Friday, May 1, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009]

Up until last year – my personal opinion was X2 was the best comic book superhero film thus far. There was something very fitting about the action that went along well with the character development that worked as both a geek-fest and a stand-alone film. The 3rd film in the franchise kind of fell flat for me – and when they announced they were going ahead with prequel “origin” films – I was a little thrown back. It didn’t seem fair they would abandon the franchise for prequels – even if it was obvious that some characters were more interesting and fleshed out than others.

As for a synopsis – you’ve heard of Wolverine? Well, this film is about how Wolverine became the Wolverine we met in the first X-Men film. If you haven’t heard of Wolverine – he’s a mutant superhero – who has a metal skeleton and healing ability that has given him an unnaturally long life. He’s famous for basically being a brutal animal when he gets angry – and having a very layered back-story that he cannot remember for some reason.

I was impressed with certain aspects of this origin film – mainly the relationship that they developed up with his brother Victor (also known as Sabertooth played by Liev Schreiber). As a matter of fact some of the most interesting parts of the film were kind of glossed over in the opening credit sequence – which was disappointing. I would’ve loved this film if it dwelled on those years – about how James (Wolverine’s real name) and Victor grew apart over the years. Having a strong chemistry built up between them – and seeing it gradually fall apart – and then having James do what he had to. It just seemed like instead of nursing that relationship that they decided to throw in so many characters into the stew and serve it under cooked.

I guess that wouldn’t fly for a “summer blockbuster” – so let’s get into what’s actually in the film. The action was over the top – but unfortunately none of those scenes felt rather memorable – they were standard. Some of the effects felt a little out of place – particularly with Gambit - some of his acrobatics and mutant “magic” were kind of silly. I don’t know how Gambit has progressed as a comic book character – but since last I read an X-Men comic – he didn’t do that kind of stuff. The best effects were for Sabertooth and Wolverine – the way Sabertooth ran like a feral cat with a hand and foot gallop was very cool – and Wolverine’s claws and healing ability were as well done as ever.

To get back to a previous point about the stew – there were so many characters – and so many of them ended up being pointless to the story – I felt that the movie really failed on that level. I felt like at times I was watching a nod and a wink to the Marvel Universe – to the point that it seemed like the filmmakers were looking to create another spin-off using the minor characters.

The dialogue was at times cliché – but there were a few good one-liners that had me l’ing-o-l’ing. Hugh Jackman has a quality to him – and I think he plays vulnerable very well – so his interactions with his love interest were great scenes. Liev Schreiber was excellent as the menacing Sabertooth – enough so that they should remake the first X-Men film with him as Sabertooth instead of that wrestler. His presence would give a much needed boost on the villain side where Ian McKellen was the only one towing that rope.

Anyway – I’m giving this film 3/5 stars – it was good – but not great – and not so disappointing that it didn’t fulfill what it set out to do (which is summer fun). It’s not as good as X2 – but not as bas as X3 – it was probably more on par with the first X-Men film.

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