Following on from the disappointment that was X-Men: The Last Stand it seemed the X-Men franchise was effectively dead in the water. But as Hollywood can never just let once popular franchises just die, so someone asked themselves, what was one of the most popular elements of X-Men and X-Men 2?? – Why Wolverine of course. So in 2009 Hugh Jackman once again reprised the role of the grizzled character in this prequel to reveal how he lost his memory plus how he got is trademark metal skeleton and of course his claws.
Ask yourself a question – How do you take a character with a mysterious back story, a back story that has only been hinted at up to this point and completely rob that character of the mystery that makes their unknown past so interesting?? The answer is you make a lazy prequel that takes one of the best characters in the Marvel Universe and drains away all of their mystique.
So, with a heavy sigh, let’s have a look…
In 1845 in Canada the young James Howlett witnesses his father being murdered by a groundskeeper named Thomas Logan, seeing his father die triggers a mutation in the boy and claws push through his skin and he kills Logan. With his dying breath Logan tells the boy that he is his real father and together the confused James runs into the night with his friend Victor Creed, the abused son of Thomas Logan who is therefore James’ brother.
Over the next century the two are inseparable and work as soldiers. Both have violent urges and being soldiers allows them to express those feelings in the American Civil War, both World Wars, as well as the Vietnam War. However during Vietnam, Victor (as an adult played by Liev Schreiber) kills his superior officer after his superior attempts to rape a woman. His actions are defended by his brother James (Hugh Jackman) and the pair are executed by a firing squad before both are simply imprisoned.
They are found by William Stryker (played by Brian Cox in X-Men 2 but here is much younger and is played by Danny Huston) who offers them the chance to join the Team X, a group of mutants, but due to the team’s disregard for life prompts James to leave much to his brother’s annoyance
Six years later James, using the name Logan, is happy with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), then Victor re-enters his life and without provocation murders her just to get at him.
The rest of the film follows Logan as he sets off in revenge.
If you want to revive a franchise, why do it this way?? I mean the amount of comic books and cartoons that have featured the X-Men over the years surely means that there is a world of possibilities for other stories. I have no problem with focussing on a single character but as Wolverine was the main focus for the X-Men films why has he been given another film which focuses on him??
X-Men Origins: Wolverine basically tells the back story of how Wolverine came to have the indestructible metal adamantium grafted to his skeleton, his relationship to Sabertooth and how he came to lose his memory. Considering that we saw Sabertooth in X-Men but there was really no indication that the two had a prior relationship, now I know that Wolverine wouldn’t remember their past, but there surely would have been opportunities for Sabertooth to goad his opponent with snippets of his past?? Thus giving this film some context because it answers questions posed in X-Men. In addition, considering how much the character of Sabertooth survives in this film, why was he never seen again after being knocked off the Statue of Liberty in X-Men, he can regenerate like Wolverine, so how come that fall seems to have killed him??
The X-Men films focussed primary on Wolverine and so this origin story does just seem to be retreading old ground. Victor Creed and Sabertooth are the same. Tyler Mane played the part in X-Men and was apparently interested in returning but has been replaced by the less physically imposing Liev Schreiber. A young Scott Summers (who would be played by James Marsden and become Cyclops in the X-Men films) is one of several captured mutants that are being used to create the ultimate weapon. Although, conveniently he is blindfolded so even though he is rescued by Wolverine he hasn’t seen him which is why he doesn’t remember him when they meet in X-Men.
Other mutants Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) and Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) also appear.
Regrettably, Reynolds seems to only be there to establish his character in the Marvel Universe so he can have a spin-off. A spin-off that as of yet hasn’t happened, apparently though it is in the works. Gambit features more prominently but again his presence in Wolverine seems to only be so a future film can look more deeply into his character but as far as I am aware that is not actually going to happen now.
I don’t like prequels because characters that have not featured in later films generally just get killed off, and ones that have appeared in the original films you know are not going to die so the threat to them is significantly reduced.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an action packed film that gives the audience further insights into the past of gruff character of Wolverine. However, like a lot of prequels Wolverine doesn’t tell the audience anything they really needed to know. Hugh Jackman is obviously at home playing Wolverine, and honestly I think he suits the part well, but it takes away the mystery from a great character who’s origin should have remained shrouded in mystery.
This is yet another film that really didn’t need to be made as it adds nothing and if anything takes away from the established story. Wolverine loses his memory when he is shot in the head with adamantium bullets, so why weren’t there two bullet holes in his skull when his body was scanned in X-Men?? Why couldn’t his memory have been erased during the procedure that gave him the adamantium (as someone says at one point whilst the process is happening) but he wakes up and spends the rest of the film slowly losing his memory a piece at a time. Surely that would have carried far more weight than simply shooting him in the head and giving some half-hearted, yes his brain will heal but his memories won’t bullshit to explain how he lost his memory.
My Thumb is lingering in the Horizontal because ultimately whilst this film is entertaining enough, it is just unnecessary and seems to have been made mostly to establish spin-offs rather than be the revival of the X-Men franchise.
6/10 - Nowhere near as good as the first two X-Men films, it is the prequel that no one asked for, but it is at least an improvement on X-Men: The Last Stand