Directed by: Gavin Hood
Premise: This film tells the back-story of Marvel Comic’s Wolverine character of the X-Men series, detailing his early life and his relationship with the government, allowing his mutant powers to be amplified by a military experiment.
What Works: Wolverine is extremely well cast; Hugh Jackman returns to play the title character and he is a bit scrappier in this film than he was allowed to be in the previous entries. Liev Schreiber plays Sabertooth, Wolverine’s brother and eventual nemesis, and he nearly steals the show with his snarling but oddly charming take on the character.
What Doesn’t: There are a few fundamental problems with Wolverine. The first, and most immediate, is that the main character is essentially immortal. This is a serious problem for an action film whose drama depends upon putting the hero in scenarios of mortal danger. Since the hero will always walk away from his adventures alive, it takes the jeopardy, and therefore the drama, out of the action scenes. The picture needs to meld the action with emotion or at least confront Wolverine with obstacles that he cannot solve with his claws, as was done successfully in other X-Men pictures. This leads to the second problem, which is that the film does not have much going for its narrative. As a back-story, it is incumbent on the film to reveal something that changes or complements our understanding of the character in the existing films. For example, in The Godfather: Part II, the film presents the back-story of Vito Corleone and deepens our understanding of the family. Wolverine does not add much that audiences did not already know from the three previous X-Men films and instead it just acts out things we had heard about. The result is a story that just goes through the motions, connecting the dots in order to leave the character in the same position where he starts in the original X-Men film.
Bottom Line: X-Men Origins: Wolverine is passable as an action film but it relation to other X-Men films specifically or other superhero films broadly, it is very under whelming.
Episode: #238 (May 10, 2009)