X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE: This is how an Oscar-winning director destroys their career.

wolverine

[X-Men Origins: Wolverine trailer here.]

I enjoy a blockbuster film as much as anyone else. Hell, I’d defend Pirates of the Caribbean 3 if you pushed me on it. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, however, is so comprehensively awful that it is indefensible, a giant turd of a film crushing the credibility of all involved in the production and those who would argue its virtues. The film’s flaws have been pointed out already by many a film critic – plot holes, pathetic special effects, lack of depth to any of the characters – and currently rates 37% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The plot (ha ha!) begins with Wolverine as a sweet young sickly child, bed-ridden in 1845. After accidentally killing his father (don’t worry this is not a spoiler. It is literally never referred to again), he runs away with his brother Victor. They quickly grow up into Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber apparently bypassing adolescence and over the credits we see them fighting in the American Civil War, both World Wars and the Vietnam war, their regenerative powers and retractable claws coming in handy on the battlefield. We also learn that although the two have been hanging out for over a hundred years, they are very different people. Victor likes to rape girls and indiscriminately kill soldiers from his own side while Wolverine has a conscience. They are recruited into a special task force led by William Stryker (Danny Huston) along with other mutants played by will.i.am (from the Black Eyed Peas), Ryan Reynolds (Van Wilder) and Dominic Monaghan (Lost). William Stryker is looking for Adamantium, the indestructible substance that we know will be used to enhance Wolverine’s skeleton, and when his determination leads the task force to kill a whole lot of innocent people for no discernible reason, Wolverine becomes a lumberjack and falls in love.

Now did you know that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was made by an Oscar-winning director? His name is Gavin Hood. He won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film for 2005’s Tsotsi and went on to make the anti-war torture-drama Rendition. David Stratton went to great lengths to defend Hood from any culpability for Wolverine, blaming the film’s faults on the script. However, in an interview with Suicide Girls, Hood made it clear her had a lot of control on the film and that his intention was to make a film about the ethics of the soldier versus the mercenary. As noble as his intentions may be, Wolverine is still a shallow, simplistic mess. The psychology of the mercenary represented by Victor (a.k.a. Sabretooth) is not explored because he is represented as evil from the very first scene, sharpening his knife. Is this how Hood thinks mercenaries are created? Does he believe that mercenaries do what they do because they were bastard children who resented their families? Wolverine trades in very black and white conceptions of morality and though I haven’t seen either Tsotsi or Rendition it’s hard to believe that they are any good after seeing this. (By some accounts Tsotsi, a film about a brutally violent African hoodlum, is saddled with an implausible and sentimental storyline where the protagonist becomes a nice guy simply by being in the presence of a baby. If you’ve seen it let me know. Rendition fared less well critically rating 48% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Hugh Jackman is currently at the peak of his stardom and after this film, it’s apparent that there isn’t a whole lot of quality cinematic work for which he deserves it: Australia, Deception, Happy Feet, Flushed Away, Aronofsky’s overblown The Fountain, one of Woody Allen’s weakest Scoop and Van Helsing. Hugh Jackman’s most significant talent seems to be the ability to make a whole lot of bad films with his dignity intact. Either that or his impressive pectoral muscle which get plenty of action in this flick. Hugh Jackman’s pectorals might have been my primary reason for seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine but it wasn’t enough to make Australia! a good film and it’s not enough this time either. Learn from my mistake and avoid this film.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE: This is how an Oscar-winning director destroys their career.

  1. Nice review Brad…

    It certainly felt like they had rushed an idea to the screen in order to capitalise on profit p0tential. But I don’t go into an X-Men movie expecting *no* plot holes or clear story arcs. I expect a ride, and that’s what this movie delivered.

    Will I remember it a few years from now? No. But that doesn’t make it any worse – it’s popcorn fodder that’s all. Would I recommend spending close to $20 and see it at the cinema? Yes – if you want the boom-crash-spectacular. Otherwise, save your money.

    I quite enjoyed ‘Rendition’ and I’m yet to see ‘Tsotsi’..

    • Brad

      Hey Simon, thanks for the comment. Personally, I don’t care whether or not a plot makes sense and I also enjoy action spectacles. But I do need for a film to express an idea. The previous X-men films had their faults but they had ideas: All the stuff exploring mutants as a persecuted minority resonated and made you care and made the action more exciting. For my money, Wolverine is bereft of ideas and the action was pretty boring. Except for the helicopter scene from the trailer which was great apart from the Bad Boys-style ‘walk away from the explosion’ moment at the end.

      • haha. Yeah the helecopter thing was baaaddddddd… a full throwback to bad blue screen stuff from the past.

        You are right – the idea side of things is important and it was certainly lacking there. Still.. Gambit was in the movie so that made up for a lot on my side ;)

  2. mary

    Hugh Jackman is a stage performer. Granted, I haven’t seen him on stage but I’m told he’s very good; he just isn’t convincing on film.

    By the way, did you read Peter Conrad’s article about Australia in The Monthly? Good stuff.

  3. I loved The Fountain and, while I generally have disdain for Jackman, found his performance in that quite good.

    I didn’t like Tsotsi. It made no sense that this vicious thug would be transformed by a baby. It was overly-sentimental to the extreme, given its attempt at gritty social realism (or an over-stylised version of it). It’s winning an Oscar was about as credible as Slumdog Millionaire‘s win.

    • Brad

      I liked The Fountain when I first saw it but on reflection (and this counts for all Aronofsky’s films) I found it to be overblown: Simplistic in its idealisation of Rachel Weisz’s character and overly earnest in its presentation of Hugh Jackman’s grief. Aronofsky’s visual sense is compelling in a Guy Ritchie sense and his philosophizing on par with the Wachowski Brothers (or siblings as the case may be now).

      Interesting take on Tsotsi. I haven’t seen it, but it sounds like a credible reading based on what I know of the premise. Ugh.

      • Oops, I forgot about this comment. Only some of the content on The Monthly website is free and that article isn’t. Boo.

        Happy to lend it to you at some point, though, if you’re interested.

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