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Second Look: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

When it comes to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it is difficult to provide a standard-issue Second Look, which is a shame because I always felt the film never got a fair chance in its own right. An unpolished and unedited version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine leaked early, killing initial buzz and putting a bad taste in the collective maw of the Internet as everyone essentially deemed the movie a half-assed disappointment.

Let’s be straight for a minute here. This movie isn’t something to change mankind. You know it, I know it, Hugh Jackman knows it. But that doesn’t mean it is irredeemable. So, once you are able to accept that fact, you can start to find the adamantium lining to the bone claws that is this movie: crude, rough around the edges, but still gets the job done. Accept that, and this movie becomes quite fun.

Is X-Men Origins: Wolverine a great movie? No. Is it entertaining? Without a doubt. So what I did was watch it twice. It’s a flawed film, sure, but not completely devoid of value, and I was determined to find it by any means possible. The first time through I was taking notes as I am wont to do, extrapolating on the deeper significance and thematic suggestions through every scene, producing a good ten pages or so about the Inferno and Se7en analogies hidden under the layers of meh CGI.

And then I turned my brain off and watched it again. Because do you want me to tell you what you already know that you hate about the movie, or do you want me to tell you how to have a stupid-good time with it?

Ultimately I learned two things from this experience:

First, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, while flawed in some places, also gets a surprisingly large number of things right. It is not the prettiest movie, but for what it attempts to do it is actually quite ambitious. It bites off more than it can chew, but it’s an angry snarl of a chew at least.

Second, there’s an intricate drinking game that is hiding within this movie, with varying difficulty levels to boot. Basically, you drink every time Wolverine pops his claws, tacking on drinks for whenever a particular Team X member displays their powers. Medium is whenever Zero takes a shot. Hard is whenever Sabretooth extends his claws. True Howlett Status is whenever someone teleports. Truly, the best way to enjoy the film.

The movie actually starts off on a high note as we witness Victor and Logan, the two Howlett brothers, bite and claw their way through the Canadian wilderness and into the wild wars of Americana.

Okay, I can sense some displeasure already. No, typically Victor Creed and James Howlett aren’t related, but here’s the cool thing: originally in the 616 continuity, Sabretooth was going to be Logan’s father before a hasty last minute edit. Also, nobody calls Victor Sabretooth here – ever. Therefore, while it is heavily implied that this is supposed to be the Sabretooth, Victor is technically not the ebon-eyed brute that appears in X-Men, blasting that anachronism out of the water.

Starting with muskets and bayonets in the Civil War, drudging down in trench combat for the First World War, and storming Normandy for the Second World War, wrapping it all up with some friendly fire in Vietnam, it is of particular significance to note that while this scene gives us a cursory look into Victor’s and Jimmy’s characters, it is only when Victor begins to wield American-crafted weapons that his animalistic side rears its head.

In addition to giving us a glimpse into what Saving Private Ryan would look like if Ryan had a healing factor, this montage suggests that Logan and Victor’s feral rage isn’t on account of an X-gene mutation. Rather, it is only when called upon to return to the battlefield time after time that prompts the two to adapt a certain viciousness to survive. When you’re dealing with PTSD from five separate wars, floorboards begin to creak in the mental attic.

These flashes are likely all that Logan sees in regards to the war. This montage is what a man who has fought in every war in American history remembers when he falls asleep. I know it’s a bit cheesy, but when Logan’s girl asks him “Which war was it?” in reference to a nightmare, his response of “All of them” actually makes sense. Perhaps a bit too grandiose a delivery, but it’s in reference to probably the best part of the film.

Team X members, which I thought could’ve honestly just made up the movie, demonstrate their abilities in an adamantium ore raid, with nearly every actor, and yeah even Will.I.Am, perfectly cast in their respective roles. The problem is that these guys only get so much time to stretch their mutant legs. As soon as you see that Dominic Monaghan is actually putting some effort into newcomer X-Man Bolt, he gets his throat ripped out.

The strongest member of Team X and the obligatory comic relief comes in the form of Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson. Deadpool’s bullet deflections come across as just looking a bit glittery and cheap, which is a shame because underneath that CGI Reynolds is actually spinning his swords at some pretty solid speeds. Speed up the footage though, a directorial habit that rampages through the film, and it merely looks like Wade is twirling some devil sticks. Still, he is one of many highlights from the team, as he was perfectly cast as the Merc with the Mouth.

Now why they decided to weld his mouth shut the second they call Wade Wilson Deadpool is beyond me, but more on that later. Let’s talk instead about the best part of the movie and the actual good villain, Liev Schreiber’s Victor Creed.

Schreiber just adds these subtle purrs to every syllable as the spiritual Sabretooth. Though the physical adamantium claw props were unfortunately abandoned for CGI claws that just feel lighter than air, there appears to be some actual heft to the bone claws, as every hit has bone snapping with it. After Victor “kills” Logan’s girlfriend, the dog seeks out Victor for vengeance, initiating a fight scene based on one of Wolverine’s most significant moments, his one-sided beating with Cyber.

You see, for a while there in the nineties, Magneto got his act together and finally lifted a finger to rip the adamantium from Wolverine’s body, revealing the bone claws below. For a while Wolverine made do with a stunted healing factor and snappable claws, but he was severely overpowered when he faced off against the adamantium-skinned Cyber, which this fight scene is an homage to.  In the comic, Cyber overpowered Wolverine because he had a literal adamantium lining. Here, Victor doesn’t need any fancy space metal, getting in hits worthy of a Killer Instinct ultra combo, throwing Jimmy in the way of a passing semi as the icing on the cake.

Oh, but guess what? There’s one of those edible flowers on the cake too, in the form of Victor giving a satisfying boot ka-runch to Jimmy’s claws, in the very same manner and angle as Cyber in the comic.

It’s just one of those moments that made me take a step back and reflect—we have a specific reference to one of the more significant and yet obscure moments in Wolverine history, and yet Deadpool has no mouth.

Though changes have been made to nearly every character, Deadpool seems to have taken a particularly harsh beating with the uninspired stick. Some changes are understandable; you clearly can’t have the red and black spandex costume, so the Merc with a Mouth has his mouth sewn shut, giving him a look not unlike a Deadpool mask if you squint really hard. The surgical scars forming bags under his eyes brings this nod to the costume home, with the tattoo guidelines serving as the crude rectangular formation that appears on Deadpool’s normal uniform.

Now I’ll admit, I hated this bastardization of Deadpool more than the next nerd-king, but all things considered they do hit the Deadpool necessities — sword wielding martial artist who can teleport — clever use of Wraith’s teleporting power here, with some ranged weapon attachment. Here’s where the problem comes in, as instead of giving Deadpool Zero’s ability to wield guns (his power is never explained so let’s just go with that), he gets the eye beam lasers of Scott Summers, who is also appearing here for no reason.

Take the post-credit scene in, too, of Deadpool’s body searching for a decapitated head that promptly shushes us, breaking the fourth wall in Deadpoolian fashion, and you’ll see that though they got lost along the way, the foundation for a right and proper Deadpool was here.

It’s the Venom syndrome in Spider-Man 3 all over again. Try to meet some sort of fan appeal, as the only X-related person more popular than Wolverine is Deadpool, and your great work suffers because of it.

Taylor Kitsch‘s Gambit almost falls victim to this, although Kitsch is probably one of the most underrated actors on the block, his back-alley brawl with Wolverine defies both real-world and X-Men physics, in a bad way.

Ultimately, the problem with X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the X-Men part. There is a lot of fluff present, which for all the good the film does, can’t help but drown you in a sour milky aftertaste for nearly every scene. You really didn’t need Scott Summers’ blasting the school hallway or Emma Frost’s 30-second diamond skin salute to Twilight, and you certainly didn’t need a CGI Patrick Stewart wearing a Patrick Stewart mask waltzing in on a helicopter. You take out all the fluff, and what remains is an entertaining movie that starts pretty strong before falling apart like a cardboard mansion.

Like what’s with that adamantium bullet thing? How do they know it will erase his memories when they shoot Wolverine in the face with it? Wolverine has been shot  plenty of times before in the face and retained his memories, and it’s not like everyone can regenerate from a bullet to the head anyway… Y’know what I’m just going to quit while I’m ahead. X-Men Origins: Wolverine: it’s an action movie, and stupid-dumb fun. So enjoy it.

Of course with The Wolverine‘s premiere looming, there is no doubt that a few of you are going to rewatch X-Men Origins, so let us know what you think.Was X-Men Origins: Wolverine a blight the likes of which we’ve never seen since Howard the Duck? Is it a shining example of why Ryan Reynolds needs to get on that Deadpool movie already? Let us know in the comments, yo!

About the author

Chris Davidson