There was a time in my life when I thought the Chuck Norris movie Missing in Action 2: The Beginning was a great film. Of course, that was back in 1985, when it first came out, and my cinematic tastes were far from fully developed. The reason I'm sharing this bit of information about myself is because I think it's important to note that there was a time when I liked certain movies, simply because I didn't know enough to realize that they kinda sucked. Which is why I feel confident in saying that there was a time when, in all likelihood, when I would have really liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But that time, for better or worse, has long since passed; meaning that years from now I will never have to look back and say, "Man, I can't believe I actually thought Wolverine was good," the same way I now look back at Missing in Action 2 and say, "What the f**k was I thinking?" That is, unless of course, I don't look back years from now and suddenly see some sort of cinematic genius in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that now eludes me. It could happen; but honestly dear friends, I highly doubt it will.
In this much hyped prequel to the original X-Men films, a trilogy that started off with a solid first film, picked up steam with an impressive second installment, and then turned to shit with a third film that was both bad and laughable--sometimes during the same scenes--Hugh Jackman returns as the mutant with metal claws that grow from the backs of his hands. As the film kicks off in the mid-1800s, we meet our favorite mutant when he is still a boy, just as his claws emerge for the first time (and before they have been encased in an unbreakable metal alloy). During a hasty opening sequence that spans over a century, we see James/Logan/Wolverine in action, as he and his brother, fellow mutant Victor Creed/Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber), cut a bloody swath through one conflict after another. This crucial sequence establishes the brothers as killers impervious to injury, whose hairstyles and silly facial hair remain the same from the Civil War to World War I, through World War II, into the Vietnam War, and right up into the present day. Seriously, their hair never changes. And the reason I mention this is because the facial hair of Wolverine and Sabertooth seems to have been given more attention than the story itself. It's almost as if the producers sat around a table and said, "If we make these guys have consistently annoying facial hair in every scene of this movie, which spans well over one hundred years, maybe people will focus on that, and not notice that our script sucks." And that tactic might have actually worked, if the movie were only about twenty minutes long. But as it stands, there is so much that sucks in Wolverine, that nothing, not even bad hair, is an effective diversion.
Logan and Victor are recruited by William Stryker (Danny Huston), who wants them on a special team of soldiers all with unique powers. But when Logan has enough of the wanton killing, he leaves the team and retires to a quiet life as a lumberjack in the wilds of Canada. Years later, for reasons that will seem clever to some, but contrived to others, Stryker comes knocking on Logan's doors, hoping he will help him stop a renegade Victor, who is killing former team members. Logan refuses, which is nothing more than a plot device to pad out this sad state of affairs long enough for personal tragedy to strike, resulting in our hero allowing Stryker to perform experimental surgery on him. This, of course, is the surgery that gives Logan his unbreakable metal skeleton, which coupled with his incredible healing abilities, and his new name of Wolverine, makes him the guy we all fell in love with in the first X-Men movie.
Co-written by David Benioff, who's script for 25th Hour resulted in one of the most laughably bad final acts ever committed to film, and Skip Woods, who's Swordfish was just plain stinky, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a jumbled mess of comic book lore cobbled together into a screenplay that overflows with mediocrity and hackneyed conventions. Making matters worse--as if a bad script was not enough of a problem--director Gavin Hood, who's Tsotsi was a very good film, lacks the chops to make this mess enough of a visual distraction to even make the movie seem moderately fun. Hood's direction is as bad as the script it brings to bombastic life, all of which is driven home by shoddy editing and special effects that are neither special nor effective.
Saying that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a bad movie is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. It's more of a not-that-good movie that runs too long, and in doing so comes pretty close to being bad. But again, if you were to trim this thing down to about twenty minutes--thirty minute, tops--you would likely have an entertaining movie on your hands. And I say "entertaining" because to be perfectly honest, I see little evidence of anything in Wolverine to indicate that it is actually good. But since good can be forsaken from time to time if something is entertaining, then there shouldn't be anything wrong with Wolverine being nothing more than an entertaining film. Keep in mind, of course, that I am talking about the possibility of Wolverine being entertaining if it were twenty to thirty minutes long. But it isn't twenty to thirty minutes long, which means that it is something of an endurance test that serves as a reminder of exactly what makes both home video and the accompanying fast forward button such an integral part of the entertainment process.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]