Like him or not, Wolverine is undoubtable the most popular X-Men character. That was true decades before the movies came out. Hugh Jackman’s performance as the clawed Canadian mutant introduced him to the general public, and it was only a matter of time before he’d get his own movie the same way he was the first X-Man character to get his own ongoing solo series. Enter X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The movie itself might have had potential when it was first conceived, but it’s now pretty much universally considered the worst X-Men movie.
My own personal history with this movie is fairly short. I saw it at a friend’s house not long after it released on DVD. I thought it was kind of fun, but when I tried to watch it a second time, I just couldn’t finish it. That was more than 2 years before I got into comics. I could already tell it wasn’t good back then.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s production problems aren’t a huge secret. Director Gavin Hood had regular disputes with the 20th Century Fox executives. The movie began production with an incomplete script by Skip Woods, who would later write It’s A Good Day To Die Hard and Hitman: Agent 47. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. There were several production delays due to problematic weather and Jackman’s other commitments. And an unfinished work print of the movie even leaked online a month before the movie’s release. This was also Hood’s first action movie, having mostly directed dramas before then. It shows.
Despite its problems and poor critical reception, X-Men Origins: Wolverine earned $373 million on a $150 million budget. However, it didn’t make as much as X-Men: The Last Stand, and its negative reception halted plans for a Magneto origin movie in exchange for combining it with X-Men: First Class.
This movie isn’t completely without its good points. For one, the credits sequence complete with images of Wolverine fighting in different wars throughout history is a nice touch. Liev Schreiber is fantastic as Sabretooth. And, uh … the video game based on the movie is pretty good. Yeah, this movie sucks.
I’ll do my best to avoid talking about contradictions with the comics for this one, even the total mistreatment of Deadpool.
Part of what makes Jackman’s performance as Wolverine work in the first X-Men trilogy is how he developed as a character throughout. He started off as a bit of an animal, but slowly grew more mature. He ended up becoming a bit of a leader and a good team player. Considering his development throughout the trilogy in that direction, you’d think he’d be a complete animal in this movie. He’s not. There’s more than one instance where he tries to stop Sabretooth from committing acts of violence.
There’s an action scene early on with a team of mutants, where Wolverine and Sabretooth are just sitting around while Deadpool and Wraith (a teleporter played by Will.I.Am) are doing all the work. He just walks out on the team when they’re told to execute a group of people. I get the idea of Wolverine leaving the group after that happens, feeling disturbed by his actions, but leaving beforehand instead of trying to stop them makes him look like a wimp. He just doesn’t feel like Wolverine in this movie, at all.
(It’s too bad they never brought Liev back as Sabretooth, because he’s awesome)
The action overuses fast cuts and shaky cam to the point where you’ll sometimes feel sick, most notably in the first duel between Wolverine and Sabretooth. There are a lot of silly moments, like Deadpool spinning around his sword so fast that he’s deflecting hundreds of bullets fired by people surrounding him with machine guns. The gunners don’t even seem to care that they might miss and hit one of their allies on the other side of the room. A lot of the slow motion used just looks silly, like Deadpool slicing a bullet in half with his sword, and each half hits one of the gunmen. There’s a silly moment where Wolverine slowly walks towards the camera with a bad blue screened explosion behind him that’s straight out of a cheesy 80’s action movie. There’s so much else I could go through, but the action in this movie is incredibly silly.
The unfinished script reveals itself through some terrible dialogue as well. “To make you indestructible, first we’ll have to destroy you.” What does that even mean? There’s Fred Dukes misinterpreting Logan’s “Bub” with calling him “Blob” as if those two words sound anything alike. All that misinterpretation turns into is a silly boxing match instead of Blob straight up attacking Wolverine. It’s silly and completely out of place in a Wolverine movie. There’s Deadpool being turned into a weapon with giant blades in his arms. That’s a terrible design choice considering that when the blades are sheathed, he won’t be able to move his arms.
Cyclops appears in this movie, where he gets in trouble for wearing sunglasses in class. All he needed to say is that he had an eye condition and he needs them. The teacher might let him get away with that. But no, he tries to say something clever and he gets in trouble. Also, why is Cyclops a teenager in this movie that takes place in the late 70’s, when he appears to be in his late 20’s in the first X-Men movie that takes place in the early 2000’s?
See what we’re dealing with here? This movie is a complete mess. Wolverine should be behaving more like Sabretooth for the entire movie – an animal. Gambit’s appearance is pure fan bait. Deadpool comes across as more annoying than he does funny. The more you think about the plot, the more it falls apart. They shoehorned in the Three Mile Island incident that involved the collapse of a nuclear power plant, making Wolverine and crew responsible. No wonder every X-Men movie since completely ignores this one.
This movie is awful, with only a handful of redeemable qualities. As misdirected as Wolverine is as a character, Jackman still does a good job portraying him. As terribly written and betrayed Deadpool is, Ryan Reynolds would later prove that he was the perfect casting choice. The merging of Magneto’s origin story into X-Men: First Class due to this movie’s reception proved to be the right choice from the beginning. But none of that even begins to rescue this movie from itself. If there’s one X-Men movie that you should skip under any circumstances, it’s this one. I’d even recommend Generation X over X-Men Origins: Wolverine. At least that one’s surreal enough to be slightly entertaining.
Next up is X-Men: First Class, and although a lot of people enjoy that one, my overall feelings are mixed. After that, it’s The Wolverine, and I’ll be watching the Unleashed cut (it’s basically an R-rated extended cut). Then it’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, my favourite of the team-based X-Men movies so far.