X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an epic catastrophe on every level, a confluence of poor ideas, poorer execution, and blinding stupidity. When faced with a celluloid abomination of this magnitude, a person must look back in time to the benchmark of horrible comic book film, Batman Forever, to find proper comparison. This movie is worse, attempting a realistic tone, grappling with schizophrenic thematic concerns, and dishing out horribly sub-par special effects. This movie is so bad that it will require multiple critical treatises for years to come to plumb its awful depths.
Major spoilers lie ahead. The film begins by cramming the entirety of the magnificent Origins comic into under five minutes of ‘I am your father’ familial bickering. The problems rear their ugly heads immediately, when we see that this 18th century mansion is quite clearly a soundstage, not a stick of furniture to be seen in the palatial estate. Kid Wolverine howls at the air, a habit never lost, over his dead father. The Sabretoothesque groundskeeper claims to be Logan’s father, but Wolvie’s ‘real’ dad looks a lot like Hugh Jackman. Perhaps Victor Creed and Jimmy Howlet are half brothers, and their mother carries the feral genes. Brothers stick together!
For the next few minutes the brothers claw fight the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. These sepia filtered vignettes are nice, but the crappy graphics are already worming in. When the computer graphics department is unable to come up with a convincing bi-plane crash, the writing is on the wall. The bi-plane graphic is used again for good measure going the opposite direction. Sabretooth leaps onto a German pill box at Normandy. This is a visceral scene, until he commandeers a machine gun, firing into the bunker, at which point it is clear someone forgot to add muzzle flashes.
Around the time Logan and Victor Creed are put through an unsuccessful firing squad, William Stryker shows up to offer them a place on the ubiquitous special military team. Soon, the squad of mutant commandos is on their way to Nigeria. Typical tough guy bloviating goes on in the plane, which is surprisingly modern for the circa 70s era, with an achingly poor animation. Once in Africa proper, the team emerges from a sound stage urban slum directly into a military compound garishly designed and realized with the care of an SNES level. Zero never misses and kills hapless soldiers. The Blob stops up a tank’s cannon with his fist. Dominic Monaghan can make the stalled elevator go. Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool stops bullets with his slangin’ swords. Will.i.am teleports and sports a G3 assault rifle, way too modern for the 70s. They find some adamantium and the location of a village.
The village is another soundstage with awful fake foliage meant to be a jungle; the team ruthlessly kills some innocent people; Wolverine quits; lightning ominously flashes on the team out of nowhere.
Six years and a blue collar salary later, Logan has purchased a wonderful little cabin with a spectacular mountain view, and has a hot girl to boot. Silverfox is beautiful, but only has one expression; wondrous admiration. Not a lot is done to convince us that Silverfox and Wolverine are really in love. We are treated to the work site, the pickups are all old, but the construction equipment is ultra modern. Victor takes the time to decapitate an actual Wolverine, even though he is not privy to the painfully stupid way in which Logan has chosen the moniker, nor has he begun using yet. Silverfox is ‘murdered’; Logan loses a fight with Victor in a soundstage bar; Stryker convinces him to undergo the Weapon X procedure.
The Weapon X procedure sports the best graphics of the movie, and Hugh Jackman naked. Note to Stryker: don’t put the entrance to your top secret base at the top of a waterfall. When Wolverine cuts through aforementioned solid metal door, the graphics are so horrible you may think you are actually watching the old X-Men cartoon.
Wolverine takes refuge with Ma and Pa Kent. I’m kidding; it’s actually Aunt May doing a cameo. The couple takes in Wolverine. While Logan observers his new claws in the mirror, we witness the absolute most atrocious computer effects possible, as his glass smooth untextured claws seem to float on his fist. This kind of sloppy work is inexcusable, how did it make it to the final cut? Generic do-gooder old couple doesn’t seem very shocked when he accidentally cuts their metal bathroom sink cleanly in two. “Don’t worry Sonny, we all have metal objects sticking out of our body one time or another, by the way, here’s a designer leather jacket that belonged to my son, and oh, check out my suped up motorcycle.” The old man deigns to give Wolvie some elderly advice, not realizing that he is almost 200 years old.
After the elderly couple gets brutally murdered, Logan is chased by a helicopter and two Humvees. The chase is competent, but nothing special, and nothing we haven’t seen in the trailers a million times before. Note to Zero: don’t antagonize someone when you’re stuck in a fuel leaking helicopter wreck. Wolverine walks ominously in front of a bad explosion.
Wolverine hooks up with the Blob and Will.i.am in Las Vegas for some Blob boxing and needless exposition. The Blob displays the best acting of the entire movie explaining Stryker’s scheme, Will.i.am displays the worst acting talking about his regrets with no conviction at all.
A motorcycle trip to New Orleans reveals more ultra modern cars on the highway, and crowded Bourbon Street. Once Gambit and Wolverine start fighting, not a drunken frat boy is to be seen in the abandoned soundstage alleys. Gambit comments that he doesn’t trust Wolverine because he has the same dog tags as Sabretooth. When Sabretooth and Wolverine start fighting, Gambit completely ignores Victor who originally kidnapped him, focusing on kicking Logan’s ass instead. Gambit goes up a fire escape and Wolverine chops down the ladder with some ferociously awful direct-to-video quality graphics.
Sabretooth quietly kidnaps Cyclops, if by quietly you mean blowing a high school in half.
Gambit flies Wolverine to Stryker’s base on Three Mile Island, where Wolverine jumps into the water in another horribly rendered scene. Stryker kills a general for getting in his way. Wolverine confronts Stryker, where he tells Logan the whole conspiracy. Silverfox faked her death, even though Logan’s keen sense of smell should have noticed the difference. Stryker lets Wolverine walk around his top secret base unimpeded, mulling his bad fortunes. Silverfox and Wolvie release the mutant prisoners, a horribly animated Emma Frost shows up with diamond acne. Deadpool enters the scene for the end game.
The final fight takes place on top of a nuclear reactor, Victor Creed and Logan versus Deadpool. The fight is serviceable but is strongly reminiscent of a video game cut scene. The nuclear tower comes down, and the wreckage is used as an artistic frame as an afterthought. Wolverine gets shot in the head with an adamantium bullet. Note to Stryker: next time let your expert marksman have the adamantium bullets. It’s a good thing that in X2, when the cop shoots Wolverine in the head, the bullet didn’t go through this old skull holes and erase his memory again. Wolverine walks away against a golden sunset digital matte painting. Professor X shows up walking and looking like a lump of melted wax in an ultra modern 3D helicopter. Come on, they couldn’t get a real helicopter for Prof. X? Roll credits.
How did this movie happen? It could have been a good hard military movie. It could have explored Stryker’s preemptive strike on the mutant threat in a thoughtful way. The central conflict is supposed to be Wolverine’s human and animal nature vying for supremacy, but he never really goes berserker. Wolverine is reduced to a gullible chump who holds back when he should be ruthlessly slicing and dicing. Liev Schreiber is a great Sabretooth, but his thespian skills and deep drawl can’t save this train wreck. Leaving the theater I heard words that summed up this entire experience, “epic fail.”