X-Men Origins: Wolverine

2 out of 5

Directed by: Gavin Hood

On the plus side, it’s only a few minutes into X-Men Origins: Wolverine when you realize it’s not going to be very good, and a few minutes beyond that that director Gavin Hood sets the visual tone for Matrix-influenced action and green-screened camp. If this didn’t butt up against an overly serious tone – a script from David Benioff and Skip Woods that maybe had some legitimate intentions at some point, everyone trying to legitimately act using the most wooden dialogue (only Liev Schrieber’s 100% smirking menace Viktor Creed can escape this) – Wolverine would never have been better than dumb, but it could have been more fun.

There are problems great and small with this thing, but the one that hangs over the majority of the affair is the essential pointlessness of it. Wolverine – aka James Howlett (Hugh Jackman) – had his mysterious background somewhat explored in X2; while there’s potential to spend some time in James’ youth, way prior to what we mostly know, the film speeds by this. Still, there’s potential intrigue in delving into the secret missions on which Wolvie was tasked by William Stryker (Danny Huston) also prior to getting his adamantium skeleton, but this would be tricky territory for a character the producers probably wanted to strictly be a hero, no grey morality. So we skip that as well. We are almost immediately back at territory we’ve previously explored, except now with timeline busting fandom tossed in there, and a completely illogical badguy plot that doubles and triples down on its illogic with each subsequent scene.

Still, you can sink into the camp of this, and while it’s bizarre that they didn’t put more of the moderate budget into giving Wolverine’s claws some texture, the stuntwork and scene concepts are stupid fun – people jumping at helicopters and laser blasts destroying buildings – with Gavin Hood and his DP Donald McAlpine and the effects team sort of overblowing the colors such that the obvious green-screening takes on an appropriately comic book flair.

But the temporary enjoyment of this stuff is really, really ruined by the overwrought tone, and those fandom nods are embarassing; even if you don’t know which character is being referenced, the stuff sticks out, and makes for extended inclusions that add to an already sagging runtime. That leaves the movie in a rather poor spot of legitimately being bad, but again, at least it’s really hard to fool yourself that it will be otherwise after the first few minutes, so if you’re able to turn your brain off thereafter, some big bang explodey stuff pops up every now and then.