Monday, September 3, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy. It is the first of the X-Men Origins movies and was released in 2009.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The film opens in 1845 with a young James Howlett in a quick sequence that sees his powers develop just in time to kill a man who he discovers is his true father. This sequence is taken directly from the Wolverine: Origin comic book miniseries and it gets the film off to a great start.

The title sequence then spans across the next 130 years of history or so as we see Victor and James fight together through the Civil War, World War I, World War II and into Vietnam. Through these scenes we see Victor turning increasingly violent and James's growing unease with this development. The film opens brilliantly thanks to this quick sequence. The viewers are given everything they need to know about Victor and James and easily understand their relationship. Stryker then recruits both Victor and James for his mutant squad. I really loved the opening action here with Agent Zero and Wade Wilson. Ryan Reynolds made for a great Wilson but ultimately, the team has a few too many members and isn't on screen long enough to even learn all of their names. Ultimately, through Stryker's overly zealous search for adamantium, James leaves the team.

The film then fast forwards six years and James is living with the beautiful Kayla and working as an "axe-man" (which is really funny if you think about it). Kayla turns out to be Silver Fox, a mutant with the power to influence people's thoughts. Victor shows up and seems to kill her, prompting Wolverine to seek out Stryker and get the adamantium bonded to his skeleton. The creative team really goes through great paints to make this sequence as faithful to the glimpses we got in the first three X-Men films. In a later post I'll go through the continuity gaffs but it is clear that the creators intended to keep this film in sync with the prior X-Men films. As a fan, I really appreciated these efforts.

But then comes the boxing scene. To me, the boxing scene is the line of demarcation in this film - everything before it is really great but it somehow goes very wrong in that scene and it never gets right again. Gambit is completely wasted. He dances some cards around but then why is he pursuing a fight with Wolverine, even inadvertently saving Sabretooth? Once they get to Three Mile Island (TMI) Gambit is effectively written out of the film.

Deadpool is, likewise, mangled and wasted. He is genetically altered to have teleportation, eye lasers, healing ability, and three foot swords that can retract into his arms. But if those swords actually retracted he wouldn't be able to bend his arms!

This film does host a ton of cameo appearances by familiar characters. Most familiar are Scott Summers and Professor X. It seems that Wolverine saves a young Cyclops without Cyclops being aware of it and the Professor recruits him at this point. Other noteworthy cameos include Emma (Frost?), Quicksilver, Toad, Jason (Stryker's son), and Banshee (among many others). It's always nice to see a director work in these cameos even if the characters don't have large roles.

Like the other X-Men: Origins film, First Class, the climax of this film takes place in an identifiable historic event - the near-meltdown at TMI on March 28, 1979. This timeline is confirmed by the events and dates given in the film (Wolverine in Vietnam, which ended in 1973 and shortly after the film fast forwards six years.) This is particularly significant for me personally as I lived in that area at the time of the near-disaster. I think it's very cool how the film works mutants into already established historic events.

The effects were, for the most part, very well done. I particularly liked when Cyclops blasts the school nearly in half leaving red hot canyons in the ceiling and floor. Wolverine's claws seem to have been given more dimension and at times looked really bad. There was also some pretty bad green screen work as well.

Although this film is uneven and really drops the ball at times, there's enough good here to make the viewing experience enjoyable.

1LR REVIEW - 12 out of 20! It's a Glancing Hit!

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