This article started of as being about the future of Marvel based films but I ended up writing half of it about the latest film X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So I have saved what I had written on the future for a different article and completed this one about Wolverine. A film a I really wanted to like more than I actually did!
The best thing about the film is the character and the casting of the leading role. Wolverine has always been a fans favourite and right from the start of the original X-Men movie he has been the star getting good screen time and all the best lines. Hugh Jackman has really made the character his own to such an extent that it is difficult imagining anyone else playing the part. In this film he has a harder job having to carry the whole film himself, something I think he struggles with at times. I put this down to weaknesses in the script rather than any fault of Jackman.
The big problem with the film is the limitations placed upon it by the fact it is a prequel. Anyone who has seen the first three films will know that Wolverine, Sabretooth and William Stryker all appear and therefore must survive this film. We know that Wolverine loses his memory some time before the start of the first X-Men movie. All this makes what happens to them somewhat superficial. A build up to wolverines memory loss would make a somewhat disappointing film. Fortunately it does offer more than that. At 107 minutes the film is relatively short and doesn’t keep the viewer waiting before jumping into the action. The action however is unfortunately a little let down by Wolverine’s inability to get hurt. Yes we all know about his healing factor but its seems more effective than ever making him virtually indestructible. If he is never in danger the audience struggles to emphasise with him.
In the other X-Men films he is surrounded by people who are either more powerful than him or are able to do him harm. Professor X, Magneto, Jean Grey even Rogue.
The film starts in the 1840’s and is followed by the opening credit scene that I have conflicting opinions of. It covers around 100 years worth of wars that Wolverine fought in alongside his half brother Victor Creed (aka Sabretooth although he is never called that in this film). The reason I say I am conflicted about it is that it is a great scene (not as good as the opening to Watchmen) but it also skips over a huge amount of history that could have lent it self to some great scenes: for example Wolverine killing Nazi’s in WWII “Inglourious (Mutant) Basterds” anyone? This is followed by Wolverine’s time with Team X, this is a really week part of the film. Wolverine doesn’t seem to do much within the team and is overshadowed by Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson (aka Deadpool but again like with Sabretooth the Deadpool name is not used). Reynolds is charismatic and wisecracking, in fact everything we expect from Wolverine. It is no surprise that it looks like he is now going to get his own film. Partly due to time constraints of other films Reynolds has a relatively small part as do all the other characters in the film. The only one who is given a role of substance is Live Schriber who replaces Tyler Mane as Creed/Sabretooth. He excels as the wonderfully unstable sibling and easily overcomes the fact he doesn’t have the same physical presence as the giant Mane, he also gained 35lbs to help look the part, it helps. Remy LeBeau/Gambit makes his movie debut portrayed by Taylor Kitsch. This is a big moment for a lot of fans of the comic books but he really doesn’t work for me. He doesn’t do anything particularly wrong but I just don’t see him as Gambit. A future film set in the present day will require an older actor, I suggest they make the film pretty soon with Josh Holloway (Sawyer form Lost) before he gets too old.
So after his time with Team X Logan is next seen back home in Canada at one with nature and in love with Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). This is all to brief and ill thought out. It would have made a good starting point for the film with the past events shown in flashback. That way the earlier scenes would not feel as rushed. It would also give an opportunity for the audience to build a more empathy with Silverfox as we see her relationship develop with Logan, this would help in the later scenes of the film. But this sums up another problem, the film is so episodic that Wolverine and Creed are the only characters who develop a relationship of any depth. Incidentally another interesting character introduction is Emma Frost aka The White Queen (Tahyna Tozzi) in this case she is depicted as the sister of Kayla Silverfox. A fans favourite she is a character of huge potential that with the right actress playing her could command her own film, David O. Russell has already been linked with a possible film.
A film of this type will live or die on the merits of the action scenes and the special effects. On the whole they are quite good. The fighting scenes are particularly good but as mentioned before a little hollow with the knowledge that the main protagonists are in no danger. Some of the special effects are a little shaky considering the large budget ($150million), these include a younger Charles Xavier played by a (uncredited) de-aged Patrick Steward. The final battle is a mixed bag of good and bad but the setting at Three Mile Island is a clever move, not only does it link the film to the real world by offering a fictionalised account of a real historical event but it also dates the scene to 1979 when the accident happened. This tells us that Wolverine has approximately 21 years to kill in the inevitable sequel before his first encounter with the X-Men. The post credit sequence suggests that this will take place in Japan. Now all the origins are dealt with we can move on and have some fun as Wolverine develops into that character from the start of X-Men.
In short the film isn’t a disaster but does fail to live up to its potential but it is better than the dire The Last Stand. So where do they go from here? Marvel Studios has several films slated for production over the next few years. The ones that fall within the X universe are include a Magneto Origins film, the aforementioned Deadpool movie and X-Men: First Class. This film will potentially feature a younger cast taking on the key roles of the characters seen in the original X-Men movie. Rumours have suggested a return by director Bryan Singer. This would be most welcome and could put the franchise back on track.
Ultimately I think this film has been a stopgap to keep the money rolling in and the brand in the public eye before the next big project comes along. I will be taking more about that in the next few weeks.
Additional paragraph for revised article: I was just responding to a comment on another article when it suddenly occurred to me what was missing from Wolverine. Whilst watching the film I could see that it lacked a certain substance but I had never considered what it was. The simple answer is that it lacks a subtext that gives the film a meaning and a grounding. The X-Men films (even the rubbish third one) have strong themes of alienation and discrimination, themes that are timeless and universal. A lot of these are expressed openly by the films patriarchs Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and particularly Magneto (Ian Mckellen) who we learn was a child during the Holocaust. You also have characters like Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) who practise what could be described as a form of Neo-McCarthyism. Without this Wolverine was just like any other action film.
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