X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I know, I know. I've already reviewed this film before. "Is Asteroid G just going to rehash the same movies over and over again?" Well, no, but with the finalization of the Disney/Fox merger, it's assured at this point that the X-MenLaunched in 1963 and written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men featured heroes distinctly different from those featured in the pages of DC Comics. Mutants who didn't ask for their powers (and very often didn't want them), these heroes, who constantly fought against humans who didn't want "muties" around, served as metaphors for oppression and racism. Their powerful stories would form this group into one of the most recognizable superhero teams in comics (and a successful series of movies as well). will be merged into the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe., with different actors playing all the main characters as well as (obviously) and entirely new continuity for the team. With the upcoming Dark Phoenix debuting this summer (and New Mutants supposedly heading the Hulu), we're seeing the last death throes of the Fox X-Men Universe. And it seems like the series deserves one last look before we put it out to pasture.
And so we begin with what is arguably the worst film in the entire, convoluted series. It's convenient in one way because it allows me to get this cinematic train wreck out of the way early. But it also allows me to view the series from a different perspective: chronological. Now, the X-Men films are pretty much impossible to watch in true chronological order because the films effectively rebooted themselves half-way in, using Days of Future Past as a means to remove half the films from continuity and change a bunch of stuff. As such we're going to go through the old time line first before bouncing back in time and visiting the reboot 'verse after. And no matter how you look at it, we have to get X-Men Origins: Wolverine out of the way as quick as we can.
Before going back and watching it for this review I'd only ever seen Wolverine once before. That time was in the theaters and my disappointment was so bad that I refused to go back to the film even when I wrote a review of it ten years ago. I'm pretty consistent in my desire to always watch a movie again before I review it, no matter how recently I'd just seen the film, but I remembered this film being so terrible that I just couldn't do it. I did it now and, honestly, I was probably right the first time around: X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a movie that no one should ever have to watch (even if they're just writing content for a website). It's truly, wretchedly bad.
Most people argue that the film peaks in its early going, and I'm not going to debate that. It's opening scenes are certainly its best, but that's not really saying much. Even the opening is pretty terrible, it just happens to be better than the rest of the film. We get an early scene set in the Canadian Wilderness of the 1800s (that, honestly, has little bearing on the rest of the movie and is poorly acted to boot) before we get a montage of James Howlett / Logan / Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed / Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber), apparently immortal half-brother mutants who fight their way through every major war of the next century. Then, after Vietnam, the two join a covert ops team, lead by William Striker (Danny Huston). However, after seeing Striker's methods in action, Wolvie leaves the team, heading back into the wilderness to settle down for a quiet life.
Years later, when Logan is dating Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins) and working as a lumberjack, his life is thrown into chaos when the old team shows up again. Sabertooth is apparently killing old members of the team and Striker wants Logan to help him catch the half-brother and end the murders. Before too long Kayle ends up dead (apparently at Sabertooth's hands) and Logan is signing up for Striker's new experimental procedure: the Weapon X program that will give Logan adamantium-covered bones. That's when Logan finds out that Striker has no plans to catch Sabertooth and, somehow, everyone is working together against Logan. Now the Wolverine has to get his revenge and stop all the evil experiments.
Now, obviously we're watching this movies out of their original release order, something we can do because this movie is a prequel. The issue with X-Men Origins: Wolverine is that the film is not a self-contained sequel -- much of the plot of the movie hinges on details from previous films (X-Men and X2: X-Men United). The whole story seems to exist solely to flesh out Wolverine's back-story in more detail, this despite us essentially learning all these details already in the second X-Men film. This film is just a rehash of back-story from a much better movie, attempting to shade in details that didn't need shading. It really doesn't serve any purpose and, ultimately, goes nowhere.
For instance we already knew that Logan joined Striker's project so that he could have metal put on his bones. Does it help our understanding of the character to know he did it for revenge instead of just to be a good, loyal soldier? Arguably, no. The Logan from later movies doesn't have his memories, an implied side-effect of the adamantium procedure, so knowing his back-story from before that event, the things that lead up to him losing his memory, doesn't really change anything when these aren't a core part of his character anymore. He doesn't remember any of it, never really gets his memories back, so what's the point of all this?
And then there's the fact that he loses his memories in this film in the dumbest way possible. Before, the movies implied the trauma of the adamantium procedure is what stripped Logan of his memories, that the pain was so great his mind couldn't take it and wiped itself out. That actually makes a certain amount of sense; brains have been known to do things like that, to hide details (or whole identities) if the trauma around them is too great. Here in Wolverine, though, Logan survives the procedure fully intact. It's only near the end of the film when he's shot in the head with an adamantium bullet that his memory is wiped out. It's such a dumb detail that the movie has to set it up more than once to make sure we understand that, "yes, this really will wipe out his memory. Trust us!"
Here's the problem: a traumatic brain injury can cause damage and, yes, in some cases it can wipe away sections of memories. What it's unlikely to do is wipe away just the memories. People have suffered bullets, knives, pipes, posts, and whatever else you can think of through the brain and survived and in most (probably all) cases they haven't had their memory wiped. Sure, their personality changed at least somewhat, usually making them more prone to anger (so that detail is on point for the notoriously uncontrollable Logan), but they don't lose everything about who they were. And they certainly don't lose only their memories but still retain everything else about them like language and control of their body. If Logan's brain injury was bad enough to wipe out his memory, more than likely he'd also have to relearn all basic language and motor function in the process. This bullet to the head just doesn't pass the smell test.
But then this movie isn't really concerned with giving us a coherent, believably dip into Wolverine's past. It can't even really give us a solid ending since all the major players here -- Wolverine, Sabertooth, and Striker -- show up in later films. No one can die and nothing can really be resolved because they all are still alive a decade later (in-continuity). It's especially glaring in the case of Striker -- this movie is so concerned with Striker's evil experiments but it can't actually do anything to stop him because Striker is up to the same tricks years later in X-Men United, so the film doesn't even have a proper resolution. The best it can give us is a half-hearted boss fight (against a mangled and maligned Deadpool) before rolling the credits.
Really, this movie exists to do one thing: set up a bunch of mutants that would have then gotten their own movies. Ryan Reynolds famously only did this movie so he could play Wade Wilson and get Deadpool his own spin-off. Don't get me wrong, Wade is one of the best characters in the early going (because even here Reynolds knew exactly the character he wanted to play), but after the opening scenes the character disappears only to show up later as Weapon XI, a mutant with his mouth sewn shut. This isn't Deadpool, and Reynolds was as displeased with that they did to the character as everyone watching in theaters (which he then got to make fun of in both the first and second Deadpool films).
Other characters are clearly in here only to get films (that, thankfully, never happened). At the mid-way point the Cajun hero Gambit is introduced and the studio fully expected to make a Gambit movie after this film. Except Gambit here really sucks, in performance and action, and the studio would then shelve the project for years (until quietly sweeping it under the rug as part of the Disney merger). Other mutants are included presumably because they would have been villains later, like Blob, or so they can serve a plot function before getting killed off. None of them actually matter and only serve to make the film feel even more disjointed and disposable.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn't a movie so much as a collection of scenes filmed to setup other superhero movies in the pipeline. That makes it a lot like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a comparison that doesn't neither of the film any favors. It's essentially Fox thinking the X-Men series was unstoppable right before learning how little fans really cared for the direction the franchise was headed down. After this film the series would have to reboot just to remove the stain this movie left on the continuity.
Going back and watching the film again with fresh eyes knowing full well how bad the movie was and how disposable are the characters were, I still can't understand how the studio thought this film was a good idea. It's not that it's stupid (which it is) or poorly made (that too) but it's simply that the movie isn't even fun. It's a slog from one end to the other, unenjoyable in its utter tediousness. Someone should have come along and said, "hey, you know what, let's not put this out in theaters for the betterment of mankind." If someone had managed to actually make that stick they would have deserved a Nobel Prize. In some other universe people bandy about how awful the Wolverine film must have been to never see the light of day. A leaked bootleg would exist and people would covert it in the same way people enjoy bootlegs of the Star Wars Christmas Special and Roger Corman's Fantastic Four.
Unfortunately we exist in this world and X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a movie that was actually released in theaters. Sadder still, it actually turned a profit: $373 Mil on a $150 Mil budget. Those aren't astronomical numbers, but it does mean that plenty of people went to the theater even after hearing how bad this film would be. It implies some people went more than once. That boggles my mind.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a bad movie. There's absolutely no way I can imagine people can like this movie. It's bad at the start, worse at the finish, and never once justifies its own existence. It was so bad that Fox later had to reboot it out of continuity and, eventually, Disney is going to do us a favor by rebooting the whole franchise. More than one reboot is needed to wipe this travesty away. Even then it will still exist, mocking me from my movie shelves. I see you, Wolverine, and I hate you.
Okay, so obviously we already discussed how this movie retcons how Wolvie lost his memory. That's a stupid detail, to be sure, but what I find even more questionable is that fact that Sabertooth is supposedly his half-brother here and yet Sabertooth doesn't show any recognition towards Logan later on in the original X-Men. Obviously they weren't half-brothers when the first film was made, but since the films explicitly treat them as the same character, it's hard to accept that now. Did Sabertooth also somehow lose his memory? Where my origin film for that tale?
Meanwhile, we also have the first appearance of a girl that very much looks like the White Queen / Emma Frost. The girl is named Emma and she's the sister of Kayla Silverfox. The intent was for this character to be Emma Frost, diamond skin and all. Although she doesn't exhibit telepathic abilities here, her sister had them so it's not a stretch that she could as well. But then X-Men: First Class introduced a different, 1960s-set Emma Frost, so now we effectively have two versions of the character running around in different time periods. This wouldn't get cleared up until the film series was rebooted for the first time.
Other issues are less glaring, of course. Here Scott Summers / Cyclops is a high school student who gets captured by Striker. His later origin story in X-Men: Apocalypse doesn't have any mention of Striker, but that film takes place after the reboot. Really, anything that's a continuity issue after Days of Future Past no longer counts. That movie removed Wolverine from the continuity, and I will always love the movie for that if for nothing else.