After a slight departure from the usual way of telling things in X3: The Last Stand (mainly because of the original director and writers of the first two not returning for it), there was no real reason to continue on with the series as a core trilogy full of mutants. On top of that all anyone ever really cared about was Wolverine, so Fox cobbled together X-Men Origins: Wolverine for release in the spring of 2009. When an early work print leaked out, fans (who chose to watch it) complained about an uneven story and poor CGI…but being the work print, early impressions were put on hold until the finished product arrived in theaters a month or so later. Fans who ventured into the theater anyway were met with disgust: the work print and the final product varied very little.
Leading up to the events of X-Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the story of Wolverine’s epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe whose appearances in the film have long been anticipated.
No, I didn’t see the work print. Nor did I even watch the film in theaters. I could tell, like I did with X3, that the film was going to be a giant mess. There were those that praised it regardless (there always will be), but for the most part it seemed everyone agreed with the films rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes (currently sitting at a 36%) – whatever the intent of this film was, it was muddled together with too many mutants and too little coherence to make much of an impact on the viewer. Yet, despite all of this, the film still went on to rake in over $360 million worldwide. A major success for Fox, they almost immediately green lit a sequel (which looks to be in better hands, as one of the original writers of the Singer films is returning in some capacity for the sequel…or so last I heard, anyway).
I really want to just speculate on Wolverine 2, as this film is really just pure garbage. I’m sorry; I love Wolverine as much as the next guy (mansion raid in X2? Saa-weeeet), but no amount of bicep ripped Hugh Jackman could clean this pile up. I mean they even got Ryan Reynolds to add another pretty face to the screen and they still managed to muck it up. It’s a ridiculously premised and paced film and one that either completely screws with the continuity the past films set forth or is attempting to re-write history in some sense. The whole inclusion of a young Scott Summers as well as a creepy CGI Professor X just made for an unsettling and horrendous addition to an already tired narrative.
What made this film so bad? I’ll ignore the obvious for now and just say that the entire set up to the film is bogus. Again, I love Wolverine…I think he’s awesome. But what in this film didn’t we already see the majority of in X2? Sure, the adamantium injection sequence is more brutal and we see an extra fit Hugh Jackman going berserker (which, by the way, they use on the back of the package—“You’ll go ‘berserker’ for this pulse-pounding…” Does the general public even know what the hell berserker is?) and tearing everyone up. That scene, admittedly, while redundant, is cool. The rest, however, isn’t, as we were led to believe that Logan was a very dark human being before his adamantium injected self came to be, but we see that he…really isn’t. He becomes more of a bad guy after he starts to work for Stryker, which really just…doesn’t make any sense. Don’t worry though, this entire movie is ret conned (mostly) in the end when an adamantium bullet strikes Logan in the brain, so that’s why he remembers none of this. Hooray, I just sat through 107 minutes of what ended up being nothing.
Next up on the bad list? Yes…the CGI. Holy crap. How did they even manage to construct such ugly claws? Why are the claws even CGI when he’s in the bathroom? Is it particularly dangerous for him to wield them in a close quartered area like a bathroom? It just makes no sense. This film had a $150 million dollar budget. What was it spent on? The locations weren’t exactly exotic and Reynolds and Jackman were the biggest named actors in this (though I guess Liev Schreiber is up and coming…but I’ll discuss him later). So how did the original X-Men, made in 1999 for $75 million (roughly $100 million with inflation to make it completely fair to compare) look better than a film made for $50 million more with newer technology? I just really cannot get over the slipshod way this whole film was produced; I get why it was done (the quick buck…which it did make), but when you make consistently inferior products like this, eventually people are going to stop watching and then Fox will have to reboot the franchise (which they’re apparently doing with Fantastic Four anyway for some reason) just to attract newcomers. But you’ll still cast Hugh Jackman as Wolverine because he’s a proper bad ass, so you’re still ending up with the same situation. Here’s hoping the sequel is genuinely better than this one.
And…Liev. I like him. I thought he was great in Defiance. I did not, however, like his Sabertooth in this film. I didn’t mind him so much as a character or actor, I just didn’t like that it completely made the Sabertooth in X-Men completely…backwards. At least drop a line that he has a hairier brother or something…because the emotional connection they draw between Logan and Victor in this film means jack all in the 1999 film.
I probably sound like a bitter fanboy because his comic book heroes are being treated poorly but…it’s not so much that. I’m not even that big of a fan of the Marvel properties; what angers me is these films didn’t even start out bad; they started out as something that rebooted the entire comic book genre. And now they’ve become something that are comparable to Batman & Robin–bad acting, bad CGI, bad story, bad…everything.
I honestly didn’t find anything to be particularly redeemable about this film. What enjoyable moments it did have were supplied by a pre-Weapon X Reynolds (that mess he became? Also stupid.), who was an enjoyable quipster. The other remaining “exciting” action moments were all supplied by the films theatrical trailer, so there’s no need to watch anything but that when it comes to this film.
I had hoped that I would be wrong about the quality of this film. I wasn’t. I’m not entirely surprised by that, but…I just don’t get how it can be so hard for Fox to create a quality live action comic book film. They’ve had a pretty shoddy record as of late…and they (along with Sony) were the ones who started this whole resurgence of comic book flicks to begin with. Shutting off the part of my brain that remembers the past X-Men films and can only focus on Wolverine…and I still can’t recommend his film. It’s a bunch of boring action sequences strung together by bad green screen, mediocre CGI, and poor acting. So if you haven’t figured it out by now…Skip this one.
Fox unleashes Wolverine on Blu-ray in a standard two-disc Blu-ray case (second disc = digital copy). Inside are inserts for the format as well as for the digital copy redemption. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and the whole package is wrapped up in a reflective foil/embossed slipcover.
The film arrives with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and aside from making the green screen and CGI look even worse, the transfer does an admirable job at representing the film. All complaints about the film aside, this transfer really is quite nice—solid detail levels throughout as well as a deep blacks and strong colors. Occasionally you’ll be met with a shot that isn’t quite as perfect as it should be, but those moments are few and far between. As far as Blu-ray transfers go, this film is definitely an admirable and solid effort.
Moving to the audio, you get a similar situation. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is anything but quiet. Plenty of surround work, thumping bass and crystal clear dialogue just pours from the mix and never once was I really let down by a sequence. I actually found more enjoyment from this sound mix than I did from the film itself.
• Commentary by Director Gavin Hood
• Commentary by Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter
• The Roots of Wolverine: A Conversation with X-Men creators Stan Lee and Len Wein (16:19, 1080i)
• Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins (12:05, 1080i)
• “Wolverine Weapon X Mutant Files Featurette: 10 Character Chronicles (53:53, 1080i)
• “The Thrill of the Chase: The Helicopter Chase Sequence” featurette (5:53, 1080i)
• X-Facts: Trivia Track
• Alternate Memory Erase Sequence, Alternate Tag Scene: Japan, and Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Director Gavin Hood (9:32, 1080p)
• Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere (6:22, 480p)
It’s a solid roster of extras, especially the dual commentaries…but I just can’t really get into any of them. Whenever someone tries to justify something I dislike so completely, I can’t really take them seriously. They do offer up some interesting behind the scenes information and “what could have been” type things in the commentaries, but not enough to really warrant a listen to both unless you actually enjoyed the film. The other extras are all generic fluffy bits, although the Character Chronicles are rather full of behind the scenes footage, so that may be the only one worth watching if you want to focus more on the actors in the film.
Overall the extras here add up to a good four to five hours worth of content if you’re willing to sit through it. Again, this is a great presentation in terms of A/V specs and the extras are solid if you enjoy the film—so if you’re a fan of Wolverine or just really liked this film for some reason, this set will definitely be Recommended. Otherwise you can probably justify a Rental only.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is now available on DVD and Blu-ray..