X-Men Origins: Wolverine
This is the worst game of Red Rover ever.

Theatrical Release Date: 05/01/2009
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Will.i.Am, Taylor Kitsch

A considerable amount of hype and hoopla has surrounded the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” project ever since it was announced. One of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters, the studio is expecting huge box office figures and fans of Weapon X/Wolverine/Logan/whatever you want to call him are hoping that the faithful treatment of such high profile characters like Batman and Iron Man will translate to this project.

Well, unfortunately, I have to say that the hard core fans are not going to be too happy to sit through this one. Director Gavin Hood and screenwriters David Benioff & Skip Woods appeared to have begun in the right place but as the film unfolds, more and more inaccuracies in the Marvel Universe pop up and quickly eradicate all of the good will built up over the film’s first hour.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking: “You’re a comic book nerd and this won’t affect the average moviegoer”. There is some truth to that but even during the opening exposition scenes where I found myself slightly irritated at changes to Wolverine and the other characters, I could at least chalk that up to the process of adapting the source material for the big screen. I completely understand that you can’t possibly work every nuance into the film … but you also don’t have to change so many items or invent mind-numbingly terrible story resolutions as a result.

Jackman and the cast do a relatively good job here, making the characters feel largely believable. Liev Schrieber seemed to just be channeling a large hungry dog for much of his scenes but it didn’t appear the script asked much more from him. Ryan Reynolds actually worked for the role of Deadpool (a fast-talking, psychotic mercenary) but his character is the one most wronged by the script (and I can’t say more without some major spoilers). Lynn Collins was a nice choice for Silverfox and anchored the romantic element of the film but that element of the film also irritates me as a comic book nerd (it’s fine for those who aren’t).

Maybe the worst inclusion of a character is Gambit (played marginally okay by Taylor Kitsch). Also a supremely popular character in the comic book world, fans were amped to see him in this film. Sadly, while we do get to see him fight and use his powers, the script uses the character as little more than a plot device. Who tells Wolverine where to find the bad guys? Gambit. Who helps Wolverine get there? Gambit. Who’s there to take orders from Wolverine later? Gambit. Honestly, they might as well have cast a travel agent with super powers.

I suppose I’ll start the downward slide into full rant regarding the rest of the film with Gavin Hood. I’m a very big fan of his 2005 South African film, “Tsotsi“. While I didn’t quite understand how after that and “Rendition” he would manage to helm the Wolverine project, I was hopeful and waited to see what would happen. Well, it’s painfully obvious that Hood doesn’t know how to properly frame and set up action scenes, as many of the fights are just poorly done wire-work as mutants (regardless of their actual powers) leap to and fro and the camera jumps around like a jackrabbit on uppers.

Oddly enough, Hood also failed to create any real tension in most of the film, even in scenes as potentially nerve-wracking as seeing how Wolverine’s skeletal structure was infused with the hardest metal known in the Marvel universe (adamantium for the geeks out there). Also, in an effort to create memorable trailer-worthy effects shots, Wolverine and the gang are constantly posing and flexing and dramatically roaring. Sure, that makes a good one-off moment but slid into the context of the film, it’s like watching a flamingo preen – it may be pretty but I’m at the zoo for bigger game.

While Hood’s poor action style is one thing, the script is perhaps the biggest cause for failure here. Benioff (of “Troy” and “Stay” fame) and Woods (freakin’ “Hitman” and “Swordfish”) were given the final credits on what dictionaries tend to classify as a screenplay. Initially, the film sticks fairly close to Wolverine’s back story and I was legitimately enjoying the first two thirds of the movie. Then it’s as if a switch was flipped and the film I was watching was replaced with Folger’s Crystals. The big bad villain is a slap in the face to comic book fans and just absurd for anyone in the audience not familiar with the characters’ origins.

And therein is the true problem: Not only have the filmmakers not bothered to keep die-hard fans happy, the general public in all likelihood will just find the film’s final thirty minutes, for lack of a better word, dumb. Still, since reviews for films of this nature rarely stop the curious moviegoer, I do want to make sure you get your full money’s worth and let you know to stick around until the end of the credits, since there’s some footage still to be shown there. I think it put the cherry on the Hot Mess Sundae but I think by now you know how I feel.

Putting all of that rant together, what begins as something promising ends up as something much less and so a 2 out of 5 is all I can muster for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. The scariest thought is that if asked to recommend a film to see this weekend, while it’s obvious the female crowd will skew towards “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past“, I’d even recommend that to guys before sending them into this latest comic book adaptation … which is just sad for me on so many levels.