« Back to articlePrint this article

The movie that cried Wolf

June 19, 2009 18:11 IST

Imagine if Wolverine directed a movie himself. Now, try and get over the idea of Logan in a director's chair, snarling at heroines to make them cry convincingly, and think of the sort of movie the man would make. The most loved X-Men hero of them all isn't the cerebral sort, and were he making his own biopic, it'd be a discordant, episodic series of dry, narrative-less flashbacks, flashbacks of the he-killed-her-I-killed-him variety. For Logan isn't given to talking too much now, is he?

X:Men Origins: Wolverine is just the sort of film Logan would have made. It's clumsily handled, and goes from action to action with high drama in between, for the 150-year-old cigar-chewing hero isn't likely to have crafted something with subtlety, clever dialogue or anything besides the very barest adamantium skeleton of a plot. Which basically means reading a plot summary of this film on Wikipedia and watching it aren't any too different at all, sadly.

A scene from X-Men Origins: WolverineSo what happens in this Wolverine, this action figure soap opera? Well, we see how young Logan (Hugh Jackman) grows up in the mid-19th century after having orphaned himself. He and his brother Victor (Liev Schrieber) appear to be a pair of Canadians fierily patriotic about the US, and fight many a battle until the two manicure-needing mutants are enlisted into a top-secret mutant squad called Team X.

Led by William Stryker (Danny Huston) Team X has an all-star mutant lineup, and as they storm a random stronghold in Africa, it's hard to fathom just why any one from this group of showboating mutants couldn't have knocked the joint over solo. Anyway, Stryker is a man of questionable morals and no boundaries, and so while Victor stays, his eyes gleaming with bloodlust, Logan marches off to be a lumberjack. But what was it they used to say about there being no easy way out of the mob?

Director Gavin Hood tells quite a packed story, but one wishes every single moment wasn't as eventful, making the film into a highlight reel about a gruff character who likes killing people. And that really doesn't make for either fascinating viewing -- or a single character you really care about.

In the Marvel Comics universe, Wolverine has a rich backstory culled over hundreds of issues, telling us how he went from being a supersoldier to getting a metal exoskeleton, but here, presented one by one in serialised order without a hint of emotion between the melodrama, the story seems drab and pointless. And the cheesy dialogue is way, way more lethal than those shiny claws.

A scene from X-Men Origins: WolverineJackman is an actor you feel sorry for, a genuine talent trapped in a role that requires a scowl, a glare and a furrowed brow, plus the ability to carry off ludicrous mutton-chop sideburns and yell every once in a while. Jackman's Wolverine was seriously awesome in the X:Men movies (especially the first two made by Bryan Singer) but here the sheer unidimensionality of the character weighs the actor down hard. The X:Men movies gave him other characters to riff off, which is why Wolverine's attitude and quips really shone, but a movieful of punchlines fatally lacks all edge.

Schrieber grinningly sinks his teeth into Victor, but it's a hard role not to enjoy, the stronger and meaner elder brother who defines Logan more than he himself can. Huston makes for an adequate Stryker, but isn't a patch on Brian Cox from X2. Ryan Reynolds, on the other hand, delivers strongly as smartmouthed mercenary Wade Wilson, later to be seen as Deadpool in a spin-off all his own.

A few other characters from the X-Men universe show up, including a young Cyclops and Emma Frost, not to mention a digitally young-ed Patrick Stewart as a spry, uncrippled Professor Xavier, but the filmmakers hardly have any fun despite all the potential on offer.

So is this film about the stunts, then? Well, there's one high point involving a motorcycle chase and a helicopter, but if you've seen that in the trailer, you're pretty much done. The graphics don't push the envelope at all -- if anything, they pull it back a couple inches -- and there really isn't anything spectacular to the setpieces. Some duels are choreographed well, but staged too fast for one to appreciate possible niceties. I daresay there won't be a single stunt you'll remember an hour after seeing the film.

All in all, it's a definite dud. Jackman conjures up some moments with those claws and there's nothing offensively bad about the film -- save for the fact that a truly awesome hero has been straddled with a truly boring film. And that deserves claws, not applause.

PS -- Marvel movies always have a hidden scene at the very end of the end-credits, and this one is no exception. Yet if you love Logan as a character, I'd advise fleeing the theatres instead of facing seriously cheesy disappointment and a horrid, horrid line.

Rediff Rating:

Raja Sen