After the incredible success of the first three X-Men films, it was inevitable that the studio would try to find a way to continue capitalizing on these characters. The particular story being told had seemed to run its course, so instead of moving forward, they got the idea of looking back. X: Men Origins-Wolverine is the first in a proposed series of films that will provide the backstories to the most popular mutants in the franchise. While there seems to be a lot of negativity surrounding this film, I found it be a thoughtful and exciting look into the creation of a truly fascinating character.
As a character, Wolverine is one of the most interesting of the mutants. His story has been developed over decades of comicbooks, and was briefly hinted at in the original trilogy. X-Men 2 came the closest to fleshing out where he came from, but there still seemed to be a lot of story left to tell. We know Wolverine is seemingly immortal, and his skeletal structure is composed of something called adamantium. But how did he get this way? While most of the mutants in the X-Men world are born with their powers, the original trilogy teases with the idea that there was something more going on with this character.
This is the focus of the new film. After an incredible montage of Wolverine fighting with and eventually drifting away from his brother Sabretooth in several wars, we see a young Stryker (a much older character in X-Men 2) recruiting them for a government project where they will “really serve their country.” From this point forward, we see the evolution of Wolverine as not just a mutant, but as a character. His life is filled with loss and betrayal. It is easy to see the transition from the Wolverine in this film to the Wolverine in the original trilogy. The pieces all fit together perfectly and give a greater depth to what we have seen before.
Director Gavin Hood does a fantastic job of putting us into Wolverine’s state of mind. While the film occasionally borders on camp (lightning out of nowhere, etc.), it’s always thematically right-on. My biggest complaint is with the special effects. For a big-budget summer blockbuster, the digital effects look pretty cheap. I’ve seen better CGI on regular television. And why does Wolverine have to have digital claws now? The prop claws from the original trilogy look much better. Having said that, the world captured on film still looks great. The production designer and cinematographer did a great job in transporting the audience to a variety of very different locations, and really fleshing out this mutant-filled existence.
Speaking of mutants, this film has a great selection of new characters from the comics. Most of their appearances are rather brief, but we finally get Gambit, the Blob, Deadpool, etc. I really enjoyed seeing the interactions with all of these characters and the way they came in and out of Wolverine’s life, helping to shape him into the person we have been watching for the past several years.
New on Blu-Ray, 20th Century Fox has put together a solid package that does justice to the film. As the movie is all about the genesis of the character, one of the first features is an interview with Stan Lee and Len Wein, two of the originators of Wolverine in the comics. There isn’t a lot of flash to this segment; just two people talking. But you can sense the love they have for what they have created, as well as a genuine affection for each other. Other features include a making-of the film as a whole, as well as a segment showing the making of the helicopter crash specifically. There are deleted scenes which, as usual, deserved to be cut, and a pretty annoying segment showing the movie’s world premiere in Arizona.
The highlights of the Blu-Ray are found in what they call “Ultimate X-Mode Bonusview.” These are four separate ways of actually watching the film while getting information presented in a box in the corner. The first of these is X Connect. In this feature, the director and producers periodically pop up in the corner to explain how all of the characters connect in the X-Men world, often showing scenes with these characters in the original trilogy. Another way to watch is The Director’s Chair, where director Gavin Hood talks through various scenes about what it was like directing the film. There is also a fascinating feature called Pre-Visualizing Wolverine, where you see most of the film played out as either animatics or storyboards. Finally, there is the X Facts Trivia Track. The most disappointing of the Bonusview segments, most of the “trivia” is common knowledge, and not all of that interesting.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, despite the weak effects. I have always loved the X-Men, especially Wolverine, and I felt that this movie did him justice. The Origins concept is a great idea, and one that will really help flesh out this world. I can’t wait for the next film in the franchise, and just hope that it is as good as this one.