Monday, May 04, 2009

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"

I saw "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" on Friday night, and though it wasn't the worst summer movie I've seen, it was the worst comic-book movie I've seen. I've been a big Wolverine fan since I started reading comics, but this movie made me forget what I liked so much about his character.

He's a guy with claws that can cut through anything, he's older than dirt but still looks like a ripped 40-year old, and he can never die. Somehow this movie managed to make all of that seem really boring. Part of that might have been because in the first part of the movie, when he's teamed up with his brother, Victor (aka Sabretooth, played by a genuinely menacing Liev Schrieber) and a bunch of other mutants, Wolverine is easily the most useless member of the team. He's got frickin' BONE claws. What's a guy going to do with those? Stab a guy? Isn't a guy with two big knives instantly as qualified as Logan to be a death-dealer?

Wolverine never gets too much cooler than a fairly ineffectual guy with 6 jagged compound fractures. Hugh Jackman does what he can to keep the character he originated interesting (and by the way Wolverine was 10 times cooler in his first scene in "X-Men" then he is in this whole movie), but isn't helped by a muddled, goofy script by David Benioff and Skip Woods. But if you're a motivated director, you can make a shite script look really cool if you know how to shoot action scenes and understand how special effects work. Unfortunately, Director Gavin Woods is so-so to not-very-good on action, but absolutely clueless with special effects. I think there's a whole reel in this movie that could serve as a clinic in how NOT to do green screen work.

"Wolverine" suffers from the same guiding philosophy as last year's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull": CG makes everything better. The result was lots of fakey effects and glaringly bad green screen work. But bad as "Crystal Skull" was on this score, "Wolverine" makes "Crystal Skull" seem like "Aguierre: The Wrath of God." People want to see real people doing real things in real places, but there's precious little of that in "Wolverine." Even Logan's CLAWS are digital -- worse, they look like digital claws. And because the special effects are so bad, a $140 million dollar movie looks like it cost half that much.

I think Gavin Hood, like a lot of non-comic-reading folks, doesn't "get" Wolverine, and, I suspect, never cared about doing a "Wolverine" movie right. The results, sadly, speak for themselves.

But since it made $87 million over the weekend, Fox will wrongly view Hood's film as a success, (just as they will wrongly view Snyder's "Watchmen" a failure), Hood will get to direct/ruin another big-budget studio film, and Fox will likely foist more sub-par "X-Men Origins" movies on filmgoers. If many more of these disappointing comic-book films are released, I suspect the current trend of comic-book-to-film adaptations will fizzle out before some of the great properties have been translated to the silver screen.


Harwell said...

I can't help but suspect that the real problem with this movie lies in its title. Why again are we watching the "origins" of Wolverine when we've already seen him in 3 other X-Men movies??? Judging from your review it seems like such a mistake to try and re-introduce us to a character we already know so well. I mean, at this point I don't really care how Wolverine became Wolverine. I just want to see him kick ass.

It takes a very capable hand to make us forget what we already know about a household character like that. Batman Begins did an okay job with this, but still - compare it to the Dark Knight and there's no question which is the superior film. The lesson there from a creative standpoint should be to skip the origins and just tell a good, new story...

That said, $87 million is $87 million. This model isn't going away anytime soon.

Speck said...

I agree Crane. I was left disappointed by the movie...and the more I think about it the more I dislike it.

Where was the beserker rage? I remember reading that Jackman only agreed to make this if he could play wolverine with the rage and character as he was originally written...boy did fool us.

Where was the short surly little bastard who only cared about himself?

Why do all mutants suddenly have the power to perform "john woo" style dances and matrix style fight moves?

Too many mutant characters packed into too little a story line. Mixed with characterization of wolverine that doesnt fit the persona we know and love. Multiplied by outrageously horrible CG...

they will continue to screw up comic book movies over and over again because they put them into the hands of people who dont care.

Brian said...

I think you're right on origin movies, Shawn. Though I do enjoy seeing the origin stories for some of these characters (Spider Man, Iron Man), it does seem that the 2nd time the franchise visits the character without having to devote so much time getting the protagonist from 0 (regular person) to 10 (iconic superhero we all know and love), you end up with a superior movie (evidence: Spider Man 2, Dark Knight). If a studio concerned with quality (like Warner Bros.) one day got their hands on Wolverine, I wouldn't mind seeing a creative reinvention of the character that could even include something of his origins, so long as it was more faithful to his character. But so long as Fox is the controller of these franchises, we're going to keep getting shite like this. Also, I wasn't a big fan of the big Wolverine origin story Marvel came out with some years back, but it was still a hell of a lot better than the tossed-off patricide scene we get at the beginning of this movie.

And David you bring up a good point I didn't even touch on -- why are all these mutants naturally adept at marital arts? Cheap and easy and thoughtless -- not a whole lot more effort or thought put into this movie than Ratner put into X-Men 3.

As bad as the movie was, it wouldn't have been too hard to make it worthwhile. So many missed opportunities.

1.) We never got to see the bloody carnage those claws could unleash. No one so much as lost a limb. Just a lot of stabbings into heavy coats, or body armor, (most often into Sabretooth, who also, boringly, cannot die.)

2.) This film, Wolverine-focused, would have been the perfect place to really get into the nitty-gritty of Wolverine's existence. How does he heal? What can he heal from? When the logs roll over Logan's prone form and bury him, Sabretooth moves a skinny log and there Wolverine is, unflattened. Unbloodied. Wouldn't it have been interesting to see how obviously crushed and broken bones healed themselves? Would a broken skull suddenly pop back into shape? He doesn't have an adamantium skeleton when this happens -- why would he be anything less than severely injured? At least until his healing factor kicked in. At every turn, this movie shied away from anything that might threaten its PG-13.

3.) An easy way to get geeks going nuts for this movie: find a way to get Logan to don his mask. The one's kids have been scribbling in notebooks for decades. The mask that, more than even his claws, define the aesthetic of the character. You've had about 8 years to find a way to make it work, so ... make it work.

The fact that this movie made so much money is a testament to how much goodwill has built up for this character -- the low quality of the movie is a testament to how little 20th Century Fox values it.

Captain Mike said...

Shut up, all of you! This is the best movie ever made and its only flaw is that the 2nd Unit PAs didn't get credited. You're all nuts!

Harwell said...

I think Yahoo or Variety one had a story today that the sequel is indeed already in the works...

JudgeHolden said...

Hey Mike! We were looking for your name but thought we'd just missed it. That sucks they didn't credit you. If they'll credit the people that did those "special" effects, the least they could have done was credit people who actually worked on the film.

blankfist said...

I saw this last night. Not as terrible as Crane makes it out to be, but not a piece of cinematic art either. The special effects appeared poor at times, but I wonder if this is less about lazy animators and more about trying to blend effects into something shot with a grittier, long lens, non-traditional look than most of these films typically have. Something about the way the director shot the movie felt largely different than Ratner or Singer's X-Men films.

There wasn't standard coverage. There wasn't typical three point lighting. It was shadowy, it was grainy. Never did I feel like the director wanted to "punch in to a medium close up with a 45 degree angle change." It didn't conform, which is a good thing. I think a good comparison will be how the Terminator film effects look compared to this one, because their visual style looks to be very similar.

And, Crane, if you like the Weapon X stories from Marvel, then you have to like the bone claws, because that's where Wolverine originated. It was always a widely held belief his adamantium claws were given to him as opposed to them being a natural part of his mutant makeup. The comic where Magneto removed all of the adamantium from Wolvie's body is still an amazing memory for me! We all thought Wolvie was to die, but of course his healing powers helped him recover after weeks, I believe, of painful healing.

When he awoke, the first image of his bone claws was a breathtaking moment. It's who he is. And, at one point, I remember him breaking one of the bones and having to fight with a broken, bloody bone sticking out from his hand! I'd love to have seen that!

Anyhow, I thought it was okay, but then again I didn't have high expectations for this flick.

blankfist said...

By the way, the Wolverine game is a lot of fun. Short but fun.

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