Those who’ve braved Catwoman have nothing to fear from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. If Catwoman is a flesh-eating bacteria, Wolverine is only a case of man-flu. Yes, the movie is bad, and full of A-Team action sequences. Yes, it was written by a ten-year-old. Yes, it may land Hugh Jackman back doing dinner theatre. But it’s not Catwoman. Nor is it Supergirl. You won’t be left dumbfounded that intelligent human beings created it. Only mildly disappointed, that we’re back where super hero movies were in the 80s… disjointed script, schizoid tone, unconvincing effects and a cast like a C-list celebrity pirate ship.
The movie begins in Canada in 1845. Two brothers (who don’t even attempt Canadian accents) are forced from their home. They are mutants. For reasons that aren’t clear, the brothers become involved in every American war for the next hundred years. One day, while on a mission for the American government in Nigeria, the younger brother renounces violence (120 years of it is about enough) and goes back to Canada. He marries a school-teacher and goes to work logging (Canadian employment being divided 50/50 between lumberjacks and mounties). Sadly, the older brother doesn’t take well to this turn of events; so he brutally murders the school-teacher. At which point the younger brother agrees to let the U.S. government inject metal into his bones (?!!) so he can become… Wolverine!
Like that other immortals-with-dubious-accents movie, Highlander, Wolverine doesn’t worry about what it would actually be like to be 150 years old, or how an outsider might view U.S. history (Ok, so my ideal is more like X-Origins: Wolverine – A Robertson Davies Movie). Wolverine (the character) isn’t concerned that he and his girlfriend have an age-gap of about a century, or that fighting in all those wars was a pretty dumb idea for a guy who wants to keep his invulnerability a secret. He’s just happy putting cigars in his mouth (but never lighting them: good guys don’t smoke). There’s a vacant, Rock Hudson-ness about him that comes from being patently made-up.
As usual, Hugh Jackman appears in this movie like a man helping out a friend. Producers must tell him his movies are made to raise funds for sick children. How else to explain the paradox between my good will toward him and the slew of crap that is his resumé? Swordfish, Van Helsing, X-Men Origins: Wolverine… If it’s made in bad faith, with no script and a hack director, they call Hugh. Like Kurt Russell before him, he has talent, looks, and no standards to speak of. As Wolverine, he convinces you that his face could adorn a Happy Meal.
Liev Schreiber plays the villain like a man wears black for a personality. Danny Huston speaks quietly when he might as well hiss. Ryan Reynolds is in it for ten minutes doing what he did in Blade: Trinity. That hobbit bastard from Lost plays a man who controls light-bulbs. Will I Am from the Black Eyed Peas shows as much talent for acting as he does for music. A woman who looks older than 18 plays Wolverine’s girlfriend (the one surprise in the movie). And there’s an actor named Taylor Kitsch, for whom the movie seems very apropos.
Those who don’t know Robertson Davies should look him up. Knowledge of him –and a lot about Canada – would have helped X-Men Origins: Wolverine immensely. Imagine a true Canadian Wolverine, funded by the Canada Arts Council, directed by Guy Maddin. Sure, it would be equally cheap-looking and schizoid in tone, but it would also be wry, aware of history and perfect for a former-Broadway actor like Hugh Jackman. There’d be singing, dancing, subtle references to Pierre Trudeau… You wouldn’t catch this Wolverine doing America’s dirty work. He’d actually remember his origins.