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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
First let me set some boundaries here so you know where I'm coming from.
I'm an X-MEN fan. Granted it was in my childhood, but the movie series re-ignited that affection - somewhat - I've yet to see one freaking Sentinel.
Where in the HELL are the freaking Sentinels? Is there somebody over at Fox who has an unhealthy borderline psychotic fear of Giant robots?
Warner Bros., very successful, they have giant robots in their movies. Dreamworks, reasonably successful, they have giant robots in their movies and those movies do well. Yes, that's all broad strokes to a ridiculous extreme, but we are talking about comic book movies and fanboy enthusiasm. So on that note, this is my review of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.
Movie opens with a sickly child in bed. There is an older boy in the room with him, staring at him with disgust and malice, and messing with his really ugly fingernails in a meaningful way.
Then a man enters, tells the sickly boy that everything is going to be all right, is there just long enough to make a happy impression, and then goes downstairs and gets shot dead by a drunken lout. Sickly boy sees his dead father, sees the lout who killed him, goes from sickly to superboy, er, make that mutant boy, and the fakest looking, most plastic appearing claws I've ever seen in a movie (and I've seen some really cheap movies) sprout out of the boy's mitts.
The movie audience groaned when those claws sprouted. Okay, so this is clearly Logan. Logan murders the son of a bitch who shot his father, only to discover that the drunk is his REAL father.
Well what the hell does that mean? There are two women in the room but both or neither could be Logan's mother and - no time to bother with women in this flick! Logan runs away confused (like us), but the older boy catches up with him and, with the new understanding that they are brothers, the two grow up together, through the opening credits, and fight the enemies of the U.S. through many wars. These boys live a long time and fight a lot of wars. I mean a REAL long time, but they stop aging around 37.
I dunno. Maybe they gave up smoking.
Eventually they wind up in a military prison, confined by the country they've spent hundreds of years fighting for, because they've got a bit out of hand. I'd go so far as to say they've gone rogue, but since Rogue is another character in the X-MEN pantheon, I don't want to confuse things.
A questionable Colonel (it's always the Colonel, isn't it? My God I've seen what that rank can DO to a man!) named William Stryker (Danny Huston: THE NUMBER 23, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT) comes to their cell and tells Logan (Hugh Jackman: X-MEN [all]) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber: SCREAM [all], PHANTOMS, SPHERE, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE , THE OMEN ) that if they'll play ball, he can get them a cushy job in the military. Well actually, the job is far from cushy but that's just the way the brothers love it.
They go through another series of hard-core adventures with a team of other mutants. Think of them as Black-Ops squared. They bicker with each other, nobody really likes the other, and Logan and Victor stay close. The only thing keeping the peace between these men is Colonel Stryker. Eventually things come to such a head with their violent and morally questionable missions (Highly morally questionable), that Logan washes his hands of the whole deal and walks out mid-mission.
Soon Logan is living on a mountain top with a woman, possibly his wife, it isn't made clear, and working as a logger. He's been on his own for six years and guess who re-enters his life? Colonel Stryker of course. Stryker offers a job, Logan refuses, things go downhill from there. But not before Logan's new love, Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins: BUG, THE NUMBER 23) nicknames him Wolverine.
Not the most loving term of endearment - a flat striped blobby tribble with claws - but I've been called worse, obviously. One dead love and an awesomely bad crying jag from Logan* and Wolverine is ready to agree to anything for Stryker so long as he gets to kill his brother - whom he believes killed Kayla.
*Hollywood Man-Cry cliche #3: Hold-the-beloved-corpse-angrily-throw-back-your-head-and-howl-your-loss-to-the-world scene. Hey, it worked for Worf in Star Trek: Next Generations, why not Wolverine?+
In-Just-One-Scene Wolverine goes through the adamantium process (hey, who knew it'd be an out-patient procedure? I take longer to brush my teeth!) and viola! Logan's the metal skeleton on the inside, super fast healer on the outside, Wolverine!
E-Freaking-Gad this sucks!
+ Oh wait. That hammy horror made me embarrassed for Michael Dorn. At various Star Trek conventions, the cast of the show made fun of that specific scene for years after.
You can build a movie around one person who is in perpetual dour mode. This can work because that person is the ONLY character like that. Everyone else is reasonably normal, provides contrast, and the one emo can't drag the whole movie down with their sulking ennui. But Logan is heavily depressed and his way of dealing with his feelings approach sturm und drang bombasticity!
Worse, everyone around him is the same way!
Victor Creed harbors great resentment over something that is never made clear - he hates his human side but we don't know why - but it makes him want to kill, kill, kill. He only smiles when he's either killing or thinks he is about to die. Otherwise he broods.
Everybody throughout this whole damn movie broods, broods deeply, except for Kayla, and from the moment she appears, BY the time she appears, its obvious that she is victim girl. This is a movie for 16 year olds who live with their parents, think their smaller sibling is like, SO immature, hate everything and everyone, and feel world weary.
In many ways this flick embraces the worst parts of Emo culture and that's a clique without a lot of positives. I mean, even the uber goth flick, THE CROW, cut the depressive revenge atmosphere to scenes of happier times in Eric's life, as well as real hope that Eric could create for the future of others. Even the bad guys had their twisted charm and humor. It all gave meaning to why Draven was so driven. Why else would he fight to come back from the dead?
None of that humanity in WOLVERINE.
WOLVERINE also utterly disregards any continuity set by the first three movies. Particularly bad because this is supposed to be a prequel. This is what happened to Logan before he met Professor Xavier and the whole X-MEN gang.
So m'kay, we know from the start that something happened to make Logan forget his memories. But Victor Creed is supposed to be Sabertooth. How the hell did Sabertooth forget that Logan was his brother in the first X-MEN? What made Sabertooth a grunting halfwit?
In the operation that Logan undergoes to get his adamantium skeleton, they clearly show these massive needles going into his bone, not coating the outside. His bones aren't coated with adamantium, but replaced by adamantium. It stretches a barely believable concept past the point of stupidity. There are so many more even bigger mistakes but to tell them is to spoil the movie, and this flick is spoiled enough.
The claws, it's what Wolverine is all about. Cyclops has his sunglasses, Storm is a weather girl, Wolverine is all about his claws.
The claws on both Logan and Victor are a laugh out loud joke. Sabertooth in the first X-MEN had claws like you'd expect of a predatory animal like a tiger or bear. Smooth, long, sharp, and lethal. The claws in this movie look like they were originally molded out of play-doh and director Gavin Hood made sure he got them in close up as much as possible. Then Logan gets his adamantium claws. And they look so fake - like a Saturday morning cartoon! Remember how real and bad ass they looked in 2000 and 2003? Six years later we have better computers and software! What the hell happened?
And as if things weren't bad enough, on top of all of the other tropes, along with the new director and new writers we also get
!!!THE UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!:
The script by David Benioff and Skip Woods (SWORDFISH, HITMAN - Producer Hugh Jackman wanted Skip) called for largely non-stop ass-whupping and lick-em, stick-em characterization. Things like the cute old couple with their cute old ways, and their boy who died in "the war", that you just know are only there to feed the beast.
Still its hard to put the blame entirely on the writers as there was plenty of talk during production about changes in the script. Granted every movie to some extent makes changes in the script, largely thanks to input from the producers and director and sometimes even the actor, but the after changes to this movie weren't for the better. XMEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE is basically a SyFy Channel movie with a bigger budget.
So I put the blame squarely at the feet of the producers of this flick. Hugh Jackman, John Palermo (X-MEN III: THE LAST STAND), Lauren Schuler Donner (X-MEN [all], CONSTANTINE) and Ralph Winter (THE PUPPET MASTERS, LEFT BEHIND, X-MEN [all], PLANET OF THE APES , HANGMAN'S CURSE, FANTASTIC FOUR [all], THE VISITATION, THR3E, HOUSE).
So what's going on here?
Like ALIEN, the first two X-MEN movies started off pretty good. Then Brian Singer left, took his writers with him, and Fox decided to shoot their franchise in the nut sack. Are they pissed at Stan Lee or something?
Sure, the 2000s is the decade when past glory producers and directors choose to gut their great movie series.
Lucas and Spielberg did it with Indiana Jones, Romero is doing it with his Dead series. I'd mention Star Wars but Lucas started gutting that back in the 1990s, and to be honest, he began vigorously buggering Star Wars back in the 1980s with his second Star Wars trilogy: The Star Wars Holiday Special, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, and Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. Those TV movies were almost as bad as the last three prequels (yet like any movie, the second Star Wars trilogy has their fans and they are voracious! They've no time for prissy purists! Diss the Ewoks and they will CUT you man!).
I'm a big fan of the first two X-MEN movies, and I will admit that X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE is better than X-MEN III, but only because Brett Ratner's outing was such an unimaginative, uninspired, cut and paste piece of crap. Think about it. Magneto's mutants crossing the San Francisco Bay on a levitating Golden Gate Bridge? So freaking weak! So fake looking.
You know what would have been cool? Magneto's freak show crossing the bay on the shoulders of giant robots! A line of independently moving, independently fighting Sentinels would have been way more exciting! Once those bad boys get across the bay you'd see some REAL cool mega-action that'd make Michael Bay and McG crap themselves! Instead we got to see the Golden Gate hover across the water and run aground like a giant loaf of bread.
I'm guessing, with these last two X-MEN movies, that the producers greatly admire Uwe Boll's films and are reaching for that bar. Like a Uwe Boll movie, there is a whole ton of action going on, most of it pointless, but seriously: lots of action.
Also director Hood takes the Boll approach to action fighting with the ever swirling camera focused on the action. Around and around the camera goes, centered on the fighting foes. And like a Uwe Boll movie, if only the rest of the story was as good as the action, we'd have one damn fine movie! X-MEN III and WOLVERINE haven't attained the dizzying depths of a Uwe Boll flick, but you can see they're trying. I expect the next X-MEN will be Direct to Video.
If nothing else, WOLVERINE does have admittedly good fight scenes and action scenes. None of that impotent shaky camera crap we came to expect from THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and the like. If you are a fan of MTV style, leave your brain at the door action where the same fight between the same people happens every 5 minutes, then you might enjoy X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.
Me, I left the second the credits rolled. Went to the bathroom, got a drink of water, and came back in time for the inevitable "Last scene of the movie after the credits" shot that we've come to expect from Marvel movies: Wasn't worth it.
Two Shriek Girls.