Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Whole Lotta Boring + Dash of Fun = WOLVERINE

The problem with X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE is not that it is a completely terrible film. It has some good things going for it. Hugh Jackman is fantastic in the lead role, which he officially owns for life. He does the absolute best he can with the material he has been given, and he has to get some props for that. Liev Schreiber, also, chews the scenery like nobody's business and his Sabretooth makes for a formidable brother-at-arms-turned-adversary. The action sequences are almost all entertaining, with the Wolverine vs. Sabretooth duels, in particular, kicking things up a notch. There are plenty of cameos from other mutants and X-Men notables, which may or may not please die-hard fans, but was perfectly suited for my far more casual interest. When the dust cleared, yes, I mostly enjoyed what I got... but at the same time, I was all too aware of what went wrong.

For one thing, the special effects are HORRIBLE. For a movie with a $140 million budget, it looks like something out of a cheap fan film. It seriously features some of the worst green screen work I've ever seen -- at times I could've sworn that characters were just hastily Photoshopped into scenic backgrounds. Plus, Wolverine's digital claws are flat awful. Though Jackman does his damnedest to help distract us from this problem, it's still painfully obvious that the claws are, in effect, cartoons. I can't recall if the claws were fully CGI in the original X-MEN trilogy, but even if they were, they just looked a hell of a lot better then.

More importantly, for an origin story, the movie sure does skimp on Wolverine's actual backstory. It's cool to learn that Wolverine has actually been around since the 1800's, and that he and Sabretooth were recruited by the U.S. government to fight in every war since then. But aside from an opening montage that shows them in action in those wars, pitting their mutant powers against increasing technologies, this point is grossly underused (also, while pretty cool on its own, this sequence suffers in comparison to the far superior through-the-years opening montage in WATCHMEN). I could've watched an entire movie based on their experiences in those wars. Then, by the time Wolverine gets fed up and ditches the army, he easily embeds himself into "real life," with a house and a job and a hot girlfriend. We don't get so much as a brief flashback to show how the heck he managed all this. Even the core of the plot, the relationship between Wolverine and Sabretooth, suffers from ebbs and flows -- as if the filmmakers occasionally forgot about it and then threw in a new fight scene.

Basically, the movie is a plodding mess punctuated by two legitimately good performances and a bunch of cool action sequences. Which is all well and good for a run-of-the-mill action film, but it would've been nice to see more for this character, especially since Jackman gave it his all. Fortunately, my expectations were pretty low to begin with, which probably allowed me to enjoy it more. I won't go as far as to condemn the film... but see it at your own risk!

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