A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 139 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – July 17th, 2010

I’ve mentioned I’m cool with AUs, right? Because I am. Aside from the Callisto nonsense in the last movie, I mostly roll with the punches. The thing about this movie is that it’s an AU of an AU and I think that might have put some people off. This isn’t just an earlier point in the same timeline as the three we watched earlier this week. There’s a new Sabretooth, and he’s kind of key to the plot, and while it’s sort of maybe possible to work in that Scott’s the same, since he never sees Wolverine, I don’t really buy it since let’s face it, Wolverine is pretty memorable even without a visual. So I take this as its own timeline and its own universe, just with two of the same cast, one of whom is the star.

I like a good origin story, and I admit I’m not terribly familiar with Wolverine’s comic canon origin. I’ve got a passing knowledge of it, but not enough to call out particular changes. I’m relatively certain that Fred Dukes isn’t part of it, or Bolt, but to be honest, I don’t really mind mixing things up a little. AU and all. My biggest complaint about the team really stems from the fact that in essence this is a Hugh Jackman (and Liev Schreiber) vehicle. It’s not an ensemble movie. And yet it has what all the X-Men movies have: A whole host of mutants. There’s the aforementioned Bolt and Blob (Dukes), plus John Wraith, Agent Zero, Wade Wilson and Remy LeBeau, then a twist character and a number of minor characters like Scott Summers and Emma Frost (only identifiable by her diamond form and name in the credits) and some unnamed mutants whom I could speculate on but eh, we don’t really see most of them long enough.

Anyhow, I do enjoy seeing Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth, and they make a good core for the movie, because hey, there’s some good stuff set up with them as brothers. The whole intro with them as soldiers, fighting in war after war, not aging, not dying. And then setting them against each other. It works for me, and not just because I’ve got a thing about the down sides of immortality. Jackman and Schreiber work together well in my opinion. But they introduced all these other fun characters and then got rid of them, some of them with barely a line or two. I like the ensemble nature of the other movies. I like meeting all the mutants and spotting the cameos. I get why this one is different, being Wolverine’s movie and all, but I’d have liked to see more of the team, since we were given such an intro for them.

All that being said, let’s talk about the plot. It’s decent enough, as plots go. We start out with Logan and Victor as kids and there’s some drama and they run off together and the opening credits take us through time with some really nice visuals of the two brothers through history until we reach just before present day. They join up with a man named Stryker and his elite team of mutants, Team X, who carry out special missions for the military. Logan ends up splitting off from the group when he realizes he can’t condone the tactics they use – namely killing innocents – and then we finally get to present day where he’s a lumberjack in Canada, living with his girlfriend. Eventually Stryker finds him and there’s all sorts of maneuvering to get Logan back under Stryker’s command. Of course it happens, since we need to see Logan get his nifty adamantium skeleton grafts, and there’s a nice callback to a flashback Wolverine has in one of the earlier movies, with him bursting up out of the tank in which the adamantium grafting was done. And so Logan, now Wolverine, goes on a quest to seek out both Victor and Stryker, eventually enlisting the help of Remy LeBeau (the only mutant known to have escaped from Stryker) and getting a whole bunch of people killed. And it all ends with a climactic fight first between Wolverine and Victor, and then between the two of them and the newly awakened Deadpool (Weapon XI).

I’ll spend a little bit of time on Deadpool here, because I know there are issues and some of them segue into the AU stuff I mentioned at the beginning. I’m not really that familiar with Wade Wilson/Deadpool. I know he’s got a huge fan following, but I just didn’t encounter him all that much in my reading and I had my own favorites (like Callisto). So when this movie opened and I heard criticism, I did a little reading. And, okay, yeah. They took some major liberties in this movie. The whole Weapon XI thing, with the patchwork quilt of mutant powers? Not so true to canon, but not being a huge Deadpool fan, it doesn’t push my personal buttons, and I forgive it in light of what Stryker was trying to do. It’s established that Stryker does some hideous things to and with mutants, using them as weapons against each other. So I’ll buy it. It’s a little much to toss Scott in the mix in my opinion, but we get a fun cameo out of it so really, I won’t quibble too much. I’ll leave the Deadpool-based nerd rage for someone who feels about him like I do about Callisto and let it go.

So okay, this movie has some problems. It feels choppy at times and it’s massively over-the-top in many ways. I feel that a large number of characters got short shrift due to the nature of the storyline and I don’t buy Taylor Kirsch as Remy, though I’ll allow that he did make an effort. But then I forgive the bizarre inclusion of Emma Frost simply because even modified as she is in both powers and background, she’s immediately identifiable. I do like the core story with Victor and Logan, and I think the movie takes a good amount of what I know about Wolverine’s backstory, a heaping dose of what we were given in the first trilogy, and melds them into a new AU in a way that mostly works, story-wise. I could wish it was smoother. I could wish a lot of things. But it was still fun to watch and it didn’t make me froth at the mouth, so I’ll leave off the wishing and hope any future X-Men/mutant-based movie projects are halfway decent.

July 17, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

July 17, 2010

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

With the X-Men trilogy over Marvel and Fox had to decide how they were going to wring some more money out of the franchise. Rather than continue to make bigger and more extravagant movies to follow up the third one what they chose was to attempt to start a new series. The X-Men Origin series. I’m pretty sure that this was intended to be the first of several origin stories, each concentrating on a different member of the X-Men team. What’s not clear to me is why there hasn’t been talk about any more. They very wisely chose to center this story on Wolverine (and Hugh Jackson.)

This was a smart move for several reasons. For one, and the most obvious reason, both Wolverine and Hugh are extremely bankable. He was the best part of the trilogy and a runaway star. (We’ll just forget for now about Van Helsing… that’s a review for another day.) Besides – there’s such fertile ground here. So many unanswered questions about Wolverine’s past. Who was he before he became Weapon X? Where did he come from? What’s lost in all those memories of his that he doesn’t have any more? Another advantage to using Wolverine is that since he is pretty much ageless they could use the same actor from the other movies and place this one in just about any time period they liked.

Unfortunately this is also the movie’s biggest problem. Since none of the other characters in the movie are played by the people who played them in the original trilogy (except for a brief cameo at the very end) and since some of the story told here doesn’t mesh perfectly with the other movies this movie feels like it’s not really in the same universe exactly as those other movies. And yet there’s Hugh playing the same old Wolverine, so it’s a little odd. Still, there’s so much contradiction and so many alternate universes in the X-Men comic books that it doesn’t really faze me any. It’s nowhere near as awful as the constant flaws in the Star Wars prequels, for example.

The movie begins way back in olden days (here depicted as a time of doublets and hurricane lamps) with sickly young Jack Logan and his half-brother Victor Creed. The two of them flee together as boys when their father is killed by Logan in a rage and, through a very cool montage during the opening credits, the two of them fight together in every major war that the US has taken part in. The Civil War, WWI and II, and Vietnam. Ultimately they are recruited by a young William Stryker into his band of badass Mutant commandos and they gallivant around the world doing whatever to secret Mutant commandos do. When during one mission Stryker starts slaughtering innocent villagers in search of a source of adamantium Logan refuses to have any part in it and goes renegade. He tries to leave his past behind him and settle down for a sort of simple domestic life in rural Canada.

Inevitably his past (in the form of Victor and Stryker) catches up to him. To avenge the death of his girlfriend he agrees to undergo the adamantium bonding procedure, but then quickly escapes from the government facility where the procedure was done (here the facility is not at the foot of a big dam but at the top of a big waterfall) and decides to hunt down and kill Victor and Stryker. It’s a very straight forward plot, especially after the last two X-Men movies, but it works well. It presents an opportunity to introduce some more mutants to the movie universe and it has some stupidly over-the-top action scenes.

It’s a fun movie, if not a brilliant one, and in spite of the fact that it doesn’t fit too well with the other X-Men movies I enjoy it. Hugh does a lot of grimacing and posing with his claws out and no shirt. (No clothes at all for a little while even.) There’s plenty of explosions and, yes, I enjoyed seeing Gambit, Blob and all the other new additions being put through their paces. And I think the movie did reasonably well when it was released. So it was a success and achieved everything it set out to do, but even so there’s been no indication that X-Men Origins: Storm or X-Men Origins: Beast are in the works. Perhaps the concept only actually works with Wolverine. With any other character they’d need to re-cast the lead roles, which would kind of dissociate the spin-offs from the rest of the franchise. Besides – there are so many other Marvel characters that can be used to line the pockets of the studio. Why keep milking X-Men when you have Ryan Reynolds (who here plays Wade Wilson and Deadpool) appearing in a big budget Green Lantern movie next summer? And you’ve got Captain America, Thor, The Avengers and Nick Fury too. So many properties, so little time! (Still waiting for the official announcement of the Runaways movie.)

July 17, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment