May 1, 2009


Well, it has started. May 1st is upon us, my friends, and that means one thing. The Summer Movie Season has officially begun! The last few summers have been surprisingly good, with smart, well executed action flicks, gut busting comedies, and some rather thoughtful dramas. The first movie of the season usually sets the stage for what's to follow. Last year, we had Iron Man to kick things off, and we all remember how great last summer was in terms of movies. Indeed, four of my top ten for 2008 came out in that season. This year, we have X-Men Origins: Wolverine to lead the charge. Looks like this summer is gonna suck. 
Origins tells the 'gasp' origin story of everyone's favorite comic book social reject, James Logan, aka, Wolverine, aka, the man with the big friggin' metal knives coming out of his knuckles. Apparently, Logan has been around for a while, and never aged a day. He's fought in the Civil War, WWI and II, and Vietnam. The dude's tenacious, to say the least. With him at all times, is his brother, Victor Creed, aka, (for you non X-Men nerds out there) Sabretooth. When these two bros are recruited by the slimy Colonel William Stryker to be part of a "special" team with "special" privileges, things start to blow up in their faces. Soon, Logan and Creed are going at each other's throats, while Stryker's allegiances are never quite clear until the end. The film expands on some stuff only hinted at in the first three X-Men movies, as well as introducing a slew of new mutants who are just there to blow crap up or set up new "origin" movies. The plot is standard revenge stuff, with a few predictable twists thrown in. Boring stuff, really.
Hugh Jackman extends the claws again in the role that made him famous. He's really the best thing in this movie. He has honed the grunt and roar of Wolverine to the point of perfection. All his uttered lines, while poorly written, are solid gold in his extremely masculine hands. Granted, it's the same schtick that he did in the last three movies. However, he was really good in those, so it's forgivable. Liev Schreiber plays Creed. I don't really know what to say about him. Schreiber is suited to the psychopath role; he played more or less the same role in Defiance, albeit, he was a good guy in that. Sure, he fits the bill, but he overplays it to an alarming level. If he had a mustache, he would twirl it. Danny Huston plays Stryker. This performance is not up to Huston's usual standards, but, it's passable. It will make you wish for Brian Cox, though. The other characters, while playing massive parts in the advertising campaign for this film, are barely in this, with the exception of Taylor Kitsch's Remy LeBeau/Gambit. With the amount of press he's getting, you'd think Ryan Reynolds' Wade Wilson/Deadpool would get a good chunk of screen time. WRONG! He comes in, cracks a few jokes, engineers one sinfully short action scene, and then leaves until the very end, and even then, he's and unrecognizable mute. Other performers include in his big screen debut as John Wraith, Kevin Durand as the horrendously fat Fred J. Dukes/Blob (more on that later) and Lynn Collins as Kayla Silverfox. Sure, they're all put up an admirable effort, but you will long for the likes of Ian McKellan, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, and Ellen Page. 
The studio really messed up with the casting of director on this one. Gavin Hood is a fine director; Tsotsi is one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years. But, he has no flair for action, and has no idea what to do with the comic book source material that he is dealing with. He is making a movie for the fans, make no mistake. But, while Zach Snyder made a comic book movie for the fans by staying ridiculously faithful to the source material, Hood goes about it by jam packing the screen with character after character, but not giving them enough time to make an impression. He also floods the screen with action scene after action scene, but they are all stilted, explosion filled, borefests. Well, that's not true. The last one, a three way duel between Wolverine, Creed, and Deadpool, is nicely executed. The same cannot be said for the rest of them. It's getting annoying that studios want to 'legitimize' their action movies by hiring award winning directors to work them. These directors have no idea how to shoot an action scene, so they compensate with overuse of the special effects. I can only imagine what could have been accomplished if Christopher Nolan or Ang Lee was directing. 
However, the biggest problem I have with this movie is that it sometimes stoops so low to get a laugh or thrill out of the audience. For example, Kevin Durand's character goes through a remorseful period over the things he did in the past, and started eating to make himself forget. As says, "We all got our coping mechanisms." Later in the movie, we see that he has gotten disgustingly fat. Hood plays this off as a light, comedic thing, as does Jackman, who cracks a few jokes. NO! That's not funny. That's not funny in the slightest. That type of humor really bothers me. The director is practically asking us to laugh at someone's hardships. It's despicable.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine starts off summer on a lackluster note. Sure, it offers some thrills and great eye candy, but, these days, that's no longer enough. I'm not going to start judging this season until I see Star Trek next week, but, if it's anything like Wolverine, this summer will incredibly lackluster compared to the last few. Oh well. 

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