{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

X-Men: Wolverine a Disapointment

Like so many others this weekend, I took in the latest of the X-Men franchise, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

I’ll level with you: I went into this movie with really only one requirement, which was that I’d get to see some more of Jackman’s fine, fine behind, which the film delivered. Aside from pure objectification, I went in without too many expectations.

That was probably a good thing. Friends of mine who went in hoping for the moon exited the theatre frothing at the mouth.

As summer blockbusters go, this one was sort of meh. Not extraordinarily good, but not Daredevil-esque bad. It lies firmly in that category of movies where one doesn’t regret paying the twelve dollars per se, but neither would someone who waits for the DVD regret not paying the twelve dollars.

Jackman’s Wolverine looses a little of his mystique, as is the danger with all origin stories, but in all fairness I choose to chalk that up to flaws in the writing of the story and cliché directing than in Jackman’s acting, though I hear he was heavily involved in those facets, too, so who knows. My biggest problem with the character in this movie is, in trying to dig into the two sides of him, they’ve separated him into two contrasting personas. The allure of Wolverine for me was always the layering of his personality, where the softness blended together with the animalistic into a more constant character. In this movie, the two sides of him are so separate that often the one disappears entirely in favour of the other, creating a more schizophrenic portrait where he is either completely domestic or completely wild. As a result, what was a complex, deep character has been flattened and sadly over-simplified.

I also wasn’t terribly thrilled by all the extra bulk Jackman added. I favour the version of Logan that was buff and well-defined without sliding into the ridiculous I felt this overly-sculpted form fell into. Having said that, his lower half is just as yummy as it ever was.

Liev Schreiber played the part he was given suitably, but in the end Victor’s character fails to impress. What was this character’s motivation? I’m not entirely sure what the point of his inclusion was, except to drive a cliché and flat revenge story. Schreiber certainly looks the part and does the best he can with what he’s been given, and I can’t really call him out for that.

Danny Huston’s William Stryker will undoubtedly receive mixed reviews, as he will here. The character didn’t inspire as the villain we saw in the second movie, but I can’t fault Huston for not doing his homework. His speech patterns, intonation, and facial performance closely mimics Brian Cox’s performance in X2 without falling into parody. Having said that, I felt this character needed to be pushed farther rather than pulled back; a little hint of a mustache-twirling super-villain wouldn’t have been amiss.

This movie’s biggest weaknesses? A story that is both confusing and too-often defies logic, too many characters (an X-Man tradition), unmemorable action sequences, and CG effects that look like they’re from five years ago.

The first two issues are probably closely related. The X-Men movies have always tried too hard to cameo-in as many characters as possible to thrill the fanboys, and this movie suffers from the most inelegant insertion of those characters that we’ve seen to date. Most notable are the appearances of Gambit and Scott Summers, whose relevance to the plot are so contrived or completely absent as to render the bending of the plot around their inclusion frustrating at best. If I could take my big, red editor’s pen to this script, those two would be the first to go, and I believe the plot would have been better for it. Gambit’s forced part in the plot and his inaccurate and inconsistent accent combined to make him the weakest part of the film overall.

The action sequences were completely uninspired in this movie, and since action is a fundamental ingredient to the Super Hero Film™ that can forgive any number of plot and character sins, I left the theatre more unsatisfied than I might have otherwise. Coupled with surprisingly badly done CG — another staple of this genre — I’m not entirely sure what the $150 million budget was blow on. The youngification of Patrick Stewart, in particular, was of laughably poor quality, and in places the use of green screenwas decidedly obvious in the seams between character and background.

Having said all that, I still can’t work up enough passion to really care all that much. The movie was okay, has received okay reviews, and will probably go on to make okay amounts of money. A pretty ho-hum way to start the season, all told. Fortunately, Star Trek is close on its heels, and that’s one I’ve got really high hopes for, especially after reading the early reviews.

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