The Night Out: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), or AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!

2 05 2009

Wolverine is not a very impressive character. Did I start out too strong? Let me back up. If you’re into Marvel (I hope you aren’t), you’ll know that the X-Men series is chock full of crazy, out-of-this-world superpowers. Storm can change the weather. Gambit can charge anything with energy. Mystique can change forms at will. The bad guys are even crazier; Apocalypse probably has at least fifteen different powers and has been around for about 5000 years! And then we come to the most inexplicably popular X-Men character; Wolverine. What can he do? Well, he has a metal skeleton (!!!!), claws that can rip through a bunch of stuff, and the ability to regenerate at break-neck speed. Gee, that’s nice. Honestly, though, that’s not as cool as, say, LASER EYES, FORCE FIELDS, FLIGHT, KILLING WITH A TOUCH, OR ANYTHING OF ANY REAL MERIT!!! But everybody loves him because he’s a smart-ass, a jerk, and has a Mysterious Past. And so, in honor of him being such a swell guy, Fox decided to give him his own movie, because if the world needed one thing right now, it’s a jerk superhero

We are taken back to 1845, the year where James “Wolverine” Logan’s lonely journey across the ages begins. After ostracizing himself from his mother by killing his father (“SORRY, MOM!”), he and his fellow mutant half-brother, Victor “Sabretooth” Creed, drift through a hundred years of battlefields, fighting each of America’s major wars, invulnerable and without direction. When they make it to the Vietnam War, however, things change they are chosen to join a special team of other mutants to do some handywork for a military fellow named Ted Stryker. Victor loves the work, but James can’t get behind some of the rough stuff they have to do so he decides that he has to be away from all the killing. This breaks up the band and for six years, Logan lives in the Canadian backwoods with some hot chick he picked up in a brief moment of happiness in his long life. But when he is confronted after many years by Stryker with the knowledge that some of his former mutant team members have been killed, he just might be driven to action. Especially when the clues point to his brother as the killer. It will take all he has to take him down, even a radical surgery suggested by Stryker that will give him a new lease on vengeance, as well as a *chuckle* metal skeleton…

Decent action scenes punctuate a movie defined by complacency. I never feel as if they’re doing anything more than going through the motions. The structure of the movie, the promotional campaign, Wolverine’s indestructibility, and the serialized, canonized nature of the character suck out every last strand of tension or suspense out of the film. Wolverine can’t and won’t die, so why should anyone care whether or not if something is about to fall on him or if he is about to be attacked from behind? Nobody does, so we dance empty boxes around a profoundly glossy dancefloor, using all of the conventions of an action movie but doling out none of the consequences latent in such situations upon the characters.

But far be it from me to be a party pooper. Marvel fans, rejoice! The studio that loves to tease throws a couple adamantium-infused bones out for the initiated. We are given nods to the X-Men’s rich and elaborate timeline. If you like seeing minor characters from X-Men comics that are normally edged out of other comic book movies, subtle and not-so-subtle references to other events outside of the Origins storyline, and have been waiting since X2 to see Gambit finally put in a movie, your wait is over. Now while I am not a fan of this material, I definitely know how it feels to have your fandom rewarded, so I shant begrudge anyone their “hey, I know exactly what they’re talking about!” moment.

To be fair, it’s not bad. It just should have been something better considering the talent involved. Hugh Jackman, who really redeemed himself in my eyes when he starred in The Fountain takes another step down on the scale for me. He’s a big crazed brute for about half the movie, finding all kinds of handy ways to utilize those pathetic protrusions jutting out of his wrists. But people don’t like Wolverine because he’s a big dumb animal. If that’s what they wanted, Juggernaut would have been the main character in X3. Sabretooth is eye-rollingly evil, and Liev Schreiber is a little too good to be playing somebody so bland. Director Gavin Hood doesn’t do anything wrong, but by playing it safe he rarely throws anything at us we’re not expecting, besides exposition given at inopportune times.

And was it just me, or were the special effects for Wolverine’s claws rough or what? They look like somebody used a Flash animating program in some of these scenes. Keep an eye out for when he first brandishes the claws. Tell me if I’m crazy; I just thought they looked monumentally unconvincing.

I wasn’t impressed by this release. It just felt like they were biding time until the next X-Men movie, which I’m personally not waiting for anyway. It’s passing, and I’ll even say a little bit above passing, but it crosses the dangerous rivers of complacency more times than an actor can yell really loud at the camera and be laughed at by unconvinced audience members. I give X-Men Origins: Wolverine 5 1/2 adamantium patellas out of 10. Until I hear about a Marvel hero with some fun powers coming to theaters, though, count me out. Wake me up when you have a guy with metal eyebrows, call him Iron Peepers, and send him into space. I’m waiting, Marvel…

See you tomorrow, when I will REALLY watch Youth of the Beast! Yesterday was a false alarm, but I really mean it this time!

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