The opening scene, which is straight out of the “Origin” miniseries, does a neat bit of sleight-of-hand and effectively depicts the traumatic childhood event which first triggered Wolverine’s mutant abilities. We then segue into an opening credits sequence which is almost as stunning as the one in “Watchmen”, showing how Wolverine (now played by the ever badass Hugh Jackman) and Sabretooth (Live Schreiber) fought in the Civil War, in both World Wars and in Vietnam. The way director Gavin Hood samples the imagery associated with these armed conflicts is very taut (the WWII part looks just like the opening of “Saving Private Ryan”, for instance), and I love the use of freeze-frames and dissolves…
Unfortunately, it’s kind of all downhill from there. While they’re POWs in Nam, Wolverine and Sabretooth are recruited by Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston), who’s putting together a covert ops team. Then there’s an abrupt cut to said team, suddenly fully assembled, as they go on a mission in Nigeria. Wasn’t this supposed to be Wolverine’s solo film? At best, there’s kind of a “Predator” vibe to this, what with all these badass dudes going commando… Except that beside Sabretooth and Wolverine, these guys really aren’t all that badass. There’s wisecracking Ryan Reynolds, rapper Will.i.am, obese Kevin Durand, skinny Asian Daniel Henney, former hobbit Dominic Monaghan… A rather sorry bunch.
Then we flash forward to Wolverine now working as a lumberjack and shacking up with his beloved Silver Fox (Lynn Collins) in the Canadian Rockies, until Stryker returns to tell him that it seems like “someone’s hunting down our old team”. Now, isn’t that just like that early scene in “Commando” where General Kirby goes up to Matrix’ shack in the mountains to tell him exactly the same thing? It even happens to be one of Wolvie’s old partners who’s doing the hunting, Bennett-style. So again, we’ve got a nice 1980s action movie vibe, but this quickly gives way to FX-heavy action scenes that are often way too over the top and cheesy.
Driven by a generic revenge plot, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” also suffers from the fact that the main villain, Sabretooth, doesn’t really have any motivation to be such an evil prick. In fact, the whole thing is sorely lacking as far as character development and storytelling go. This feels like a movie put together by studio execs who think that stupid fanboys will eat up any random string of flashy, noisy action scenes – which is ridiculous, of course. Haven’t they learned anything from “The Dark Knight”‘s success?
As for the origin angle, beside the aforementioned opening scene and credits, we don’t get to see much new things about Wolverine’s past. I mean, wasn’t all the Weapon X stuff covered well enough in “X2” already? Throwing in a bunch of other mutants (Agent Zero, Blob, Gambit, Deadpool…) doesn’t help making this fresh either, especially since all they do is fight Wolverine one after another. As he himself says at one point, “What, I get in fights with everybody?” Yep, you do. And it grows pretty tiresome.