have some shoddy wire-work which again pulls you out of the film. Durand and Monaghan do a little but not a lot.

It is Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson who truly shines. He basically does the same schtick he did in Van Wilder and Blade Trinity, but he does it so well and it is ramped all the way up to 11 in this film. He is the best thing in the early scenes and it is a shame we only get to see him and, to a lesser extent, the rest for such a short amount of time. It would have been great to see them on a couple more missions to get a feel for them working as a team.

It is this rushing through the film that makes me feel the studio had more to say on the matter than the director, Gavin Hood. The whole film could have done with being another 20 or 30 minutes longer.

However, this is a Wolverine film and Hugh Jackman is great in the role. He's been doing it for a few years now so he is very comfortable in the skin of Logan. The weird thing is that he doesn't seem to have aged a day since he first appeared in X-Men back in 2000. Hugh is funny, scary, angry and confused at various points of the film and he acts his socks off. There are a few points in the film where you think he is going to pop a blood vessel as he is so worked up. The one fault with him though is that we once again, never really get to see him go fully berserk and become the scary beast he can be in the comic. I thought we would see this in his escape from the Weapon X compound, but he gets out of the tank (fully naked to the delight of my Wife) kills a couple of guards and is then out and away. I would have liked this to last a little longer and have us follow a few guards or something getting picked off from the shadows. The point I'm getting at is that they never really make Wolverine scary. I know that they are aiming for a younger market, but a few scenes to show just how scary it would be to face him or be to know he is hunting you would have been great.

Apart from Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool the other big name Mutant in the film is Gambit (Taylor Kitsch). He is okay, but I never really felt he was as cool as the character could sometimes be in the comic and some of the card effects were just not up to scratch. Just before he sits down with Gambit there is a pleasing nod to the comic book cliche of the heroes fighting first before teaming up and those kind of things really float my boat. There are a few others throughout the film - Holding a loved one while screaming "Noooooo!!!" to the heavens and calling people "Old Friend". If you are a long time comic book reader then you'll know what I am getting at and I felt they really added to the whole comic bookiness of the whole thing. I also liked the little nod to Superman with the Ma and Pa Kent types helping Logan.

The final showdown on the Island was good, although I kept saying "Where are all the guards" and it was nice to see lots of familiat Mutants as kids. The final showdown with Deadpool, Logan and Sabretooth doing his best impression of the Millenium Falcon at the end of A New Hope is pretty good, but very short. I still can't see how they will take the Deadpool from this film and marry it with the Deadpool from the comic if they decide to make a spin-off from the spin-off. I would have loved for the proper Deadpool to have been the one they were fighting with lots of chances for Ryan Reynolds to do his funny dialogue thing he does so well.

Reading back through this it does sound as if I did not like the film. It's not a Dark Knight or Iron Man, but I really did enjoy it. Like many of these kind of films you can pull them apart if you look too closely at it, but if you enjoy comic book movies then just sit back and let Hugh do his thing. Well worth seeing on the big screen. Don't forget to wait through all of the credits for the last little bit - I got the Japan ending (more news on the different endings here). I give it 7 out of 10 and my Wife would give it 8 as she said she would give Hugh Jackman one......Hold on a minute...

Have you seen the film? What did you think of it? What post end credit ending did you get?



thepicklebot said...

Not seen the movie yet, still in two minds whether or not to watch it. I thought the remark about aiming for a younger audience was quite telling, too many films recently have been pitched between age brackets and miss both marks.

Question is, will it kick start the series again?

Live for films said...

I think it will do well enough to get a sequel which will keep the character alive. They need to stop trying to have so many X-Men showing up in the next one though.

If it is in Japan just have a load of ninjas and samurai and Logan going full ninja.

I do think Deadpool's popularity has really surprised the studio.

streetpete said...

I do not really have a great deal to add to your comprehensive review; I am impressed.
Firstly, your enjoyment of comics leaps from the page and makes me weep with envy: I feel that I should have listened to you during our formative years.
In addition, I would agree with your craving for berserker rage. Jackman has always been on a tight leash in this role and has never had the opportunity to really f### people up. Strong words, I know, but my first introduction to Wolverine was playing him in a role-playing game and, boy, did I do some damage with his fast-ball special.
Furthermore, I wish film-makers had some balls instead of making these anodyne adaptions; exploit the character for all his worth and let us really feel his pain.
On the other hand, I would like to see the film on the big screen as I do enjoy comic book romps; and, I agree with your wife - Jackman is well fit and I would give him one if I was that way inclined; claws or no claws.
Money has been, and always will be, more important than purity and truth in cinema. It is our job to sift through the puerile and seek those films and film-makers who claw their way inch by inch through the granite resistance of the many. Utilitarian film-making is a real ball-ache and I will not go quietly into the night; but, that's another story...

Thanks for the excellent review and Live for Films.

Alan S said...

Excellent review LFF! Well impressed by your wordsmithery. Ain't seen the film yet, but your review makes me wanna!
Keep up the excellent work, old friend......

pamela fruendt said...

good writing, good review. i hope to see the film may 1 or 2, although i'm going in with different expectations. all i know of wolverine is from the current trailers, so it'll be interesting to see this novice's take compared to you more experienced guys in this genre.

Head Hero said...

Saw the movie and got the Deadpool ending.

Having so many characters was confusing (even for a comic fan like myself).

Having an introduction to the merc characters and showing different displays of their abilities would have been nice, but the pace had to pick up because the writers wanted to get straight to the tale of Wolverine.