Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Man on Film: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I've been meaning to write up a ton of music stuff, but I kind of have to be listening to the album while I do an entry on it. As I tend to sit down at the computer while I am watching the Royals (there are 20 seconds between pitches, so there's definitely time), this is not the easiest thing to fit in since I use the auditory cues of the broadcast to keep tabs on things. As such, you get my reaction to Wolverine.

First off, I expected this movie to blow hard. Nearly everything I read implied that this was in fact worse than X-Men 3. In the last ten years, I have only seen one movie in the theaters that I hated more than X-Men 3, and that was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (which I wrote a rather angry review of over at IMDB, which I will actually cut-and-paste here*).

*(Spoiler Alert) This film is like having a fat man who ate at IHOP run a marathon and then drop a diarrhea dump on your chest and proceed to use your face as toilet paper

I should preface this review by saying that I was indifferent as to how I might feel about this film going into it. I thought the first film was fairly good. It was entertaining, but nothing that made me yearn for a second one. That being said, I hadn't read a review of this film (and still haven't) and had only heard that it had received mixed reviews. I had tempered expectations going into the theater, but I was certainly open to a good time.

A good time was not had. This film was quite simply awful. I have not seen anything in a long time that made me marvel at the fact that it was actually the finished product of a gigantic summer film churned out by a Hollywood Studio. I saw X-Men 3. While that was dreadful, this was eons past X3 in terms of excrement put to celluloid.

The plot was akin to a second-grader's class project. There was zero character development and not a single moment in which you thought you were seeing an original thought projected onto the screen. While it is a sequel, at some point the things that happen to the characters should matter, and if something bad happens to a character, the events that have molded him or her to that point should affect the audience somehow. Instead, the tools responsible for this screenplay have events happen without emotionally investing the audience in any way, shape, or form as to the fate of the characters on-screen, simply hoping that writing an event will somehow tug at the heart-strings of the audience without ever having to earn it.

I don't know that it is entirely the filmmakers' fault, because it seems that Verbinski & Co. were tied to some P.O.S. script that was churned out in a matter of days to get the cameras rolling, so Disney could bend the movie-goer over and sodomize them while getting paid for it. In the place of an actual story, they were probably told to blow up the film with mind-numbing action sequences and lame special effects.

To add insult to injury, the film clocks in at a mere two-and-a-half hours, which for a film with a plot wouldn't bother me in the least, but when you can write out the entire plot of this film in a matter of moments, seeing that paper-thin storyline stretched into 150 minutes is unbearable.

I could even make an exception to all of the aforementioned gripes and say that there was something in the film worthwhile if there was one performance from the cast that was mildly amusing. Alas, there is not. The actors all seem to have mailed it in, including Depp, who had a single chuckle-worthy moment as a follow-up to an Oscar-nominated turn in the previous Pirates outing.

***********SPOILER ALERT*************** When it comes down to it, all you'll get from this film is an obscenely long prologue to Pirates of the Caribbean 3: The Search for Spock--I mean Jack, because the entire plot of this atrocious piece of refuse is enough to fill a mere introduction to a real story.

Of the X-Men series, I really only loved X-Men 2. I thought the first one was overloaded with way too many characters crammed into the mix just for show. The dearth of characters was such that there was little-to-no room for character development, and the casting of Anna Paquin as Rogue was simply infuriating to me. Additionally, there were way too many villains just kind of hanging around apparently tasked to look vaguely intimidating while doing little else. So fuck the first one.

The second one was amazing. I was shocked. There is really not a disparaging word I have to say about that film. It touches on the themes of alienation and extermination that made the comic books great. The villainous military element was startlingly scary while paring the focus down to a more realistic enemy.

Then there was the third installment which was unspeakably bad. The shitty thing is, there was no way it wasn't going to suck balls with Brett Ratner at the helm. Despite the low expectations, it exceeded the expected awfulness to take a seat directly behind PotC:DMC in the unenviable realm of worst movie of the 2000s*.

*Southland Tales obviously ends up in this category, but I didn't see it in the theaters, thankfully. It also happens that Jeremy, who is apparently as willing as Jackie and I are to see just how bad a movie can get, decided to dive into ST, as well as Wolverine.

So I expected this to somehow be worse than that. Upon deciding to test our tolerance for utter shit, Jeremy, Jackie, and I sucked it up and went on Sunday night. On the phone when we decided to do it, Jeremy suggested that he may actually want to walk out, which he doesn't do.

Well, we didn't walk out.

Don't get me wrong. This was not a good film. It was actually bad.

There was no cohesive thread to the narrative. Much in the same way Pirates 2 came off, Wolverine seemed like a movie of action sequences that was pieced together with little regard for themes, story, or dialogue. As was the fault of the first X-Men movie, there were far too many characters thrown into the film with little idea as to how to utilize them, not that such an undertaking would have been possible in a film any less than nine hours long. Ryan Reynolds and Taylor Kitsch were both very good as Wade Wilson and Gambit, respectively, but had a combined screen time of somewhere around ten minutes. Liev Schreiber is good as Sabretooth, but it feels like they didn't make Sabretooth animalistic enough. Jackman does exactly what he has done for the three prior X-Men installments. He owns the character and pulls off the extreme badass well.

As for the other stuff, the effects were at times solid and at other times laughably bad. The scene where he is inspecting his new claws in the bathroom mirror is abysmal. For most of the movie, the claws look amateurish. Some of the action sequences work. Others are not quite as good.

Going much more into this would be absurd. I don't know why I've written so much. Well, maybe I do. Wolverine was my favorite comic book character as a teen. He took over where Spiderman left off. Wolverine was so much darker. The darkness quenched a thirst for something slightly more adult in the admittedly lighter comic book fare of the Marvel Universe. For the most part, the character has been portrayed well in the film medium. It just so happens that the films themselves have often been lacking. I guess that speaks to Hugh Jackman's skill as an actor.

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