Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Hugh Jackman, Leiv Schrieber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins and Will.i.Am from the Black-Eyed Peas (!)

Gavin Hood


I feel sorry for Hugh Jackman. He’s been getting a lot of negative reviews for this film. Even so, I’ve never seen him do an interview or appear on telly in a grumpy mood; he is, by all accounts, the nicest man in Hollywood. He also clearly feels invested in the character of Wolverine, as he’s a producer on the film. So why, then, doesn’t X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE live up to the hype and expectation?

The story's pretty straight-forward: Logan/Wolverine joins the super-secret Team X. He leaves Team X. His brother kills his missus, sending Logan back into the arms of his former boss, Stryker, who grafts the indestructible metal Adamantium onto Logan's bones. Logan sets out for revenge. Then things go pear-shaped. And for his first blockbuster, director Hood handles this all with style and flair.

Plus, Jackman was quite clearly born to play Wolverine, so there’s nothing wrong there. Only, this Wolverine isn’t quite as tough as the one we’ve seen in the previous X-MEN films. The reason why is pretty obvious: that Wolverine was still recovering from the memory loss he suffers in this origin film. Ergo, a different character in the same skin.

Also, you can’t make a ‘true’ Wolverine film without plenty of violence. He is, as he often says, “the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice”. ORIGINS has violence in it, but it’s largely bloodless. This is fine, because otherwise it’d have to be an 18-rated movie, and that would never happen because it'd immediately alienate half the target audience.

Although having said that, the recent HULK VS WOLVERINE has a lot more blood in it, and that’s a 12-rated cartoon. So maybe it could have been done…

Anyway, as with that (much shorter) film, ORIGINS features a large supporting cast of other mutants, including Wade Wilson/Deadpool (played with a sardonic cool by Ryan Reynolds). However, unlike HULK VS, in which Deadpool is clearly the best thing in it, he isn’t the highlight of ORIGINS. Partly this has to do with his limited screen time, and partly because there are too many other super-powered freaks jostling for attention.

Everyone gets a fair share of the spotlight. Some, like Deadpool and Agent Zero, are more effective than others. Fan-favourite Gambit makes an appearance, and his powers are suitably impressive; it’s just a shame that the actor playing him (Taylor Kitsch) has both a name that sounds like a female lounge act, and the worst Cajun accent I’ve ever heard. Or never heard, since he seems to keep forgetting to use one.

Perhaps the biggest gripe with the film, though, has got to be the completely wonky timeframe. Things start off well, in 1854, and then rapidly progress through a number of wars, as Logan fights alongside his more feral brother (or half-brother? I’m not entirely sure) Victor Creed (aka Sabretooth, but not in this film).

Things get a little muddled after this, as the brothers appear to be fighting in the Vietnam war, and then events move on six years later, which puts the film somewhere in either the late 70’s or early 80’s. The late 70’s makes sense, as the film’s climax cleverly references the accident at Three Mile Island, and that happened in 1979. However, in the first X-MEN film, Prof. X says Wolverine’s been wandering around without a memory for 15 years…which means the end of ORIGINS should take place in 1985. Hmmm.

The apparently-not-violent-enough Logan, the uncertain-timeframe-and-fashions-that-look-recent-anyway stylings, the too-many-mutants-spoil-the-broth-and-overegg-the-pudding criticisms are all minor quibbles, I think. In that, they can easily be forgiven/ignored.

WOLVERINE is a really enjoyable film. It has one moment that genuinely shocked (as in surprised) me, plenty of cool mutants blasting the shit out of each other and their surroundings (the film even made me want to see a Cyclops Origin film, for crying out loud, and he’s more boring than toothpaste) and last but not least, Hugh Jackman on fine form.

Certain broadsheets got it fantastically wrong by claiming only the hardcore fans would truly enjoy X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, when it’s actually the hardcore fans who are the ones kicking up the biggest stink about the film. After all, comic book “geeks” are notoriously protective of their favourite characters, and hate it when origin stories are not Exactly. Like. The. Comic.

But seriously, it’s a popular comic book character who’s been turned into a Big Budget Hollywood Summer Blockbuster™. What do you expect? If the fans are that bothered about watching a film that’s exactly like the origin story, they can always get a Handicam, and point it at the comic whilst they turn the pages.