It can easily be said that the X-Men franchise is worth a good flogging. Over many years the comics have seen changing writers for the better and the worse. It wasn’t going to be long before someone made a film or three about it; Bryan Singer did a fine job of the first two, and even Brett Ratner’s dependence on direction over dialogue took the characters in new directions in the third.
So what character development can we expect when watching X-Men Origins – Wolverine? The highest expectation I had was none and I was still disappointed. Director Gavin Hood manages to not only bore us with predictable and clichéd scenes (check out the lovely old couple on the farm helping Wolverine “discover himself” by making sweeping assumptions in less than a few minutes) but he also ignores character histories patiently strengthened over the years. Apart from Wolverine’s obvious and overplayed interest in his boring wife/fiancé/who cares, you’ll find yourself wondering what each character’s motivation is, if you are interested enough to consider it (which is unlikely). Why, for example, does Sabertooth keep switching between siding with the “baddies” and siding with Wolverine? The only answer I can come up with is that it’s more convenient that way. Just when Wolverine’s chips are down fighting Deadpool, Sabertooth jumps in to help, when only minutes earlier he was trying to kill Wolverine’s love interest.
Hood manipulates the characters and the “story” to tailor the fight scenes (which are the only highlight of the film). He wants a scene with Wolverine and Sabertooth fighting side by side (seemingly somewhat reconciled but maybe not and who cares because we’re all confused) so he does it without stopping to consider why.
I suspect that for Hood directing is like playing a game of Sims. He’s not interested in how characters make their choices but in what they can do. And even then his mind has its limitations with many of the characters displaying one-trick pony blows.
Wolverine at times is so bad, in fact, that it is almost laughable. The film opens with a predictable “Noooo!!!” scene and is later closed off hastily with a sickly paedophilic-looking Dr Xavier loading trusting mutant kids (including a ditzy carefree Emma Frost) aboard his ship, which has appeared out of nowhere for no reason for the first time.
The sloppy film adds no insight into the comic series, nor does it promote the epic mythology which has grown since the comics began. This is a figurine movie. It looks pretty; there are some “awesome” action scenes and cameos from just about every X-Men character ever that you know, none of which contribute to Wolverine’s actual past. Hood’s unfocussed and lazy approach might get him more dollars thanks to apt marketing but this film serves no purpose to the past, present or future of X-Men.
If you’d like to see some proper character, plot and story development I highly recommend the Astonishing X-Men comics written by Joss Whedon (and now collected in book form).
Unlike Hood, Whedon selects only characters which serve a purpose to the story and develops them by pushing them to their limits. Of particular interest is his focus on Kitty Pryde whose seemingly simple ability to walk through walls is given a much broader level of importance. And the lines are witty and character focussed.
While it might not be fair to compare these X-Men stories across two different mediums I would sooner recommend time spent reading comics with substance and humour than watching a dull pointless film.
Check out the Astonishing X-Men series and avoid Wolverine unless you’re hoping to see some special effects.