I don’t know if I’m going to be alone in saying this or not, but from my perspective as a life-long comics fan, a huge fan of Claremont & Byrne’s X-Men in particular and even the first 2 films, I think this really did turn out to be largely a pile of rubbish. I don’t like slating films which I hope to enjoy, but the storytelling was so bad, the messing with the core X-Men mythos so severe, and the acting quite often so awkward, that I simply don’t have any choice.
I should make it clear that the fault of my discomfort with the movie doesn’t belong with Hugh Jackman, despite his co-producer status. Director Gavin Hood moves uncomfortably through often stilted set pieces in order to get the film going, leaving a massive emotional gap between the audience and main players in the film. The script is awful, the liberties it takes with Wolverine’s origin (an ongoing controversy even in the comics world) so fundamental, that I was simply left cold. You can’t have the death of Silver Fox dealt with so badly without it becoming an irrelevance. You can’t have Logan choosing to enter the Weapon X programme without him looking stupid. You can’t have the programme cause him precious little trauma without it make him look, well, boring. Barry Windsor-Smith had him kidnapped into the Weapon X programme, causing him such monumental trauma that he retreated entirely into an animalistic persona, rescued only from the wild by James MacDonald Hudson (later Vindicator in Alpha Flight). Here he’s so upset at Sabretooth’s apparent murder of Silver Fox (now ‘Kayla’) that he chooses to become Weapon X out of revenge. Even in his past that wasn’t Logan’s nature at all! It isn’t the only fundamental problem though.
Upon his escape he is intercepted by kindly Jonathan and Martha Kent analogues. Quite preposterously they’re clearly used to ‘humanise’ the character and make him less dark – more ‘family’ if you will. It’s terribly contrived and adds to the feeling that the script was put together by committee. Jackman admittedly does hold it together, but only just. Wolverine’s memory problems (caused by the Weapon X programme in the books)? Adamantium bullets. His heightened senses? Oddly missing when Silver Fox is apparently killed. And why is Sabretooth killing former Team X colleagues, when his remit with Stryker is merely to kidnap them (as he does with Scott Summers)? Gaping holes all over the place. Jackman brings the same humanity to Logan which he did so well in the 3 X-Men movies, but it’s not enough to make this anything than a horrible licensing opportunity, with so many unnecessary mutant guest stars & cameos (Taylor Kitsch as Gambit anyone? Why? I don’t know either!) you often lose sight of what the story is supposed to be about.
If there’s a Wolverine 2, it looks as though the source material will move on to include Claremont & Miller’s first Wolverine limited series. Great if so – the samurai element to his backstory would be quite welcome. The essential nobility of the character, trapped between the animal he is and the warrior he sees himself as, is the most interesting part of the character in the books. As it stands, despite the occasionally entertaining play-off between him and the excellently recast Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth, he’s certainly not that interesting. 4/10