Thursday, May 7, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine *

Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston
Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan, Lynn Collins, Daniel Henney, Kevin Durand, Taylor Kitsch

This prequel to the "X-Men" series commits the cardinal sin of action film/comic book/summer blockbusters: it's terribly un-entertaining.
Wolverine/Logan as played by Hugh Jackman was consistently one of the best elements in the ensemble of the previous trilogy; combining raw power, a dark sense of humor and animalistic sexuality.
Once you leave him on his own though, he's just not that interesting. The film begins in 1845 where we learn about Logan's birthplace and his power to regenerate as well as his relationship with his older brother Victor (played by Schreiber). Through the credits sequence (which perhaps would've made a better film) we follow the siblings through most of the wars in the twentieth century finishing in Vietnam where they are approached by William Stryker (Huston) who asks him to joing a special team he's putting together.
The group is made out of other mutants including the invulnerable Fred Dukes (Durand), teleportating Kestrel (, Bolt who manipulates electricity (Monaghan), expert gunsman Agent Zero (Henney) and sword fighter Wade Wilson (Reynolds).
Stryker uses them as mercenaries who commit vicious crimes to get what they want. Logan becomes disgusted by this and leaves the group, retiring peacefully to Canada where he lives with his girlfriend Kayla (Collins).
Years later his brother Victor tracks him down and kills his girlfriend setting Logan on a search for revenge. He is approached by Stryker who offers to help him become invincible in order to fulfill his mission. Logan accepts and undergoes a procedure where his skeleton is reinforced with the indestructible metal adamantium.
Logan later learns that Stryker has been in league with Victor all along and escapes, taking on the name of Wolverine in search of vengeance.
Then there's a rescue mission, more mutant cameos than you can shake a stick at and the eventual finale which neatly ties up events so that the first "X-Men" movie makes more sense.
One would assume that the purpose of a prequel would be to establish things otherwise we wouldn't have way of knowing or that at least in some way influenced the behavior of the characters when we met them.
The people involved in making this film however only saw in it the opportunity to make a buck and Wolverine becomes but a puppet in a constant sequence of events and action sequences trying to top the previous one in terms of grandiosity.
As much as Jackman tries to invest something into his character, the screenplay provides him with some ridiculous scenes (not to mention cringe-worthy one liners, which they probably are using for the tie-in video game) that lack a flashy comic book feel and certainly never achieve some sort of hyperrealism.
In the same way the action sequences often come close to turning into selfparodies (unlike the cheesy glory of Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" series) that make us believe that the characters are actually doing them just because the actors playing them are getting paid.
When the film tries to humanize Logan it does so with the subtlety of a nuclear bomb, throwing in ridiculous flashbacks and an even dumber story his girlfriend tells him straight out of the "chick flick book of mythology".
When "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is over you too will have grown claws from boredom and will wish to tear the screen down.