Monday, May 11, 2009

FanBoyWonder Film Review—X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Hello everyone. So sorry that we’ve been away…again. Life has taken a couple very interesting turns these past several weeks and among other things, recent events have taken a toll on our creative side. Writer’s block isn’t so bad if you are a dental hygienist but very, very ungood if you are a professional writer.

Yet the sometimes you just have to find the time, get back into the batter’s box and start swinging at fastballs until you connect. So that said, FanBoyWonder took a much needed break this past weekend from said current events for a two hour distraction at the cinema. Look for our next posting sometime sooner than six weeks hence—we promise.

Okay, then…let’s get it on.

The Upshot from 20th Century Fox: Leading up to the events of X-Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the story of Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed (Live Schreiber) and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe.

FanBoyWonder walked out of the movies on Saturday last night with some mixed feelings. Wolverine did everything that a comic book film and an action movie should do—advance the hero/protagonist (along with the viewer) through the adventure—but like most prequels, the story was limited by the need to stay (more or less) true to the previously told events of the other X-films while also trying to stay fresh in the moment.

Despite some dragging during the first half of the film, Wolverine was decently paced with a couple of genuine surprises yet it failed to reach that critical mass of excitement.

Having long ago stopped reading X-Men and Marvel Comics in general, we went into the movie familiar with Wolverine but not knowing his back story chapter and verse. So it was surprisingly pleasant to enjoy the movie without being overly hung up (or even aware) on the differences between Logan’s comic book history and the movie’s adaptation of the character.

Hugh Jackman continues to shine in the title role. It’s funny to remember that Jackman was the second choice to play Wolverine and got the part only due to another actor’s scheduling conflict. Yet from the very first scene in 2000’s X-Men, Jackman owned the role.

However, even here in his own solo adventure, Jackman’s Wolverine still seems a bit sedate. Too much of the man and not enough of the animal. We see hints of it but we have yet to see Jackman’s Logan in full throttle berserker mode.

Ironically, it is Schreiber as Victor Creed…the future Sabertooth …that displays the most feral ferocity. You just know that this guy is bad seed but there’s a hint of nobility in him that makes us like him in spite of himself.

The film does stay true to the X-film’s continuity despite the fuzzy timeline. We guess it takes place about 1980 given WHERE the bad guy’s secret HQ is located.

The main bad buy is Col William Stryker (Danny Huston), who was previously introduced in X2: X-Men United. Danny Hudson does a good job of playing a younger version of the character first played so deftly by the great Brian Cox while at the same time adding his own presence.

However, it’s a major failure of the script that fails to deliver the story’s promise to fully flesh out Striker’s origins and motives in his ruthless dealings with mutant-kind. Despite a valiant effort by Hudson, Striker is just your ordinary, average crazed military guy eager to “take the fight to the enemy” in a “preemptive strike” to “protect Americans.”

Okay…FanBoyWonder has never served, never wore a uniform (unless you count Cub Scouts) and we’ve never so much as done a single boot camp push-up, but we don’t think it’s too much to ask that Hollywood portray the military and armed forces personnel as something other than blood crazed killers and/or rigid dopes who obey orders but never think.

In other words, come on Hollywood, let’s let the military be part of the solution in a story rather than the problem for a change. But we digress.

This wouldn’t be an X-Men movie without a plethora of mutants. Some we knew, some we were meeting for the first time.

Ryan Reynolds does little more than a cameo as Wade Wilson, a sword swinging mutant along with Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), an expert tracker and lethal marksman; Wraith (, a teleporter; Fred J. Dukes (Kevin Durand), The Blob, a morbidly obese and super-strong behemoth; and Bradley (Dominic Monaghan), who can manipulate electricity.

We also get to see a young Scott Summers and future Cyclops and Emma Frost who lead a rag-tag band of imprisoned kid mutants. Patrick Stewart makes a welcome but all too brief cameo as Charles Xavier/Professor X. However, the CGI attempt to de-age Stewart into a younger Xavier looked so ridiculous that it was a distraction.

We couldn’t help but smile mid-way through the film when Striker tried to appeal to Logan’s patriotism to leave the simple life of a lumberjack with a beautiful woman living on a mountain cabin and come back into the fold.

“Your country needs you,” says Col. Striker. “I’m Canadian,” Logan retorts.

Good day eh? Who says the Great White North doesn’t have anti-heroes. Bob and Doug McKenzie, Rodney McKay and of course that wacky Wolverine, Logan. So take off you hosers.

The “Easter egg” at the end features Logan “drinking to remember” in a bar in what looks like Tokyo. This leads us to think Wolverine will be “Turning Japanese” for the sequel. Personally, we hope for an adaptation of the 1982 classic “Wolverine 4-issue mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, back in the day before they both jumped the shark.

The Bottom Line: The fight and actions scenes were competent and even well executed but it fell short of spectacular. That pretty much sums up our take on X-Men Origins: Wolverine—neither un-watchable nor uncanny.
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