Movies / Comics Movie Reviews

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

By Beth Davies-Stofka
May 1, 2009 - 15:04

Last summer's Iron Man was an unexpected and delightful surprise, closely followed by the rather stilted and unimaginative Incredible Hulk.  We wondered which represented the real Marvel Studios.  If X-Men Origins: Wolverine is any indication, Iron Man was a fluke, while routine, bureaucratic superhero movies are Marvel's norm.

Wolverine plays like a student final for Action Flick 101, one that earned its director a safe, average grade of C.  Director Gavin Hood competently checks off every item on his action flick template.  But he seems too busy caring for his checklist to put any life in his film.  It has not one spark of curiosity about its subject.  There is not one moment of playful creativity within the genre.  Those qualities belonged to last summer's Iron Man.  This movie feels like it came out of the automat.

Hood is a natural with the cliché and the predictable plot twist.  Villains believe the end justifies the means.  Military leaders are old white men who easily sign off on any crazed covert operation.  Brothers will fight, women will cry, and villains will get the lamest lines.  The kindly stranger gets a bullet between the eyes, bad guys are in cahoots with other bad guys, and there is a terrible price to be paid for love.   

Worse yet, every one of these clichés is delivered with a completely straight face.  Only one scene contains any humor.  For the most part, Wolverine's customary working-man's wisecracking is replaced by the Jekyll-and-Hyde agonies of the petit bourgeoisie.

The fight scenes are moribund.  Wolverine hits theaters the day after one of the best NBA playoff games of all time.  The Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics, buff, tough, and talented, slogged it out through three overtimes.  We heard their sneakers squeak through the sweat they left on the floor.  They left their sweat on each other, too, in a fierce battle for dominance that was full-contact, messy, and grueling.  We sat on the edge of our seats, our hearts pounding, forgetting that it wasn't us out there struggling for just one inch of advantage.  When Joakim Noah stole the ball and dunked the winning basket, he howled a primal cry of release that reverberated throughout the sporting world.  

We didn't get any of this in Wolverine, where CGI substitutes for the physical pain and emotional agony of hand-to-hand combat between mortal enemies.  Our hero is nearly absent from his fights.  We see little of his pain and fatigue.  We never see that look in the eye of the warrior, the one that tells us that no matter how much pain he has to take, he won't give up and he won't stand down.  His manimalistic howls weren't half as convincing as Noah's was.

Jackman and Schreiber turned in strong performances, especially in their scenes together, which were unfortunately diluted by the pedestrian editing and ho-hum plotting.  Danny Huston was completely miscast as the single-minded Colonel William Stryker.  He somehow managed to make Stryker seem like a shoe salesman.  The movie was nearly stolen by Dominic Monaghan (Bradley) and Taylor Kitsch (Remy LeBeau), both of whom turned in compelling performances that left us hungering for more.

I actually felt kind of cheated when the credits rolled. I felt I'd paid my dues by sitting through this dull origin story, and now deserved the real story, the one where things happen and the X-Men have adventures.  Good thing I have the first X-Men movie on DVD.  It might have its flaws, but Wolverine is raw and real, and that shouldn't be too much to ask.

Rating: 6 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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