Hugh Jackman is the perfect Wolverine. He really is. There is a Clint Eastwood thing he has that forces me to have a borderline man-crush on him. (borderline because I'm a Clooney man) Because of this, I cannot hate any movie where Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine (at least not yet, there is still rumor of a sequel...). Unfortunately, this movie didn't feature a solo Wolverine story where he wanders around being a badass and maybe fighting a marquee foe like Sabretooth, nor does the movie do a simple compelling adaptation of the Barry Windsor-Smith classic "Weapon X" story from Marvel Comics Presents. Instead we get a mish-mash of the semi-classic-but-tells-too-much Origin and the classic, but poorly interpreted Larry Hama run from the Wolverine comic. And any time you get a mish-mash, things are bound to go wrong.
The primary problem in this film is the Hollywood Effect. Anytime a film gets any kind of budget and aspirations of being a blockbuster, it starts making very bad, very over the top choices. Big explosions, ridiculous vehicles and weapons, unnecessary characters, and confusing casting choices start to show up all over the place. We'll see this a lot in the movies that are coming up and Wolverine kicks that off in grand fashion.
What starts with a lot of real promise, telling the mysterious, century spanning history of one of Marvel's franchise characters descends into a orgasm of mindless explosions, absurd fight sequences, even more useless action, and a complete absence of depth or story.
Things are going along pretty well until right after the scene with Gambit (a much awaited character that is completely wasted in this film). Up to that point we get that rambling solo story that the movie wants to be. We get Wolverine haunted by his past which is rapidly catching up to him in a very bad way. The members of Team X featured in the film are pretty fun, particularly Wraith and Silver Fox. Sabretooth is over the top from the start and has nowhere to go after that. I've never been a particular fan of Liev Schreiber, but I'm not convinced he was given much to do in this script. Silver Fox is actually very compelling, but again, given little to do. Instead we get lots and lots of fan favorite Ryan Reynolds as Marvel's most overrated and overused character, Deadpool.
For those of you not familiar, Deadpool was a product of the 1990's much like Urkel and Dan "the Whopper Man" Cortese (yeah, I went there). He was a slightly off-kilter, wise-mouthed assassin. For all intents and purposes, he was an evil Spider-man in terms of personality. Even the costumes looked similar...
|That's even a Spider-man pose! Feh!|
By the time we are subjected to near lethal doses of Deadpool, the film is heading toward critical mass and any hope of subtle character work or meaning is rapidly being drowned out by big explosions and fights atop cooling towers and every other kind of recycled action movie device you can name. When Deadpool's head finally rolls to a stop in the rubble, you are praying for death or the end of the film. (the end teaser even hints at a possible Deadpool spinoff which we are all celebrating the absence of)
The Hollywood Effect kills Wolverine. It starts with so much promise and then crashes and burns like there is no tomorrow. You should probably see this movie for Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and for the good stuff that happens early on, but after the Gambit fight in the alley, go watch something else, anything else. Go see The Avengers again.
Luckily for you all, this is the MARVEL movie ranking--not DC. Why, you ask? Because that means this is the very last time I will be railing against the Ryan Reynolds smart-ass machine. Like the hubs above, I absolutely detest both Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds, and I am happy to report that because he took care of it pretty well, I can keep my Ryan Reynolds bashing to a minimum.
Instead, I think I'm going to focus on the best of this movie. Wolverine.
Not a fan of bone claws, but whatever. The movie should really just start without an "origin" reaching that far back and skip straight to Weapon X. Since the movie chooses to be muddled and confused on the whole Weapon X thing, it should probably skip that and just have Wolverine ride a motorcycle through Canada being a devil-may-care general badass, fighting Sabertooth and smoking cigars. He should say "bub" a few times.
We kind of get that. Kind of. And that's the backbone of the film. Wolverine jumps at a helicopter. Wolverine rides away from an explosion. Wolverine uses his claws. These are the things we came to see.
Now, people like me who love Gambit are very happy to see him finally brought into the franchise. People like me who love Gambit are also pretty disappointed to see the type of film into which he's been brought. His role makes only a little sense with the negligible story. Still, he is Gambit, and he does all the things I want to see Gambit do, except you know, have character.
I'm not comfortable with the additional "cameos" we get, either. Cyclops is unnecessary, and Professor X is egregious. His appearance, in particular, is senseless. I'm not sure how old he's supposed to be here, because I'm never totally sure when the film is meant to take place. I kind of get that it's supposed to be... maybe? the 1970s, but frankly once we leave the WWII era, it is difficult to catch the markers. I hate not having a sense of place. Especially since this is supposed to tie together with the other X-Men films, characters like Professor X and Stryker should correlate very well to their later counterparts. They don't. Heck, I don't think Wolverine is all that consistant. But he's Wolverine.
And that's where I leave it. There's just enough Wolverine to enjoy in this film to make it squarely "middle of the road" fare. As a matter of fact, in our list, Wolverine marks the "beginning of the middle". This movie earns its place. One of the first that we ranked, Wolverine consistently stayed in the middle until better movies finally pushed it down a few ranks.
It's enjoyable. To a point. That's all you can ask of such a thin premise.