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Wolverine: More mutants, less fun in X-Men prequel

by Glen Baity

To comment on this story, e-mail Glen Baity at glen.baity@gmail.com

It’s the first weekof May, which canonly mean onething: superheroes,superheroes,superheroes.And where there’sa superhero, there’san origin story. Untilnow, Wolverine’s hasremained shrouded inmystery for moviegoers.Unless you read theWolverine: Originscomic when it came outin 2006, all you know isthat he’s very old, and that the same mutanthealing factor that keeps him alive alsohelped him survive the procedure that graftedindestructible metal to his skeleton.Not to be a killjoy, but: What else do youneed to know? If X-Men Origins: Wolverineaccomplishes nothing else, it proves thata little mystery is good for a character likeLogan. The film pulls back the curtain on apretty ordinary origin story. Logan (HughJackman) and his older, similarly-poweredbrother Victor (Liev Schreiber) run awayfrom home, fight in every major Americanconflict between the Civil War and Vietnam,and ultimately join up with Col. WilliamStryker (Danny Huston), who spends the1980s rounding up mutants for testing to getat the truth behind his own son’s mutation(you may remember that plot point from thefar superior X2). Soon enough, Wolverinegets disgusted with the work and retreats tothe wilderness, which causes Stryker to sicSabretooth on Logan’s innocent wife (LynnCollins). X-Men Origins: Wolverine piles on themutants, which is a mistake here for thesame reason it was a mistake in X-Men: TheLast Stand: because quantity does not equalquality. If it did, Wolverine would be thebest of the franchise — beyond everyone’sfavorite ornery Canuck and his brother, there’sDeadpool (Ryan Reynolds), Gambit (TaylorKitsch), Bolt (Dominic Monaghan), JohnWraith (Will.i.am of the Black-Eyed Peas, inan ill-advised bit of stunt casting), the Blob(Kevin Durand) and even a young Cyclops(Tim Pocock), among many, many others. When you have this many characters, you’resimply not going to have enough screen timeto develop most of them. Sure enough, most ofthe players pop in for a scene or two and thenstep into the background — it’s less a cast thana mutant roll call. Throw in an overcookedplot and some unimpressive action, andyou’ve got one giant mess on your hands.And by all means, let’s talk about the action,which should be Wolverine’s bread and butter. Bottom line: There’s a difference betweenwhat looks fantastical on screen and what justlooks silly. Sam Raimi, for example, displays agood sense for this in the Spider-Man movies,but Wolverine director Gavin Hood is clearlynot hip to the difference, as sequence aftersequence is spoiled by some element that justdoesn’t fit. In one scene, Gambit twirls his stafflike a helicopter blade to slow his fall, whichlooks exactly as stupid as it soundsSpeaking of helicopters, there’s also the bigtrailer scene you’ve been seeing for months, inwhich Wolverine rides the shockwave from amissile explosion onto the back of the chopperthat fired it. He subsequently brings thechopper down with the awesome power of hisclaws, highlighting the film’s unofficial mantra: The Claws Can Do Anything. Seriously, I getthat the claws are cool, but Hood turns theminto fetish objects. Every two minutes — sniktsnikt!! — the claws come out, magical solutionsto every problem. Need to climb something?Claws. Open a door? Claws. Light a fire? Youguessed it: Claws. In the end, the claws cando everything except impress an audience.Allof this might be forgivable if anyone looked atall like they were having a good time, but theonly actor who brings any life to his characteris Schreiber. Sabretooth in Wolverine is anactual presence, especially compared to thelifeless strongman version from the first X-Menfilm (screenwriters David Benioff and SkipWoods don’t even try to bridge the sizeablegulf between these disparate portrayals). ButJackman, for all his enthusiasm about thefilm in junket interviews, looks like he’s justfulfilling a contractual obligation here as hestruggles against the bad script and jumbledplotting. I’m sure Wolverine will makea pile of money, as will anythingbearing the X-Men stamp, but untilsomeone with a fresh vision can bebrought on board, perhaps it’s time tolet this series hibernate.
To comment on this story, e-mailGlen Baity at glen.baity@gmail.com

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