On May 23rd, 2014, Fox releases X-Men: Days of Future Past in theaters worldwide. This film is the culmination of all the X-Men films that have come before and will (hopefully) be the start of a new era for the franchise. To mark this occasion, I’ve decided to go back and re-watch every X-Men film that has been released and, for no good reason at all, write about each one. I wasn’t sure whether to re-watch them in chronological order or in the order in which they were released. Ultimately, this was the order I settled on, for a variety of reasons which I won’t get into here:
– X-Men Origins: Wolverine
– X2: X-Men United
– X-Men: The Last Stand
– The Wolverine
– X-Men: First Class
That means that our first film is everyone’s favorite – X-Men Origins: Wolverine (that’s sarcasm)!
Hugh Jackman has said repeatedly that he’s done with playing Wolverine unless the next script is something that he can’t turn down. It’s clear to me that he respects the character and wants to do him justice. So what the hell happened with X-Men Origins: Wolverine? I mean… seriously. How could he sign on for this mess? Jackman has since stated that he’s not happy with the way the film turned out, and it’s easy to see why. There are so many things wrong with this film that I don’t even know where to begin.
My initial plan was to break the movie down into “The Good”, “The Bad”, and “The Ugly”, but I can’t even do that. Almost every aspect of this movie falls into all three categories. Not everything in this movie is awful; there are good elements here. This movie oozes potential, but unfortunately, almost all of it was squandered by an absolutely awful script from the guy who brought you Game of Thrones. Wait, really? Yeah. David Benioff worked on this script, alongside Skip Woods, who contributed to such classics as Hitman and Swordfish. Ah, there’s where things went wrong. Seriously though, there are a lot of things to like about this movie, but they’re all completely entwined with garbage. It’s a complete mess. Let me show you:
The Good: Obviously Hugh Jackman is the best part of this movie. He’s the perfect Wolverine. Everyone loves him, right? Okay, I’m sure that’s not true, but a large contingent of fans have accepted him as THE Wolverine. And they’re right to do so. He’s great in the role. He gets the character. And he does as good as he can here, given the material provided. Not even Jackman could save this mess, unfortunately.
The Bad: For the most part, I like what they did with Wolverine in this movie. It’s not the most eloquent origin story, but it’s a serviceable adaptation. It’s far from perfect though. In the X-Men films, Wolverine has lost his memory. He doesn’t remember where he came from or who he used to be. This movie was where we were going to discover how Wolverine lost his memory. Be careful what you wish for. At the end of the film, Wolverine is shot in the head by an adamantium bullet. Yup. IT’S AN AMNESIA BULLET. HE LOSES HIS MEMORY BECAUSE HE’S SHOT IN THE HEAD. And it’s not accidental. He is shot in the head so that he WILL lose his memory. That is the intent behind the shooting! I mean, it got the job done, but… it’s really stupid. Like, really stupid. How stupid? Really stupid. It’s almost as if they made this film and went “Oh shoot, he has to forget everything!” “Oh, you’re right. Well… what if we just shoot him in the head?” “Bullets wouldn’t be able to penetrate his adamantium skull.” “Um… well what if they were adamantium bullets?” “Eh… good enough.” I believe that’s an actual transcript of what went down between Benioff and Woods. Blegh.
The Ugly: Remember how cool Wolverine’s claws looked in the X-Men films? Yowza. What the hell happened here? I love it when special effects that already looked great are “improved” to look worse. Barf.
The Good: Liev Schreiber is a much better choice for this character than Tyler Mane. Who even is Tyler Mane? How was that even a thing? Schreiber actually brings an ounce of nuance to the character (not that the script affords him much).
The Bad: The worst part about Creed’s character is the complete lack of recognition regarding the Tyler Mane version of the character. This movie was very consciously positioned as a prequel to the X-Men trilogy (note the appearances by Cyclops and Charles Xavier), so what gives? I’m not saying that that version of Sabretooth is necessarily the better version, but it seems odd to just ignore it completely.
Wade Wilson/Deadpool/Weapon XI:
The Good: Ryan Reynolds.
The Bad: Everything else.
The Good: I’ll say it – I like Team X. The first scene of Origins? It’s good. Well, maybe not good. But it’s fun. I enjoyed it. It was this fun little black ops version of the X-Men and the assembled group seemed appropriately badass. Reynolds, in particular, was a ton of fun as Wade Wilson. John Wraith, Fred Dukes, and Agent Zero all get their little moments. I’m not going to argue that Will.i.am is a good actor, but he’s charismatic enough that I liked the scenes involving Wraith. I actually think Kevin Durand was a little bit of inspired casting. Once he becomes fat, he’s pretty much what I would imagine a live-action version of the Blob would look like.
The Bad: Everything excluding that first scene. Wade was never heard from again (Weapon XI doesn’t count). Agent Zero is pretty much a non-entity. Fred Dukes gets fat, not because it’s his mutant ability, but because… he just eats a lot? And man, what was up with Chris Bradley? I mean, Lost is my favorite thing ever, so you know I love Dominic Monaghan, but why was he in this movie? I know nothing about his character. I deduced that he can apparently control mechanical things? Or anything electrical? I actually have no idea. Which is another problem with this movie. What are Wade Wilson’s powers? Good swordsmanship? What are Agent Zero’s powers? Good shooting? It’s all so vague. Which I guess is fine if you don’t think about it too much, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could think about it a little and it made some sort of sense?
The Good: I actually don’t hate Kitsch’s performance. I mean, I’m not a huge Gambit fan, so the fact that I didn’t hate him in this movie is saying something.
The Bad: He’s still Gambit.
The Good: I actually think they did a good job with Silverfox. Granted, she’s more of a plot device than a character, but the events of the film mirror the events of the comics quite closely.
The Bad: As I said, she’s more of a plot device than a character. Ultimately, her relationship with Wolverine is meaningless because he loses his memory and she’s never brought up again.
And what of the rest of the movie? Well… once more, it’s a mixture of good and bad. The special effects are, overall, not great. It’s too bad, because better effects might have helped the movie seem less… silly. This movie also suffers from a problem that has plagued just about every X-Men film – a penchant for including random, minor characters that serve no purpose and/or barely resemble their comic book counterparts. This habit is most egregious in X-Men: The Last Stand, but it rears its ugly head here as well. We’ve already discussed a few examples, but there are others, most notably Silverfox’s sister, Emma, and Heather Hudson. In the source material, Heather Hudson is a Canadian superhero who goes by the name “Vindicator”. She’s a member of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight and her suit gives her control over geothermal energy. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Heather Hudson is the old woman who, along with her husband, cares for Wolverine after his escape from the Weapon X facility. What? Why? I mean… why? What’s the point of using that name for an absolute nothing of a character? I get that writers like including as many “easter eggs” in their scripts as possible, but this type just shows a lack of respect for the characters, the source material, the creators, and the viewer. But I digress. Let’s backtrack to Emma. Now, I don’t know if Silverfox has a sister in the comics, but her sister here is clearly meant to be Emma Frost, a popular X-Men character who, along with telepathy, has the ability to turn her skin into diamond. In fact, I believe when the film was being cast they even referred to the character as Emma Frost. Once X-Men Origins was released and the full extent of the character was revealed, one had to ask the question – why turn this popular, important character into this throwaway? Why include her at all? It made no sense then and it makes even less sense now, considering Emma Frost is a main character in X-Men: First Class (a film that takes place prior to X-Men Origins in the timeline). Now, you can’t really blame the Origins screenwriters for a decision made by the First Class writers, but in this instance, the First Class writers were right to ignore the complete non-entity that is Origins’ Emma Frost. I blame Benioff and Woods for putting them in that position to begin with. Now we’re stuck with this stupid continuity snafu. I suppose one could just pretend that there’s an Emma Silverfox in the X-Men universe that just happens to share one of Emma Frost’s mutant powers, but… yeah, it bothers me, and that’s far from the only continuity issue in this movie.
Frankly, I’m baffled as to why the writers made the decisions that they did. I understand not wanting to be beholden to another story, but when you’re playing in someone else’s universe and creating something that is meant to fit within it, you have to follow the established rules. This film was always meant to be a prequel for the Wolverine character found in the X-Men trilogy, therefore it had to adhere to the continuity of that universe. Or so you would think. Despite this, there are a number of weird decisions made in this film that seem to contradict things that came before. It would have been pretty hard to tell this story without Sabretooth, and the Tyler Mane version of the character found in the original X-Men is kind of a joke, but surely there was a better option than just ignoring him completely. As I said, I prefer Liev Schreiber’s take on the character, but what are we supposed to do with it? Are we to believe that at some point in the next 10-20 years, he bulks up, dyes his hair, loses his memories, and goes feral? There is no explanation provided and the film clearly didn’t believe that it needed one, which is also problematic. There are other contradictions, but they’re a direct result of X-Men: First Class retconning a bunch of things established in the older X-Men films, so I can’t really blame Origins for that.
What I can blame X-Men Origins: Wolverine for is being a bad movie. There are bright spots throughout, but overall, this film is a blemish on the X-Men franchise (but at least it’s not The Last Stand, right?). The Weapon X program has the potential to make for a really great movie, but this is not it. Maybe one day.