"I'm good at what I do. And what I do isn't very nice."
Yet it's not particularly nasty, either, is it, Wolverine? Or is it James Howlett? Weapon X? Logan? Hugh? Whatever you call yourself, the terrible memories you spent the first two X-Men movies trying to uncover seem a little anticlimactic, and not a little underwhelming compared to your angst over them, especially if all we have to judge on is X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the latest in the Fox franchise of X-movies. Don't get me wrong, it didn't bore me. It just didn't impress me.
It's not as though I have any real standard when it comes to X-Men titles. I lost interest in them years ago, before the third movie and its over crammed plot made our eyes roll (I saw it out of interest in the "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" meme and some wandering nostalgia). You see, because I came to the realization that mutants, as portrayed in the X-titles were actually a pretty poor allegory for minority groups. There's a huge difference between somebody wanting to beat you to death in an alley for being black or Jewish and somebody wanting to beat you to death in an alley because you can fire lasers out of your eyes. You know what? I'd be a little wary of laser-eye guys, too. The difference is that a guy with laser eyes, or wings, or an unbreakable skeleton have natural means by which to avoid or stop that situation. Normal humans? They get tied to a fence and beaten to death for being gay, with no hope of flight or fight by extraordinary means. In fact, X-Men should be insulting to those groups.
"Oh hey, sorry you got dragged behind a vehicle for being Hispanic, Juan. Maybe you should have used your telekinesis. Don't have it? So sorry, you suck."
I like it better when teens with superpowers is just an allegory for puberty.
Not to mention that, let's face it, the X-Men are sort of lousy. There's all sorts of confusing time-traveling stories, third tier mutants with awful powers, and the same return of Magneto and Apocalypse (one of the most blatant jobbers ever), Jean Grey in the revolving door of death, and Wolverine on every superhero team Marvel has to offer, including, I think, the Fantastic Four (don't hold me to it!). The leadership role is always a mess (Xavier's a dick, Scott's a dick, Storm's uninteresting, Wolverine can't get it together), the next generation is annoying (does anyone give a shit about Dust?), and then there was that whole "second mutation" thing. Enough already. I used to love these heroes. Now I'll peek at a comic or two to see if they're in any interesting battles. I don't even bother following plotlines anymore, I can keep up with Wikipedia.
It looks like Fox doesn't bother following plotlines, either, because aside from a little skimming through Origins and a few other books, it doesn't seem like they did all the research necessary to do an origin story for Wolverine. Hell, even if they'd just watched the first two X-Men movies, they should have gotten this a little better than they did. Where was the facility on the lake? Where was Lady Deathstrike? And who the fuck was it in charge of the Weapon X program, Canada or America? Are we meant to think that the reason Wolverine doesn't remember all this stuff is because of some adamantium bullets in his brain? Somebody pass me the gun, I'd like to forget that ever happened.
Let's take a look at the film's portrayal of everyone's favorite Canucklehead. Isn't he supposed to be some raging, wild, murderous beast who later regrets and suppresses his behavior? The guy here only snarls, shouts, and screams. You hardly take him as a real threat until he gets the metal in him, and even then he's still pretty soft. He's sort of just the hot-tempered guy you expect Wolverine to be. The same guy he is in the X-Men. And that guy's fine, except at this point in his life, he was supposed to have been near feral, or at least more prone to bouts of animalistic rampaging. Like the Hulk, only short and hairy. He only has the hairy part right. He cuts a good action scene, that's for sure, but there's just something a little too subdued, and it makes you wonder why he bothered even figuring out who he used to be in the X-Men movies. I mean, he was the same as he always was, he just seemed to have a problem with the sky when he was younger, since he keeps screaming up at it.
Then there's Sabertooth. Okay, here, he was pretty good. I think they should have made him even more murderous, to drive home the difference between him and Wolverine. I mean, otherwise, he's just Wolverine with a shorter temper and sharp claws from his nails instead of between his knuckles. Liev Schreiber does a great job being delightfully sociopathic, though. If they could have combined his snark and bitterness with the toughness of Tyler Mane, who played the character in the first X-Men film, they would have had a perfect monster. Still, Schrieber probably pulls a better performance than even Jackman here, so I can't complain too loudly.
The supporting cast is a colorful array of poorly utilized mutants (the whole "mutant" thing, by the way, they mention off-hand, without even considering explaining about all these super powered folks suddenly turning up, or who is a mutant and who isn't) and misfits. Silver Fox, who apparently can send strong hypnotic suggestions, but apparently can't emote properly, for instance. Gambit, who would have been better served appearing in a real team effort capacity, perhaps in a proper X-Men movie, but was otherwise portrayed pretty well. Chris Bradley, a mutant who can manipulate electricity, but only does so to light things up, and apparently can't use it to defend himself. John Wraith, who wears a cowboy hat, owns a boxing club, teleports, and dies unceremoniously in the second act, and then never mentioned again. Blob, who got his name from being so fat he misheard "bub" because of all the fat in his ears, the fatty. Also, he's never seen again after his one scene. Scott Summers, who later became Cyclops, and who apparently attended high school in Canada, despite being an American, and later never recalling anything to help Wolverine at all during the X-Men movies (to be fair, he was blindfolded most of the time). Colonel William Stryker, who loves Roman numerals and long walks on the beach. Also, he apparently works for at least two countries. And finally, Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool aka Weapon XI (Stryker really loves Roman numerals!) aka "Dudepeel" ("fan" name for his movie persona) aka that guy who's barely in the movie enough to count, but is nevertheless played well for a few minutes by Ryan Reynolds (or as I call him, the tolerable Dane Cook).
What is the likelihood of all these characters getting together? Not very good, considering that most of them only have a couple of scenes at the most and then disappear. I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing, but it looks like some of them were actually running from the movie itself. Am I supposed to believe that the Canadian government took an American high school student to their facility, and he and a few other mutants get recruited for the X-Men as they escape, with Professor Xavier (a guest appearance by a CGI Jean-Luc Picard... er, I mean Patrick Stewart) not even sensing Wolverine around? Really, what a total dick. Then later when Xavier meets Wolverine in the first X-Men movie, he doesn't mention anything about the whole Stryker thing? Was Xavier just cruising around for a joyride in his military grade helicopter when he spotted Scott on that island? Really, I enjoyed Xavier's appearance, but it seems a bit problematic. Just too coincidental. Why even bother having Scott involved with this at all? He's just going to get nerfed later in the timeline, in X-Men 3. (Much to my enjoyment, having never liked Cyclops.)
This leads me to another question. Who was doing all this? Wolverine has to tell Stryker, "I'm Canadian." Wait, wait. But isn't Stryker working for the Canadian government? Department H is Canadian. The Weapon X program is a Canadian military project. Also, the "X" in the name has nothing to do with the number 10. It has to do with the X gene in mutants. So what's the deal with Stryker? Is he doing work for the Canadians despite being American, or is the American military doing secret experiments on Canadians, in Canada no less? Far be it for me to have actual respect for our neighbors to the North, but they can't possibly be stupid enough to let us do that. I mean, and he's taking American high school students for the program? That's got to be some sort of international faux pas. (Really, what the fuck is Scott Summers doing in my Wolverine movie? Get that douchebag out of it!)
What was with the Pa and Ma Kent bullshit in the middle of the film? Was it there to add some poignancy? Comedy, maybe? I felt like that couple was going to knit Wolverine a costume out of a blanket they found wrapped around him in the barn and he'd be busting out in a cape and pajamas. It was completely pointless, thrown in to give our hero all the more reason to be pissed at the enemy.
Granted, it's not all horrors. There were some solid, though thoughtless, action scenes. It felt like a lot of the set pieces were designed just to be chewed up, though I'm aware a lot of it was CGI. The battle with Sabertooth outside the bar, the battle with him outside... the other bar... the battle... wait, I'm sensing a pattern here. If you're with Wolverine, don't go to a bar. Or a boxing club. Or really, don't hang out with Wolverine, especially if you can't act or are an old person. Everyone else is peaches.
Back to the action. I loved the ridiculously implausible, Mission Impossible II-like action sequences, like with the helicopter or "Weapon XI" on top of the reactor. I had to turn my brain off for a bit, but it was the sort of playing around with superpowers you want to see in these sort of movies, and it made a lot of the stuff in the previous X-Men films seem pretty tame in comparison. They really seemed to bust loose in these sequences, even though they were barely chomping at the bit in all the rest of the scenes. The opening montage showed a lot of action, with Wolverine and Sabertooth taking part in all sorts of combat over time (presumably for fun, since though they were Canadians, they fought in the Civil War). Just simple fun surrounded in turmoil. That was the highlight of the film.
It's all the little things that nagged at me, like why they would bother naming Wade "Deadpool", when it wasn't even close to the origin of the name in the comics, felt crowbarred in as much as all the mentions of "Wolverine" (I get it, already, his name is the title of the movie), and he wasn't even conscious to hear it. You didn't hear anybody call Scott a "cyclops" or Emma "complete whore" (What do you mean that's not her name?), did you? No. Nobody even called Sabertooth "Sabertooth". They didn't have to. We all knew who he was. Stop crowbarring things in so lamely, Fox. And get Cyclops the fuck out of my Wolverine movie. I expect to see that part cut out of the DVD version. Keep in Picard, though. Or replace him with the Burger King. (Come on, you know you'd want to see all those young mutants get rescued by the King.)
I know there's a lot of cynicism in my review, but actually, I sort of liked the film. It passed the time well, didn't eat to much of it up, and supplied me with a lot of Wolverine kicking ass, even though it was out of his regret for... doing what, I don't know. Snarling at folks? He really is the best at what he does, but what he does isn't very badass.
So, how about that Magneto film rumored? Maybe they should Snikt that thing in the Bub.
Overall Score: 3 out of 5 Sknikts, bub.
- Penguin Truth