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Wolverine Wanderer - X-Men Origins: Wolverine Reviewed
Josh Saco , May 1st, 2009 09:51

With other Marvel Comics adaptations setting new benchmarks for the superhero flick, Wolverine's origins tale doesn't quite have the bite of the original. Josh Saco goes Berzerker on X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Alvin Stardust and friend

Marvel Comics, the mighty beast that survived wars, recessions and intergalactic attacks, fittingly started with a flame: the Human Torch. Marvel has been keeping that flame alight for 80 years now. We have seen Marvel do battle with the Comics Code Authority, trudge through the Super Hero drought of the 50s, the low of the hokey spin offs of the 70s and the mini decline of the 90s when the independents really took hold. But through out it all, it has managed to entertain.

Marvel dipped its toe in the moving image several times, but not until recently have special effects finally managed to catch up with the imaginations of the great writers and artists that they employed.

Blade was really the first to take advantage of these advances, an odd choice admittedly, though presumably a sure thing what with it being about vampires and all. The super hero genre really came into its own with X-Men and followed swiftly by Spiderman, Marvel were finally able to put Lou Ferrigno, Dolph Lundgren and that abysmal Captain America movie behind them and stand proudly as fans cheered them on for finally getting it right.

Ok, they haven't all been hits, Elektra, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, The Hulk (twice), were let downs, but Spiderman, Iron Man and X-Men are all solid films, certainly classics of their genres. Regardless, it has been proven that we now have the technology to make the Silver Surfer fly through the streets of NYC. We even get to see these mutant freaks have emotional problems, think Eastenders with big BIG explosions... and flying... and laser eyes... and teleportation.

On the surface, taking a comic book and turning it into a film would be a piece of piss, the whole thing is story boarded and written for you already! The market research has been done:

Does the Weapon X storyline sell well?

Yes

Does it sell well in the second hand market?

Yes!

How many print runs have they done of the graphic novel?

Loads!

Great! Obviously that story could be better! Let's rewrite it!

What?! Wait!

This dubious reasoning has worked in the past, a bunch of story lines are usually combined into one with some extra bits of invention thrown in. With Spiderman, X-Men and Iron Man this worked because these are all relatively straightforward stories with relatively comprehensible characters. Sure, people die or get hospitalised, but Peter Parker is a genuinely nice guy and Tobey Maguire plays him perfectly. The harsh, witty alcoholic business man, Tony Stark, seems a role made for Robert Downey Jr. if ever there was one.

X-Men works well as it takes place in and around a school, so the darker elements of some of the characters are understandably played down.

This is where the problem with X-Men Origins: Wolverine begins... After killing his father, Logan spends roughly 125 years roaming the earth ventilating as many people as he can, and sometime during the Vietnam War finds his conscience, deciding enough is enough. Which I suppose is believable, we all learn as we get older and our tastes change, be it murder or milk in our coffee. The ground work has been laid for this feral animal, renowned for his berserker rage and, of course, giant blades of indestructible metal that shoot out of his fists to slice your body to ribbons.

But, when the studios start deciding to tame this beast, they rip its heart out. Wolverine was a man of mystery, an animal on the edge, a monster driven by his own code of morals, which should be conveyed in the film, and can be successfully (may I refer you to Batman Begins, suitably dark and yet appealing to a mass audience with very few compromises).

The muted tones in Wolverine do not manage to free it from the fact that this film was clearly intended for an audience far too young to be watching a crazed killer slash his way through 100 minutes of digitalised super villains. Trying to tone down murderous rage while simultaneously trying to make a film appear edgy is not the easiest of things to pull off. I'm not blood thirsty, but I do expect to see some blood... any... a drop? When you shoot a man in the head or drive a katana through his chest, I certainly expect a few spots of claret on the Persil whites, even if he has healing powers.

Hugh Jackman doesn't play Wolverine, he IS Wolverine, I couldn't fault the man if I tried, it's just a shame that the characters around him were are dire need of grounding. The long awaited film appearance of Gambit, a mutant that channels energy through objects resulting in massive destructive discharges was less than explosive. Much of what made the comic version of him is gone. His trademark gloves are no longer, his smokey allure, rough, Johnny Depp like sexiness is replaced with a more clean cut, safer image. He also seems to bounce around like a fairy, which is neither here nor there, but doesn’t do much for the rough and ready Cajun.

One of the biggest disappointments is Deadpool. In his original form as Wade Wilson, played by Ryan Reynolds, he is one of the better characters in the film. His on screen time, albeit short, is funny and witty, offsetting him perfectly from Wolverine's moody grumbling. Deadpool, for those who are not familiar is a highly skilled super assassin with healing abilities and metal re-enforced skeleton, like Wolverine, and blessed with vociferous wit. He is a tremendously popular comic character, and certainly worthy of his own film.

This Deadpool, however, is over the top and reinvented for maximum destruction. Sure, we must accept we are in the world of the super hero, they don't die, they fly, they do all sorts of ridiculous things, but even within the context of the World of Marvel, he is a bit much.

So aside from it being a bloodless film about a sociopath with giant razor blades who can't die made for 12 year olds, an origins story with terrible character development, and rewriting perfectly good, pre-existing storylines and comic characters... It's a great action film, but not one that stands among Marvel's finest moments. I think I'll go watch Batman Begins again.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is in cinemas now.

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