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Consumed With Hate: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

🙊 Woke Up This Morning, Didn't Recognize the Man in the Mirror...

The Crime: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The Guilty Party: Hugh Jackman, weirdly enough
Overview: An ugly, dumb, badly-paced, and wholly unnecessary film that is mostly remembered for how it tried to ruin Deadpool.

Why I Hate It...

It's been hard to pick topics this month. There's no shortage of bad movies and shows that fall under the Marvel umbrella, but it's been hard to come up with things that are truly awful that I've seen and remember well enough to write about. The big stinkers: Iron Fist, Elektra, Dark Phoenix, Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Josh Trank's Fant4stic are things that I just never bothered to watch. There's Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3, but talking about how bad that movie is has almost become a cliché at this point. So instead I've focused on things that weren't terrible, but didn't work in interesting ways. Black Widow's not a terrible movie, it's not even a bad movie, but it was born out of sexism and apologia for sexism. Daredevil is remembered as being worse than it actually is; at the time it got mixed reviews and was successful enough to spawn a sequel. Loki isn't terrible, but it irritated the snot out of me with its wasted premise. Even X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, which I'd originally planned to write about for today's post, is mostly just forgettable.

But then I remembered this gem. And I knew it was time to call an audible and change topics.

Bryan Singer's 2000 film X-Men was a bolt from the blue: a small-scale comic book team-up movie that found the right balance between realistic grounding and fantastical childhood wish-fulfillment. It was a smart movie that took itself seriously enough that it never drifted into camp but still managed to have fun with comic book characters. And it had pedigree. There were two knighted legends of the British stage (Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart), two Oscar-winning actresses (Anna Paquin and Halle Berry), a stunt performer riding a wave of acclaim for his work in Star Wars (Ray Park), a naked supermodel costumed in blue paint (Rebecca Romijn) and also James Marsden, who seems nice. But the breakout star was some Australian nobody'd ever heard of whose biggest acting role was as Curly in a London West End production of Oklahoma! Hugh Jackman perfectly embodied Wolverine, the loveable asshole mascot at the heart of the X franchise who's basically the living embodiment of having your face scraped raw from kissing someone who couldn't be bothered to shave in the last three days.

After a good first film, a kind of great second film, and then a cartoonishly-bad-but-weirdly-watchable third film, it was time to condemn the franchise to prequel hell, because humanity has learned nothing. (This is probably another post entirely, but prequels always suck--at least, in non-interactive media--because they have regressive narrative requirements but progressive audience expectations, and if you want to know what I mean by that... wait a week or so for me to write it up.) As the title of the film implies, this movie is devoted to the "origins" of the "Wolverine", an "X-man." Now, to be clear, this is not a story that ever needed to be told. It's not that interesting, and we already know the broad strokes from X-2 and also the many times it's been told in comics. Wolverine's mysterious origins are among the most well-trodden of mysteries, and the fact that he never seems to remember any of it is an annoying plot device that we've all accepted as normal because it makes this character who's already a walking hard-on just that much more brooding and edgy.

We open with our title character a young lord living in a mansion on a remote sepia-tinged estate where he will undergo some kind of trauma that will help define his character, which is also the opening of Hannibal Rising, a movie that had come out two years prior and was also a terrible prequel (but I repeat myself) that had no reason to exist. After an oddly compelling credit montage, we cut to a team of non-Captain-America super-soldiers doing black ops in Vietnam. Logan bails, but his brother Sabertooth seems to be having a go of things. Cut to what passes for the present in this movie and we find Logan living in the woods with his girlfriend, the soon-to-be-fridged Kayla Silverfox, played by Lynn Collins. 

Side note: one of the things that particularly irks me about this movie is that it helped tank the career of Lynn Collins, who is a family friend. She's an excellent actor--I would direct you to the 2004 film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice, which has her holding her own alongside no less than Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino. XMO:W could have been a big break for her, as could her turn as the eponymous princess of Mars in 2012's John Carter, which was also terrible. And also had Taylor Kitsch in it. Coincidence? Probably. Anyway, now Lily Collins is a household name, and I don't know if there's room in the movie-going consciousness for multiple Li__ Collinses. Alas.

Back to the plot, which is vast. Logan ends up getting his adamantium skeleton, Sabertooth is killing off their old acquaintances. There's a lot of a cat-and-mouse antics and some truly awful-looking stunt work and digital claws. Things end up on Three Mile Island where Wolverine has to face this movie's bastardized version of Deadpool. This is easily the film's biggest unforced error. Why on earth would you think that the best use of Deadpool is to take away everything that people like about him and instead turn him into a faceless repository of other hero powers? Having his mouth sewn shut is a plot point for a character whose nickname is "the merc with the mouth." Wolverine is victorious, using his claws to deflect laser blasts... sure, why not. And then he is ultimately thwarted by the film's second biggest unforced error: amnesia bullets.

And this, frankly, is even more baffling to me. Danny Huston as Stryker goes to great lengths to explain that shooting Wolverine in the head with an adamantium bullet will give him amnesia, and then Wolverine gets shot in the head with an adamantium bullet and gets amnesia, just as the prophets foretold. Did... did no one say this out loud before they went to film it? In a movie about a 13-year-old-boy's power fantasy... a film about a man who is a dark and brooding reimagining of the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes, who can magically heal and has a skeleton made of Marvel's fictitious indestructible metal--no, not vibranium, sorry, Marvel's other fictitious indestructible metal... in a movie with a fat guy named Blob... a movie that chose to stage a climactic battle between two shirtless guys with knives for appendages on top of a nuclear cooling tower... a movie where the hero unironically walks away from an exploding helicopter that he blew up by making sparks with his magical metal claws... in a movie with all of that... "amnesia bullets" just feels silly. 

It's not even that hard to fix. It's one line of dialogue. Instead of having Stryker explain that adamantium bullets will cause amnesia, just having him say that adamantium bullets ought to kill him. Problem solved. Did anybody read this script?

Anywho, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a piece of garbage, and it's kind of Hugh Jackman's fault. It's not his performance, necessarily--he's Wolverining the shit of things. But as the guy who's taken the most ownership of the character, he had a lot of behind-the-scenes influence, including collaboration on the script and helping choose the director. He was a big proponent of bringing in Gambit (oh yeah, Gambit's in this for no reason at all) and thought the film's joyless Deadpool was a fun take on the character. The movie was, unsurprisingly, poorly received. Very unsurprisingly, in fact, as a high quality workprint leaked ahead of the movie's premier, and a bunch of people on the internet watched it and promptly reported that it was a bad movie that did wrong by Deadpool and also what the f**k are amnesia bullets? Much hay was made about this unfinished version of the film negatively coloring audience expectations, and that this probably hurt the movie's financial prospects. But I don't buy it. Finishing the movie would not make the script suddenly good. Hell, the completed special effects don't even look that much better than the incomplete ones. 

Regardless, the movie did bad numbers and has been used as a punchline by Ryan Reynolds in at least two Deadpool movies and almost certainly it will come up again in the third. The next film in the X-Men Origins franchise--yeah, X-Men Origins was supposed to be a franchise--centering on Magneto, was scuttled. The reins of the Wolverine-centric side-movies were handed to James Mangold who actually managed to do something interesting with The Wolverine and Logan, and the X-Men themselves got a soft-reboot in First Class. Jackman returned as the main character of Days of Future Past, which merged the continuities together, however clumsily, and then Age of Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix shat the proverbial bed, Disney bought Fox, and now we're just waiting for the clock to run down enough that it can be rebooted whole-cloth into the MCU.

Next week, something lighter and definitely not divisive: Donald Trump's Crippled America, a phrase that can be interpreted in more than one way...

In CONSUMED WITH HATE, Kurt is revisiting media that he absolutely did not like one bit. See more posts.