Review: X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)


RATING: 2.5/5

Back in summer 2006, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND has shocked and disappointed (every) fans and audiences alike by abruptly killing off some of the important main characters in a row -- e.g. James Marsden's Cyclops and Patrick Stewart's Professor X -- but the film managed to make decent money in the box-office. 


 
Three years later, the X-MEN universe is back on the big screen again, with Fox gambles to lay out some of the most important characters one by one by telling each of their origin stories, beginning with X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. 
The film's project is certainly ambitious but likewise, as for the notoriously-troubled Fox studio, it is not without a few share of problems. There's a report that original director Gavin Hood (who got the job after Zack Snyder, Len Wiseman and Brett Ratner have passed) got "fired", following from the angry dispute against the studio, citing for "creative indifference". In the end, Fox have to bring in veteran Richard Donner to doctor most of the film. Despite the troubled production history does end with a complete film, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE continues to be a film stamped with "bad sign" all over the place. On March 31, 2009, a full length DVD-quality workprint of the film without a timecode or watermark, with some unfinished CGI shots, a missing 20-minutes footage, a different typeface for titles and casting, alternate sound effects, and a temporary soundtrack, was leaked online. Not long after, the leaked version quickly became the most downloaded film in the internet, and prompted the studio to take legal action via FBI and MPAA to investigate the illegal posting. The evidence is found that the leaked print contained a reference to Rising Sun Pictures, an Australian visual effects company working on the film. However, the company denied that they ever had a full copy of the film. Then there's FoxNews.com columnist Roger Friedman, who is fired from his job after confessing he has downloaded and even reviewed the leaked version. 
When the film is finally out for release, it is clear that X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE indeed a troubled film that doesn't feel like a satisfying whole. As a fanboy perspective, it's sad to announce that this film is mostly a hack job streamlined for undemanding, mainstream audience -- much like the ill-fated result of how X-MEN: THE LAST STAND has ended up. 
Anyway, the story is originated back in 1845, Canada when young and sick James Howlett (Troye Sivan) is shocked to witness his father John (Peter O'Brien) killed by Victor Creed's (Michael James-Olsen) father, Thomas Logan (Aaron Jeffrey). James got angry and instantly kills Thomas using his bone claws which emerging out from his knuckles. Before he dies, Thomas confesses to James that he is also his son. But before anything needs to be resolved, James and Victor are forced to run away, with Victor has particularly vowed that they shall look out for each other. Throughout the era, ranging from the American Civil War, World War I, World War II and finally the Vietnam War, adult brothers James (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) make use of their regenerative powers to keep them from being killed in the battlefield, thus allow them to go for long periods of time without aging. While James learns to control his animal rage, Victor has gone increasingly berserk and kills a superior officer during the Vietnam War. Both James and Victor are sentenced to death by firing squad, but nevertheless they still alive. Enter William Stryker (Danny Huston), who arrives just in time to offer them a way out for a privilege to join him in his special Team X group, compromising a few member of mutants including Frederick Dukes (Kevin Durand), a super-strong muscleman, John Wraith (will.i.am), a teleporter, Bolt (Dominic Monaghan), a trickster who can manipulate electricity with his mind, Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), an expert marksman, and sword-wielding mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). The brothers agree to join the group, and are later senr to the team's first mission: Infiltrate a diamond operation headquarters to retrtieve a meteorite used by the leader of the dealers as a paperweight in Lagos, Nigeria. Unbeknownst by most others, Stryker is actually pursuing the rare meteorite for his top-secret Weapon X project to enhance the mutant's superpower ability. But James, who is tired of mindless killing in the operation, quits abruptly in the middle of their mission. Six years later, James, who is now going by his last name, Logan, lives peacefully in the Canadian Rockies with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins) and works as a lumberjack. But his peaceful lifestyle cuts abruptly short when Stryker manages to locate Logan, and claims someone is out there killing members of the now-disbanded team. He wants Logan to help him out, but he refused. Still it doesn't take long before Logan is forced to be back in his killing instinct again after discovering Kayla is brutally murdered by Victor.  He manages to find Victor and fights against him, only to lose in the end. Stryker offers Logan a chance to vow revenge against Victor, by agreeing to take part in the Weapon X experiment by fusing his bones with a powerful metal alloy called adamantium, which makes him virtually indestructible and gives him enough strength to defeat Victor. As Logan, who is now called himself as Wolverine, seeks revenge against Victor, he is also subsequently betrayed by Stryker where everything is not what it seems at the first place. 
From the non-fanboy perspective, the film is definitely fast-paced enough to deliver the necessary action, drama, character and wit to satisfy most of the crowds looking for a popcorn entertainment. The action is particularly a standout, with director Hood (or is it Donner?) knows well how to orchestrate numerous exciting set pieces with equal flair. Among two of the spectacular sequences to look out for are the now-infamous chase scene involving Wolverine being pursued by a helicopter, a tank and several Hummers, is exhilarating stuff. Another one is of course, the climatic three-way fight with Wolverine, Victor and Wade Wilson's Deadpol squared off against each other on the edge of a nuclear reactor. This is nevertheless a refreshing look for those who have gone tired of watching the ADD-infused, notorious shaky-cam filmmaking method that have flooded many like-minded films these days. 
Still the film can't escape many of its heavy flaws: David Benioff and Skip Wood's screenplay is more of your typical, operatic storytelling method we always seen in mediocre "origin" stories mostly found in comic book-themed genre. Despite some juicy balance striking between plot and action throughout the running time, the film remains way too streamlined and especially too convenient to tie up whatever complicated chain of events. There are just too many problems surrounding the film, like the way how the origin of Wolverine is cut too short to make quick way for the "Weapon X" storyline. Then there's the way how most dialogues are written in such cheesy way it could have done better for the '80s or the '90s action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger or other action stars. I mean, this is a film about Wolverine, for crying out loud! It certainly doesn't hurt for a few witty and wisecracking one-liners, but too bad the script almost flooded them all over the place and turned the film mostly a lightweight affair not meant to be taken seriously. 
Speaking of lightweight, whoever really approved a final cut to include an embarassing scene involving Wolverine squaring off against Dukes, also known as The Blob, in the boxing ring, is so laughably out-of-the-place. 
Despite blessing with $150 million budget tag, the special effects are mostly too spotty anf feels like a rushed job all over the place. 
The characters, in the meantime, are a mixed bag: Hugh Jackman's Wolverine is certainly at ease reprising his famous role but too bad he doesn't carry much emotional weight necessary to make his so-called painful journey from what he is destined to become for. Instead, he is seen more on wisecracking dialogues like he's channeling Schwarzenegger or even Clint Eastwood's alter-ego. Schreiber, on the other hand, does make some lasting impression as the monstrous Victor who manages to inject certain aura of dramatic acting chops previously missing from Tyler Mane who acted as Sabretooth in the original X-MEN. Danny Huston is perfectly typecast as the two-faced evil William Stryker, while fans will be rejoiced to see their long-awaited favorite short appearances of Ryan Reynold's Wade/Deadpool and Taylor Kitsch's Remy/Gambit strutting their stuff. 
At a compact 107 minutes, and with so many characters introduced here and there, most of the film's credibility are heavily compromised in the filter of the Hollywood filmmaking machine. You will be really doubtful if whatever shown in this theatrical version of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE doesn't seem like what Gavin Hood has originally envisioned in the first place, and it's more of a result hacked by none others than the Fox studio executive bastard Thomas Rothman who has a long history of single-handedly ruining potential comic-book franchises including X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, DAREDEVIL, ELECTRA, and FANTASTIC FOUR. 
And like most comic-book film these days, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE must have been made history by showing "multiple endings" for the first time ever in the theaters. Stay tuned in between-the-credits, where Stryker is found walking along the highway with his feet bleed after being possessed by Kayla, who has ability to seduce and control people's mind, and end up being stopped by a group of military soldiers taking him in for interrogation. Of course right after the credits, depending on which theaters you are watching from different states or countries, you will get two different endings: the first one involves with Wolverine ends up in the bar, drinking to "remember" in Japan and another one is the still-alive Deadpool who emerged from the ruins, taking his decapitated head and breaks the fourth wall by saying "Shhhh...". 
Whatever gimmicks Fox has trying to pull out from their bag of tricks to lure audiences watching the film, it's sad to see X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE is more of a missed opportunity.
This first summer film of the year doesn't really take off, and let's hope next week's much-anticipated STAR TREK can live up to the ever-demanding expectation of a "summer movie extravaganza" tag.

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