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  X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Tim Pocock

Directed by: Gavin Hood

Produced by: Lauren Shuler Donner, Avi Arad, John Palermo, Ralph Winter

Written by: David Benioff, Skip Woods

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

      While reviewers nearly always criticize a movie when it’s too formulaic, there are also instances in which a movie’s defiance of the established formula is a bad thing. This is true for X-Men Origins: Wolverine (henceforth referred to as just Wolverine), which suffers from the lack of a sustained female lead. Yes, the title protagonist has a lover, but she serves as only an afterthought and obligatory plot-device when compared to Iron Man’s Pepper Potts or The Dark Knight’s Rachel Dawes. In fact, Wolverine’s Kayla (Lynn Collins) is more like the imperiled love-interest you’d see on a Saturday morning cartoon adaptation of a superhero comic book. But as the genre has come into its own in the world of cinema over the years, filmmakers have realized a more vivid, romantic ideal for the woman. In its quest to be all-testosterone, Wolverine loses a piece of soul in trivializing its only prominent female character. Which begs the question: isn’t the most testosterone-charged visual actually that of an attractive vixen?

     Apparently, Wolverine screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods and director Gavin Hood thought that 15-year-old boys’ ideal of machismo was centered not in the lovely lady I desperately wanted to appear, but in non-stop action that’s generally boring for the rest of us. It’s clear that they that they made Wolverine to be a cinematic product, not a piece of art that transcends the comic-book genre (as the aforementioned examples do). The movie was written with its target-audience—not story or character-arcs—in mind, with the expressed interest of making money. Indeed, many (if not most) studio pictures are conceived this way, but rarely have the creators’ intentions been so transparent. Wolverine may stay true to its source, but when has a comic book ever provided a good template for a film to directly copy over to celluloid? Not even the deepest of works—think about how much Zack Snyder had to condense Alan Moore’s Watchmen—can boast this. Whether the plot of Benioff and Woods’ script was already in the comic is irrelevant. When you’ve made a movie with little but repeated action sequences, your commercial intention to appeal only to those who drink blue slushees at the multiplex is offensively transparent.

     That all sounds pretty harsh for a movie I ultimately didn’t hate. I’m far more frustrated by the masses who tell the studios that tired, straightforward pictures like Wolverine should be made than I am by Wolverine itself. For whatever reason, the film hit a lingering nerve in me, but so could have any one of hundreds of others, so I must keep things in perspective. Its uninspired inception notwithstanding, Wolverine is handsomely constructed by director Gavin Hood, who displays striking assuredness for his first mega-budget movie. The action, rote and uselessly abundant as it is, looks good and can be followed in ways that similar material in recent schizophrenic, video-game-imitating productions like Terminator Salvation cannot. On this note, Hood paces the film well given the plot’s triteness. And then there’s Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman, who’s as charismatic as ever, truly the epitome of a movie star. Then again, as one watches the actor in Wolverine, one can’t help but feel scorn for the fact that he didn’t choose a more original film to cash in on. 

     Swiftly executed as the movie may be, however, there still is no way to justify its existence. Fanboys of the comic might make the case that the life-story of Wolverine, from his bravery fighting in America’s wars to his transformation into more than just your average mutant at the hands of the U.S. Army’s William Stryker (Danny Huson), make for a compelling film. While I understand this argument to an extent and was captivated by certain scenes in Wolverine myself, I would respond: doesn’t the process of explaining this character eliminate all the fascinating mystery there was behind him in the previous X-Men films? Nothing reeks of a financially-motivated sequel more than the infamous prequel, and Wolverine is emblematic of this. While not a bad exercise in popcorn-entertainment when viewed on its own merits, Wolverine nonetheless discomfortingly illustrates a larger problem with Hollywood.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 5.9.2009

Screened on: 5.25.2009 at the AMC Burbank 8 in Burbank, CA.


X-Men Origins: Wolverine is rated PG-13 and runs 107 minutes.

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