X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Posted April 30, 2009 in Film

What turned a sickly Canadian boy into the fearsome Wolverine? After this ponderous origin myth, we’re still not sure. Gavin Hood’s prequel opens in 1845 when a young child sprouted claws and killed the wrong man. This is the filler of therapy room couches, but by the opening credits, David Benioff and Skip Woods’ script has abandoned that apparently important plot point, never to return. Here, Logan (Hugh Jackman) and brother Victor (a brutal Liev Schreiber) race from their childhoods by fighting in every important American war in a Watchmen-ish montage complete with shots of Victor (nee Sabretooth) violating women in Vietnam. (What they do between wars is avoided, but bets are they weren’t farming.) Finally, a century after the duo first enlisted, a military commander named Stryker (Danny Huston) notices something is up and asks them to join his super group Team X by appealing to their patriotism. That clearly isn’t the source of their bloodlust (“I’m Canadian,” grunts Logan), but whatever made him devote his life to government-sanctioned murder is quickly scuttled when Logan discovers that compared to his sociopathic brother and the rest of the squad, he just might be a—oh no!— pacifist.


Having scuttled any earnest attempt at biography, X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s approach is shorthand and heavy-handed. Like Wolverine himself, it operates without clarity or rules. In this universe, he’s indestructible; Jackman can walk through a fire without singeing his hair.  But the film acts like we have amnesia, spraying bullets at him in every scene as though their panicked pings will confuse us into feeling suspense. 

Absentmindedness rules the day. In the scene where Wolverine is implanted with adamantium, we have several shots of him in his black skivvies, but when he leaps up to fight his way to freedom, he’s as bare-assed as a freshly time-transplanted T-1000—so much the swoonier for jumping off a waterfall. Jackman has a deft touch, but here he acts with his trapezius. This film fetishizes a thick set of shoulders like they were Jayne Mansfield’s chest. Hood’s flick is a testosterone soap opera plated with allusions—an Iraq War dig here, a Holocaust and Red Scare reference there. This modern superhero burden felt fresh when the first X-Men took on bigotry, but here is used so indiscriminately that it cheapens the film and the true-life parallel atrocity. Instead of rescuing the world, I wish this film would have rescued its script.


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