X-Men Origins – Wolverine Review: Clawing At Greatness
With over 50 years of comic book expertise and over 5000 characters to their name, Marvel are not going to be short on inspiration for new films. Wolverine is the first in the X-Men: Origins series and as one of their most well-known and enduringly popular characters, Wolvie represents an important part of the Marvel franchise.
It shows how a sickly young boy came to be the rage-filled, cigar-chewing, metal-clawed mutant we all know and love but whilst the film is chock full of action and explosive set pieces, its frenetic pace steamrolls over anything more than a superficial empathy with its characters.
Brothers Victor and James have to flee their home in 19th Century Canada when an unfortunate incident reveals their latent mutations – James’s foot-long retractable claws and Victor’s razor sharp fingernails. They end up fighting in a series of wars from World Wars One and Two to Vietnam but when they’re found out, they’re offered the chance to join an elite team of other mutants by Major Stryker (the baddie from X2). Cue explosions, betrayals, rivalries, experiments, conspiracies, more explosions, fights, more fights, yet more explosions and a gigantic fat man.
There’s a lot to cram into 107 minutes and the pace of the movie, whilst keeping the action constant and the pace high, actually detracts from any emotional involvement that you might have had. Some of the best parts of the movie are near the beginning where the pacing is slower; the montage of Victor and Logan fighting alongside each other in a series of wars gives a real insight into the tenderness but also the bitterness and competitiveness built between them over the years.
Liev Shreiber is perfectly cast as Victor: snarling, sadistic and animalistic and the perfect counterpart to Hugh Jackman’s, muscle-bound, broody Logan.
It’s not only too much plot they’ve tried to condense; too many characters are shoehorned in as well. While it’s thrilling for a fan to see their favourite character on screen, it’s almost as frustrating not to see these characters developed in any great depth. Gambit, who shows up half way through the movie, has enough screen time for what amounts to a wave to the camera. Consequently his motivations are barely explained and his appearance feels unsatisfying.
As I’ve remarked in previous comic book adaptations, it’s the people behind the superpowers that are interesting to watch and not the superpowers themselves. Not to say that these aren’t impressive – the action is fast paced and exciting and it makes good and imaginative uses of all the mutants’ powers, but these CGI laden spectacles aren’t ones that audiences will remember in great detail.
Despite more characters than you can shake a razor-sharp claw at and a plot with more elements than the periodic table, it’s an enjoyable comic book romp, full of good action scenes and great set pieces.
It’s just a shame your recollection of what happens is probably going to be about as full of holes as Wolverine’s memory.