Most film franchises contain at least one movie that pretty much everybody associated with it wishes had ultimately never happened. Whether it’s The Phantom Menace, Rise Of The Machines or either of Joel Schumacher’s attempts at a Batman movie, studios so often have a tendency to fiddle with their films in the furtherance of profit, with disastrous and long-term consequences. Over in Bryan Singer’s X-Verse, the holder of the aforementioned unwanted accolade is generally accepted to be X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Memorable for some spectacularly poor CGI and notoriously off-key character design, it’s an awkward and uncomfortable entry in the franchise. A feat made even more impressive given that this is a franchise that has a tendency to rewrite itself on a regular basis, using multiple timelines to correct its issues.
Fans had been crying out for a solo Wolverine movie ever since Hugh Jackman had completely stolen the show with his debut performance in the original 2000 X-Men movie. A number of directors were courted for the project, with Zack Snyder refusing to commit as he was working on Watchmen at the time. The studio eventually settled on South African Gavin Hood, an award winning director with a history of making gritty and harrowing movies.
We can only speculate what Origins would have looked like if Hood had been left to his own creative devices, and it’s possible that the movie’s spectacular and thrilling opening title crawl gives us a clue. Charting the pain and tragedy that accompany an eternal life, it teases a roller-coaster ride of emotional upheaval for the unwilling hero. Sadly, that’s quite far removed from the finished article.
Hood had argued that the storyline should contain elements of PSTD, which was a hot topic at the time of production, and suited the backstory crafted in the title sequence. The studio were having none of it, instead opting to cram the movie with as many other mutant characters as they could in the hope of sparking off new Origins stories or a further sub-franchise. The results speak for themselves.
Nothing about the movie quite fits together, with the narrative desperately trying to juggle a whole host of different players and elements, before completely losing control in a final messy half hour. Which is a shame, because at points the script stays exceptionally faithful to the original iconic storyline which had been set up by the events of X-Men 2.
Origins manages to feature all of the little irritations and flaws that the X-franchise contains, but fails in concealing them due to the lack of structure. Characters are needlessly recast or retconned for the umpteenth time. Mutants with no connections whatsoever from the comics are mashed together to make unsatisfying team-ups. And Sabretooth’s motives/actions seem to differ for every scene he’s featured in.
It’s like the studio threw several cans of paint at a blank canvas, and literally nothing managed to stick. Deadpool’s portrayal is unfortunately now the stuff of legend, and not in a good way. Will I am’s presence is a complete mystery. Kayla ultimately ends up written out of the franchise, and Gambit’s inclusion seems to have permanently destroyed any hope of the character ever getting a Solo movie outing (despite the ongoing efforts of Channing Tatum).
There are, mercifully, a few minor successes hidden inside the noisy missteps. Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston both probe great casting choices, effortlessly bouncing off Hugh Jackman. In fact, it’s the engaging chemistry between Wolverine and Sabretooth that just about manages to hold proceedings together. And despite the unnecessary craziness of the film’s final act, the ending does nicely set up the franchise’s overall plot. Sadly though, these good points are in a small minority.
The film’s production was a mess, something that’s easy to see in the rushed use of CGI to create the young Professor X cameo, and also Logan’s claws. Jackman was busy filming Australia, and could only appear fleetingly between breaks on that project. And Hood’s ongoing battles with studio execs means that some scenes were shot without complete scripts.
Origins is a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve, striving to be the heartbreaking history we deserved, but falling far short of this. Despite making $373m back from its $151m production costs, the movie remains a headache for the franchise. The residual issues and bad feeling it created carried on into James Mangold’s sequel, and only last year’s Logan finally managed to remove the last traces of Origins that remained.
That – and Deadpool 2 “removed” it as well.
Our verdict: ‘Explosive, but ultimately overstuffed…’
What did you think of X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Be sure to tell us all of your thoughts in the comments down below!