The X-Men movies are far from perfect. Bryan Singer’s first installment established an unfortunate precedent, with each of the scripts overly ambitious in their scopes. Either all mutants are being targeted, or all humans are. Everyone on Earth is in danger… and it’s too much. It becomes almost impossible to invest beyond a certain point, to find anything that’s really grounded in any of the movies. It reminds me of what happened to 24 once the writers turned to the nuclear option. They couldn’t find a way back. Stories once tinged with personal emotion and realistic touches turned into a blind pursuit of the generic bad guy who was controlling the strings of five other bad guys. I mean, Professor Xavier stopped time at the end of the second X-Men. He stopped time, basically pausing the brains of every human in existence. Really – was this necessary?
Still, the X-Men movies were all pretty good. Okay, the third one was quite boring, but I have to admit that I get chills when Wolverine tells the five or six of them to hold the line at Alcatraz. The X-Men, a team, against all odds, against all comers. At the very least, the movies took the source material seriously. There was something there – even if it was a little off, even if it was a bit too much. And that was kind of the trademark of this new wave of superhero movies. They weren’t jokes. They had enormous budgets, they created atmosphere, and they cast great actors. Michael Caine as a fucking butler; are you kidding me? Even the perceived misfires: the Hulks, the Daredevils (which I enjoyed), the Punishers (which I never saw)… they were legitimate movies. Okay, except for Catwoman.
I think they tried with Wolverine. I do. They had a reputable director, the perfect Wolverine, and the perfect Sabretooth (one that was miles ahead of that mentally-challenged, homeless-looking wino boozer they had in the first X-Men). But the result is so vastly different from any other superhero movie that has come out in the last decade. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is basically the most expensive B-movie ever made. And while there’s fun to be had, it’s a severe disappointment that this is the end result, that this is the path they chose. That the powers that be decided to go the whole nine yards, to have a movie so ridiculous and so over-the-top that it makes Spider-Man 3 seem like a documentary. The final battle evokes a Mortal Kombat fight: it’s embarrassing.
There’s no real coherent plot. The dialogue is cringe-inducing, filled with puns and supposed witticisms. The sequence of events feels like a checklist of every cliché from a generic 80s action movie. In fact, there are multiple “Noooo” / shake fists at the sky scenes. Plot devices run rampant, many in well-intentioned but ill-fated attempts to link this prequel to the status quo established at the beginning of X-Men. Plot holes are gaping. Wolverine’s origins are barely explored. And perhaps most astoundingly, some of the special effects are horrid. X-Men Origins: Wolverine feels pretty much like one of the laziest movie-making endeavors in recent memory.
And yet, there are glimpses. As I said, all of the main characters are perfect. The intentional humor works well, and Ryan Reynolds steals scenes as Wade Wilson. The major fight scenes, other than the finale, are amazing – with the helicopter / motorcycle / jeep combination enthralling and visually striking, and the Gambit / Wolverine / Sabretooth tussle a fanboy’s ultimate fantasy. It’s a fun, entertaining movie, with several badass sequences. Unfortunately, and there’s no way around it, it’s also a terrible movie. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is no Batman and Robin, thankfully. The problem is, it’s definitely in Batman Forever territory.