Thoughts on X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I actually saw this the weekend it was released (two weeks ago, now), but various things conspired against posting about it at that time.  I shall now rectify this grave, grave oversight.

I thought it was okay.  It entertained me, but didn’t make a whole lot of sense, and there were huge plot holes.  It also heavily truncated Wolverine’s history from the comics.  It was, however, much better than X-Men: The Last Stand or Spider-Man 3, and light years ahead of some Marvel-inspired films.  (Ghost Rider, I’m looking at you.)

So, the movie worked reasonably well as a mindless summer blockbuster—some cool bits, nice action sequences, and, well, that’s really all.  It didn’t really offer any deep insight into the character, or if it does, the ending sort of makes that irrelevant.  It suffers in comparison to some of the recent excellent superhero movies by just being a summer action movie.  So, pretty darn entertaining, but sort of empty.

I’ll get more specific after the cut.

SPOILER ALERT

First of all, a minor complaint… Could they pick a more awkward name name than X-Men Origins: Wolverine?  When they do the inevitable sequel, is that going to be X-Men Origins 2: Wolverine Harder, or X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2, or what?  Is the Deadpool spin-off going to be X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Deadpool, or somesuch?  I understand there’s probably going to be a Magneto origin movie, and possibly a Professor X one, but really, pick a better way of naming them.  Honestly.

Ahem.

Also, why was there no blood in this movie?  Wolverine has massive bone/metal claws on the back of his hands, and frequently uses them to slice and stab people, yet they never get bloody and you never see people bleed.  I know they wanted to appeal to kids, but really, would a PG-13 movie about a superhuman killing machine be too much to ask for, really?  I hope they release a director’s cut in which people actually bleed when they get cut.

Onto the story.  The first part of the movie really just felt like a montage or flashback.  It loosely adapted the Wolverine Origin comic, inexplicably made Sabretooth his brother, and then jumped to being recruited out of Vietnam for a version of Team X.  It jumps ahead again, to Logan’s final mission before quitting, and then cuts again to a few years later.  It just made this whole chunk feel like a flashback that was a smaller part of a bigger movie, but it wasn’t framed as such.

We finally get to the start of the actual story of this movie.  Logan (which is either a fake name, or was made into his last name despite the comics, or something) is living with this chick, who, as stated by Jenn, was an amalgam of several characters from Wolvie’s life.  Sabretooth shows up, kills her, and kicks Wolvie’s ass, which convinces him to let Stryker fill him up with adamantium.  It turns out that Stryker was more interested in the experiment than Wolvie’s revenge, and this pissed off Logan, so he runs away, naked.

So, at this point, from the comics, we would know that Wolverine has been driven insane and lost most his memories.  He would run around in the Canadian wilderness for a number of years, until found by the founders of Alpha Flight, who take him in and rehabilitate him.

But that’s a fun part of his past they have decided to remove in the movie universe.  Instead, he runs into an old couple (the Hudsons, named for the honeymooning couple that found him in the comic), who help him out and die in short order.  Wolvie kicks some serious ass, and sets out to do some more.

The plot unfolds in a fairly straightforward fashion, thereafter, except for the inexplicable inclusion of lots of popular but unnecessary characters (*cough*Gambit*cough*).  Ass gets kicked, deceptions revealed, and Wolvie ends up shot in the head and loses his memory.

That was all well and good, but much of this stuff happened to serve the plot, not because it made any sense.

Take Gambit, for instance.  He starts to fight Wolverine because he thought he was working with the guys who had captured him before, including Sabretooth.  Moments later, when Wolverine is about to kill Sabretooth, Gambit inexplicably interrupts, rather than running away, because, well, it was too early to end the movie.  Once Sabretooth escaped, Gambit and Wolvie naturally teamed up.

Or at the end, when the kids are escaping, and Professor X guides Scott telepathically to lead them to a helicopter and escape.  Why speak only to Scott?  And how did he know they were escaping?  Did he know they were there all along and do nothing?

(Actually, in my desire to satisfactorily explain this, I came up with an idea: What if Gambit and Professor X were working together?  Xavier knew about the kids, and knew Gambit had escaped, but together they didn’t have the resources to break into the Island.  When the unstoppable Wolverine showed up, however, they realized they could use him to get the kids out, and that is why Gambit broke up the fight—so that Logan would have a reason to go to the Island.)

Also, why the hell didn’t Sabretooth betray any recognition of Logan in the first X-Men movie if they’re brothers?  He also seemed a lot dumber than in this movie, too.

So, apart from these sort of plot holes, I found the movie pretty enjoyable.  It just lacked depth.  There are a number of things that could have made the movie better, I think.

First of all, at one point, when Wolverine has Sabretooth at his mercy, he doesn’t pop the claws through his head, and knocks him out instead.  I think he totally should have done it—there’s precedent in the comics, and a bit of brain damage might explain some memory loss and stupidity.

I would have liked Wolvie’s life to be a bit more tragic.  In the comic, he’s ended up causing the death of nearly every woman he ever loved—part of his memory loss is a defense mechanism to save him from the deep emotional trauma.  From the movie, we see he’s had a violent life, but no continual tragedy.  Even when his girlfriend dies, it was heroically.  And memory loss from being shot in the head?  Those bullets (according to those who know these things) didn’t even hit anywhere near the memory centres of the brain.

I would have preferred that either Kayla (his dead touch-telepath girlfriend) made him forget, before dying, to spare him the pain.  Or else that he actually met up with Xavier and asked for a mind wipe, since there was nothing about his life he wanted to remember.  Those would have been interesting character directions (and tie in better to comments in X2: X-Men United).  Instead, the headshot takes his memories.  Not conscious choice, or compassion, or overwhelming pain and trauma.  Just a lucky shot to the head.

Frankly, if they had started at the bit where we was working as a lumberjack—waking up from his nightmare, perhaps—and used flashbacks to reveal all the stuff that came before, in a timely fashion, the movie might have felt more coherent, too.

On a final note, they did something in the end credits that I can’t decide whether its sneaky or clever.  When I saw it, there was a little clip showing that Deadpool survived, and could speak, and this set up a Deadpool spin-off.  However, other people who saw it indifferent places said it showed Wolverine, in Japan, drinking in a bar and trying to remember.  This sets up the Wolverine Origin sequel that has been approved.  So there are two prints out there.  I find it neat, but also sneaky.

So, yeah… I’ve rambled on quite a bit about this one.  Perhaps because I know so much about the character, and how this movie could have been better, even though it was pretty okay as it is.  It was fun and entertaining, and if a movie can manage that, it does better than most, these days.