Movie reviewer Justin Morgan breaks the bad news about last week’s blockbuster as bluntly as possible.
Visualize me rear-ending your car. Great, now those of you who have a personal connection to the X-Men franchise, or (for some reason) a personal connection to the preview, will be prepared for the hopefully relatively more minor disappointment you will feel when you read the following sentence. X-Men: Origins is not a very good movie.
Released a month after a rough draft was leaked on the internet, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (X-MOW, coincidentally the name of the grass-cutting mutant who tends the grounds at the X-Mansion in the comics) still feels unfinished in the theatrical version. Maybe it’s the script that injects fat jokes and a fart joke into a film franchise that, up until now, had struck a more serious tone. It could be the radically predictable plot, even for those of us who have never gone anywhere near the comics. But regardless of the reason, Wolverine leaves viewers feeling none of the gourmet-comic-action meal satisfaction of a Dark Knight or an Iron Man, or even an X-Men 2.
Hugh Jackman (whose character goes by approximately six names during the film, all of which actually makes sense, more or less) is a killing machine, due partly to his bone claws but mostly to his regenerative abilities. His brother Victor (Liev Schreiber, who is actually reasonably terrifying) is at least equally good at killing things, but is more psychotic and generally less well groomed. Both brothers are eventually recruited to aid the U. S. Military in some sort of secret program with a hazy purpose and hazier methods. Despite the fact that I have described nine minutes of plot, it is now necessary for me to draw the curtain tight again lest I reveal enough clues for you to accurately extrapolate the remainder of a relatively surprise-free movie. In football this is called “telegraphing your passes,” and in film this is called “boring.”
There are a few highlights, however. It is no accident that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was chosen as a good character to expand in the first film. Jackman is an effortless-seeming actor with fantastic comedic timing, and Wolverine’s mysterious origins and obvious allure make it the best choice to anchor a franchise. And yes, there is a cool thing that happens with a helicopter. But for a movie whose entire raison d’être is to show me cool fights and explosions, it doesn’t help that director Gavin Hood (who actually has respectable-movie cred) keeps the camera in tight and the cuts tighter.
It is also tough to respect the plan to append not one but two independent scenes after the movie is over, one of which you will entirely fail to see depending on the theater you attend to see the movie. This means that after paying your $9.50 and waiting for the credits to end, you will still not have seen the entire movie unless you somehow identify which theaters are showing the other scene (likely impossible) and buying a ticket. Taking a trip to the internet to squeeze the last bits of meaning from the toothpaste tube of a movie has become a time-honored tradition, but going to the internet to read about the parts of the movie that were not shown to you when you bought a ticket to see it is something I can’t endorse. I realize that the point is to sell DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs. I get the point, and I am saying that the point is stupid.
You can use this as a metaphor for this entire movie. The primary point of X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not to create an enjoyable thing. The point is to convert the interest and goodwill remaining in the X-Men film franchise into dollars as efficiently as possible. We have previously discussed in this space that some people knowingly and willingly participate in this transaction, and I do not judge those people for what I am equally guilty of whenever a High School Musical sequel appears. But let’s not deceive each other, here. An adamantium spade is still a spade.