Wednesday, May 6, 2009
CGI Claws do not amuse
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOVERINE (2009)
D. GAVIN HOOD
20th Century fuck, uh I mean, FOX
Well the summer movie season has officially begun and I.Q. points could be felt dropping exponentially in the theater even before this movie began to roll. i could literally smell burning brain tissue from synapses dying while the abominable trailer for flickered on screen and the audience sat in raptures silence until the first of at least three dozen explosions appeared. Some how the crushing feeling of disappointment I felt while walking out of TRANSFORMERS 2X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was not felt by the rest of these folks I bet. I'm sure they were more than happy with the mush brained twaddle they had just witnessed. I on the other hand would have liked something more. A lot more.
The movie starts off really strong with our hero as a little boy. A sickly little dude who witnesses a confusing mess of a situation where his adoptive dad is killed by his friend's father, who turns out to be his biological father. In the midst of it all the kid's anger is triggered and bony claws jet out of his hands and he kills the dude. He and his friend, now his brother (who is also a mutant) run into the Forrest away from the prying eyes of normal folks. Cut to then as adults and them fighting in the Civil war, then the First World War, and World War two and then Vietnam. These war sequences are the opening credits and serve to show how the two of them are basically indestructible and somehow immortal. It also shows how his his brother Victor Creed (Liev Shreiber who is very miscast, though tries really hard) aka Sabertooth has grown into loving the taste of blood and violence while James aka Logan and soon to be Wolverine has become a little more laid back and is the only one who can reign his brother in. They both end up killing some fellow soldiers are court marshaled and executed.
But they do not die and are recruited to work for a secret black ops team that is going around the world tracking "items of importance" such as special meteor fragments. But when Logan stops a Mai Lai style massacre and simply walks away (what?!) the team is abandoned and we cut to six years later with him now living in the woods of Canada with a beautiful woman, working as a lumberjack.
These domestic scenes are actually some of the films best moments, especially when he awakes from a nightmare with his claws fully ejected to find his girl already awake, completely calm, simply asking him if it was dreams about the wars again. When she asks him which one, he replies "All of them". he then notices that she is cut on her arm and she dismisses it as no big deal. it is a nice moment that shows what it would be like to live the life of Wolverine, one of the few humanizing moments the character gets. When I want to see an "origin" story, this is the kind of stuff I want to see.
But clearly the studio heads at fox don't agree because the movie is literally stuffed to gills with side characters. So many that it becomes hard to keep track of who they are and what their mutant abilities do. The black ops team Wolverine works for is entirely made up of mutants and just that alone would have made for an interesting movie. But that storyline gets abandoned after about five minutes. It really only exists to introduce us to Ryan Reynolds DeadPool character so they can spin him off into his own movie (which was just green lit as I write this).
Once the movie gets moving with Sabertooth, ugh sorry Victor, killing Logan's girl and tearing through the landscape it should just become a straight ahead revenge tale. But then it goes completely wrong and introduces the "weapon X" program, which has been seen in the other X-Men movies. The stuff where he is implanted with Adamantium into his bones as to become completely indestructible and now has metal claws. With this comes a whole new set of plot twists, new characters, more mutants, old mutants, characters from the other X-Men films, but younger and a plot that keeps folding in on itself just for the sake of doing so. Clearly this was written by committee where people sat around a table and went "Oooo I like that character, put him in!" "I think Wolverine should rescue the characters from the other films, lets do that!" and it is all stewed together with no cohesiveness at all. what you end up with is plot threads that dangle, revisionist history from the other films that doesn't match and the sense of mystery from the character being completely whipped away. I mean even Victor is never called Sabertooth in an attempt to fool the audience in to never noticing that he is the same character from the first X-men movie that we've already seen. The movie is filled with crap like this.
Unfortunately for Hugh Jackman his is completely game for the character doing his best with material that is beneath him and the character as well. More often than not when he is onscreen he almost saves this mess. the scenery (mostly shot in Australia) is gorgeous and the fight scenes are really well handled, save for the climactic battle which is horrible and feels like a video game outtake.
Which leads to another problem, the special effects. for a movie whose budget was nearly $200,000,000 this has some of the worse special effects I've seen in a major motion picture. the big set pieces are fine, but the incidental stuff like wolverine's claws or even people driving in cars, look like shit. Really embarrassing at the end of the day.
Now my comic book loving friends hated this movie even more than I did, because they said it screwed up not only the origins of Wolverine's character, but got wrong just about every detail of all the new characters they introduced as well. I can't comment on that, as I don't read the comics. All I know is that the script is a mess, totally dramatically unsound, the movie's best moments are either fight scenes, or the rare quiet aside, neither of which are enough to save it from total mediocrity.