I had the unparalleled joy of sitting down to watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine this past weekend for the first time since it came out in 2009. I’m here to report that I hate it now as much as I did then.
I’m so glad you asked.
Let’s review a few positives before we dive into the garbage heap. One, Hugh Jackman remains an effective Logan/Wolverine despite some serious handicaps. Two, Danny Huston doing serious military man action is entertaining as hell. Three, all of the metal in this movie is so shiny. Four, the opening war montage is pretty boss.
Other than that, though, there’s only so much bad wire work, painful screaming and over-acting I can take. X-Men Origins: Wolverine falls into a very common comic-movie-of-its-era trap as it tries to translate comics to the big screen. The movie relies too heavily on shot-for-shot attempts to recreate the kinds of iconic moments that can really only happen in sequential action on the page, and there are far too many of them to mix in well with the movie’s deadly serious tone.
I can’t really roll with Wolverine using his claws to rip open all the cages if it’s happening live, because the movie’s controlling how long that moment lasts. If I were reading it in a comic, I could choose to linger or move on pretty quickly, and the placement of the moment on the page would determine how much attention it merits. The amount of time it takes up on the screen and its progression in live action makes it feel cheap and groan-worthy. I also can’t buy Wade’s sword wizardry as it’s happening in a Matrix-esque serious action moment, because it looks super goofy when multiple people with automatic weapons can’t hit a dude with two blades running in a straight line. Similarly, drawing a guy running like an animal is one thing, but Liev Schrieber’s secret hover-cat powers are just painful on the screen. The wires make it so he’s barely touching the ground, and the filmmakers were so in love with the effect that they used it multiple times. The Blob’s fat suit is laughable, and Logan’s claws poking through the boxing glove at the end would work if it was an inset panel, but not as a focal point in a movie. And, lastly, the endless posturing and weird, duels between Sabretooth and Wolverine feel like they’re designed for 19th century theater and, again, work better in print.
It’s hard to translate this weird crap we love in comics onto the big screen. I get it. Many have tried in different ways, to varying degrees of success. Mixing in animation, using wipes and otther outré transitions, utilizing slow-motion, over-cranking the camera – you name it, it’s been tried, and not everything works all the time. Most of it doesn’t work at all, and that’s why some comic movies fail. Your best bet is to translate the property into a visual medium in a way that suits that medium. Nailing the adamantium claw “e-brake” motorcycle turn isn’t pivotal to the quality of your film. People will fight me on that one, but I stand by my statement.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine has a pretty good cast (not you, Gambit) that’s ultimately wasted by bad direction, ill-chosen action set-pieces and a disjointed editing style that means what could’ve just been a nutty, gory cheese-fest ended up as a boring, over-hyped experience. If everyone just did a few more lines and loosened their ties a little more, we’d have the good kind of nightmare to enjoy. As it stands, it’s just a bland, over-ambitious waste of time.
Clearly, I don’t like X-Men Origins: Wolverine at all. That said, we owe this movie a debt, because it’s an absolute miracle that Ryan Reynolds survived this travesty and went on to star in two of the best comic book movies to date. As the same character. He got his start here, as painful as it was, and for that, Gavin Hood and crew, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.