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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 05/04/09 13:46:37

"Ain't worth it, bub."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

I really don’t give two craps about whether or not they changed a comic book character’s backstory for the movie. It will never matter whether or not a supervillain says something in a film that’s different than what he always says in the comics. And when fanboys scream “They changed Deadpool!” and say that’s why “Wolverine” isn’t a good movie, why, that’s the dumbest damn thing a grown person can say. Especially since there are twenty other reasons why “Wolverine” isn’t a good movie.

My point is this: fanboys are ruining movies. Without fanboys, Twentieth Century Fox wouldn’t have felt it necessary to rush “X-Men 3” into production (and we all know how that turned out). Without fanboys, Fox wouldn’t have felt it necessary to milk the franchise even further with the utterly useless (and ridiculously titled) prequel “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Without fanboys, anyone saying “OMG THEY CHANGED DEADPOOL! IT IS TEH SUCK!! WORST MOVIE EVERZ!!1!” would be laughed out of the room.

Instead, the “TEH SUCK” crowd is being courted with embarrassing frenzy. And that’s what makes a movie like “Wolverine,” featuring a story which, if I were to encounter it completely blind to the franchise, I would assume was about a man who had action stunt money shots thrust upon him apparently at random. It does not tell a story. It tells a sequence of trailer-ready stunts.

Oh, the trailer. It is everything, for it will lure in the fanboy, and all his disposable income, right on opening weekend, before the bad word of mouth can spread, but who cares about the second week? “Wolverine” is a movie made for its trailer, and nothing else. Entire scenes go by where actors are required to deliver no real dialogue, just trailer-ready quotables. The entire movie is 107 minutes of actors posturing for the TV spot. But who cares, because, ooooh, it’s awesome when Wolverine jumps onto that helicopter!

OK, actually, yeah, it is kinda cool when Wolverine jumps onto that helicopter. Or, at least, it would’ve been, had the rest of the movie not been a tiresome slog through action flick cliché; by that point, we’re checking our watches. It’s a good stunt wasted on a bad movie.

And Hugh Jackman is a good actor wasted on a bad character. That is, when he first started playing Wolverine nearly a decade ago, the material, while familiar, was fresh, and the character was a highlight of a solid action flick; the sequel improved both the story and the character, and Jackman showed why he deserves to be a star. But for this fourth go ’round, Wolverine as a hero has been watered down. He’s given more to do, but he’s far less interesting, while his origin - the whole point of this new spin-off series - is a major bore.

Maybe that’s because of the carelessness of the screenplay, which keeps reminding us of Wolverine’s Canadian-ness while simultaneously shoehorning him into the American military (seemingly unkillable and never aging, he spent the last 170 years or so fighting for the Yanks in all the big wars, even the American Civil War - although he skipped out on the Spanish-American War and the Korean War, maybe because those didn’t provide enough famous movie images for director Gavin Hood to rip off for his opening credits montage), and which relies too much on worn-out plot points (face it: Wolverine’s tragedies here are old hat, and nothing in the movie adds the freshness these stale ideas need), and which keeps dumping in unnecessary characters (like a teenage Cyclops, or the goofy card-throwing Cajun mutant Gambit, or a CG-youthened Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier) just so the fans can thrill to the site of more comic book heroes, never mind if they actually fit into the story. (Seriously: there’s no reason for Cyclops to be here, and removing him wouldn’t affect the story at all, so why include him? Ah, yes. The fanboy.)

There are a few good moments, but then, there’d have to be with a solid cast that also includes Liev Schreiber, Dominic Monaghan, and Ryan Reynolds. But the latter two are given throwaway roles that fail to amount to anything (even if one of them turns up for the big climax), while Schreiber, as Wolverine’s equally immortal brother/rival, is stuck making the best out of what’s ultimately a generic villain role.

It’s been argued that “Wolverine” couldn’t work because, as a prequel, the outcome is already known to the audience. But that hasn’t stopped other movies from being good. The problem here is that everything that happens seems to play out as if following a checklist - OK, we show him as a kid, then we show him falling in love, then we show this stunt, then they say this cool line, then he scowls like this, then we meet this character, then we get to the secret mutant lab, then we set things up to circle back to the first movie, and make sure we include all the pre-packaged stuff from the comic books - and there’s no life to any of it. It’s Paint by Numbers: The Movie.

But man, that trailer. All those cool lines and awesome stunts? The fanboys’ll love it enough. Yup. What comes out next week?

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