A defence of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Director: Gavin Hood
Writers: David Benioff, Skip Woods
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins
In Origins, Hugh Jackman finally ditched the ridiculous Wolverine hair style from the X-Men Trilogy…and that’s not all that’s good about it.
Okay, I’m going to say it, I’m finally going to say it, *deep breath*… I liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine…
...for those of you who are still reading and haven’t slipped into a fit of rage and disgust, thank you for sticking with me. You have either a) not yet seen the film, b) dislike the film but are willing to hear me out or c) (although this may be optimistic of me) you too like Origins. The film has received lukewarm reviews at best, but every time it watch it I can’t help but feel that Origins has been a little hard done by. I want to be clear that I understand why Origins is hated by so many, die hard X-men fans and casual moviegoers alike - it just seems that certain aspects of this film are disliked so much that they cloud the rest of the characters and the story, to the point where no one can see past them and recognise the positive elements. It is my belief that, despite a few errors (one of which is, admittedly, colossal), Origins has an awful lot of good stuff to offer.
Firstly, as a character piece for Wolverine I would argue that Origins is pretty spot on*. It gives us a detailed insight into Logan’s violent past, most effectively with a breathtaking montage of all the wars since the American Civil War, which I defy anyone to not enjoy. I mean, seriously, how good is that war montage? Not only does it show why Logan is essentially the walking-talking personification of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it also gives us a visual representation of his unnatural age, as well as showing his brother Sabretooth becoming more and more unhinged, basically setting up the whole film. This is arguably the best bit of the movie, packing so much exposition into a stunning and fluid visual display. The whole film then continues to push Logan towards the point at which we first meet him in X-Men (2000), creating a relatively believable explanation for how he ended up there, both physically and psychologically.
Secondly, sitting in the middle of a franchise where each film asks more questions than it answers, Origins actually has a pretty good crack at trying to tie up a number of loose ends from the first 3 films. This film managed to answer a number of confusing elements about Logan’s life. Want to know how Stryker managed to convince Logan to undergo an absurdly dangerous and painful process? Check. Want to know why Logan lost all of his memories? Check. Hell, this film even explains where the name Wolverine came from! Yeah, sure, there are still a few continuity errors, but is any X-Men film complete with out them? It seems unfair to criticise Origins for struggling to keep the story straight, when the same franchise is responsible for Boliver Trask being played by both Bill Duke (X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006) and Peter Dinklage (Days of Future Past, 2014). If you don’t know who those men are, Google them, then you’ll see my point.
Thirdly, some super badass shit goes down in this film. If you wanna see a bunch of mega powerful mutants causing some absolute mayhem, this is the film to watch. The inventiveness and intensity of the action sequences is thoroughly engaging, and consistently downright awesome. The very subject-matter dictates that the mutant characters of the story can do some incredible things, and Hood takes full advantage of their abilities to display some visually breathtaking feats. Also, it’s hard not to like the moment Logan goes full rage mode in the Alkali Lake facility, bullets ricocheting off his head in his signature fashion. And so what if walking away from a helicopter while it explodes behind you is cliché, it still looks cool? As an action film, Origins really delivers.
Where this film falls down - and why some of its criticism is deserved - is with its characters. Yeah, you know what’s coming. But before we get to that, one of my biggest frustrations with this film is that it seems to throw in characters for the sake of having them, with little consideration for how they could then be used in future films. Gambit is the obvious example, but also the cameo roles of Quicksilver and Cyclops are needless - Cyclops' involvement only succeeding in over-complicating the film as well as the wider franchise. The film feels overcrowded, stuffed full of characters that I didn’t go to see the film for; it is called X-Men Origins: Wolverine after all.
Okay. Deadpool. Yeaaaaah, they fucked up. They did, there is no getting away from it. The poor handling of Wade Wilson’s Merc with a Mouth is responsible for turning swathes of Marvel Comics fans away from this film. It’s not even the character that is the problem, is that the character is supposed to be Deadpool. If you choose to ignore that it is supposed to be Deadpool, (ignoring things being a totally feasible thing to do in the X-Men series), and perhaps just think of the character as ‘Weapon XI’, then what you end up with is actually a pretty incredible and pretty scary bad guy. If Danny Huston just hadn’t have said the words “dead pool” in the film (it even makes me wince) this mess of a plot point could have been salvageable. Alas, he did. The unfortunate result is that this Deadpool debacle seems to be the only thing that people think about or even remember when Origins is mentioned. I want to reiterate that this film is by no means perfect, but it is by no means terrible either, but this huge character botch has made people continuously think so.
I have always found Origins to be an enjoyable addition to the X-Men franchise. In honesty, I never really warmed to the X-Men Trilogy, but Origins was the film that rekindled my love for the series. I’m disappointed that the time-travel storyline in later films was written in to supposedly cancel this film out. I believe that if those involved hadn’t made such a huge error in judgment regarding Deadpool, this film’s lesser flaws could be forgiven and Origins would be celebrated as a solid edition to the X-Men franchise, as I believe it is. Origins nowhere near deserves its wholly negative criticism; it deserves some, but is long overdue some praise as well.
Oh, and on one final note; anyone who thinks that Tyler Mane’s Sabretooth (from X-Men, 2000) is better than Liev Schreiber’s Sabretooth needs to have a word with themselves.
*spot on in regards to the X-Men film franchise as it stood in 2009, not necessarily in regards to the X-Men comics.