The unofficial Summer Movie season starts this weekend with the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the fourth film in the X-Men movie franchise. As a big fan of comics growing up and a big fan of comic book movies, you’d think I’d be all over this one, especially since X-Men was always my favourite comic (I even bought the first two films on blu-ray today). But the truth is, from the time this film was announced, I was never more than lukewarm to the idea. Of course, it’d didn’t help that the last film in the series was a soul-crushing, steaming pile of monkey dung. But, this one is Ratner-less (directed by Gavin Hood), and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was the best part of The Last Stand, plus it has Tim Riggins! But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get excited for this movie, as each new preview made it look worse. Yet, I resigned myself to the idea that I was going to see this anyway, even though I had no expectation for a good film.
But no longer! I decided that I didn’t have to subject myself to things I’m not going to like, and here’s the reasons why…
1. The reviews have been abysmal – Neither 44 on Metacritic or a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes do much to assuage my doubts about this film. Even the few reviews on the positive side of the ledger more damn it with feint praise than give it actual praise. These bad reviews were the final straw that convinced me to sit this one out, as they confirmed the doubts that make up the rest of this list.
2. I’ve never been that big a fan of the character – Despite the fact that I have somewhere around 15 straight years of issues of X-Men comics, Wolverine has never been a favourite of mine. Part of it was simply due to his popularity, as I’ve never been one to cheer for the overdog. And part of it is probably the simple fact that my favourite X-Man was Wolverine’s rival Cyclops. But more than that, I’ve just never found him a compelling figure when he’s the feature character. As a supporting player, he has a lot to contribute, without losing the edge and mystique central to the character. There are plenty of moments in X-Men stories where this is played to great effect, including his romp through the Hellfire Club in the Dark Phoenix Saga, his time in the Canadian resistance in the Days of Future Past, or the time he stayed behind to deal with the Marauders in the Morlock tunnels during the Mutant Massacre (which featured his first duel with Sabretooth). But interestingly, as a solo character, despite the fact that he’s been featured in roughly 75% of all Marvel comics released in the past decade, the list of seminal Wolverine stories is fairly small. Basically, I can think of the original Chris Claremont/Frank Miller mini-series, the Kitty Pryde & Wolverine mini-series, and… that’s about it. I’ll admit, I stopped trying to find great Wolverine stories a while ago, so maybe Origin or Mark Millar’s Enemy of the State would make this list, and now that I know it exists, I’ll probably check out Brian K. Vaughan’s Wolverine: Logan, but still, there’s no all-time classics in Wolverine’s past that aren’t X-Men classics.
That’s because the things that make him cool: his outsider status, his berserker frenzy, the way he challenges authority, how he’ll surprise you just when you think you’ve got him figured out, don’t work when he’s the main guy. He needs people to play off of, authority to challenge, a group to be an outsider from, to come in and out of the action. Worse, the standard portrayal of Wolverine on his own quickly became first-person narrative (because he’s not particularly chatty, and the reader needs something to read), which more often than not was eye-rollingly overwrought and clichéd. So given all of this, I was never sure the inevitable solo Wolverine movie would be something I’d be interested in. Which leads me to…
3. Weren’t there already three solo Wolverine movies? – Sure, they were all technically X-Men movies, but all three revolved around Wolverine. As the most popular and dynamic character, this is a perfectly understandable choice, but the idea that we’re now finally seeing a movie where Wolverine strikes out on his own is a little disingenuous. The first film introduces us to the X-Men by way of Wolverine, the second is all about Wolverine’s past coming back to haunt him, and the third made the near criminal decision to insert Wolverine as the primary figure in the Dark Phoenix Saga, rather than Cyclops or, you know, Phoenix.
4. Too many characters – But if you absolutely HAVE to make a solo Wolverine movie, shouldn’t it be a SOLO Wolverine movie? From the previews, we’ve been told that this film will not only feature Wolverine (Jackman) and his nemesis Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), but also his love interest Silver Fox (Lynn Collins), mastermind Stryker (Danny Huston), Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), the Blob (Kevin Durand), Cyclops (Tim Pocock), Emma Frost (Tahyna Tozzi), and will.i.am, with imdb filling in somebody named Agent Zero, Weapon XI, Charlie from Lost, along with Heather and Travis Hudson (who I’m guessing is supposed to be James Hudson?). That’s 14 characters of some note that aren’t Wolverine. By comparison, the first X-Men movie featured Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Rogue, Mystique, Sabretooth, Toad, Senator Kelly, a small part for Iceman, then a couple of quick cameos of Pyro and Kitty Pryde. That’s 14 in a movie that supposedly wasn’t a solo movie, and 14 in a movie that supposedly is. But hey, if The Last Stand proved anything, is that jamming a bunch of random characters into a film can only make it better right?
5. Prequels suck – Alright, so let’s pretend that Wolverine is strong enough of a character for his own movie, and that a movie with 14 different characters is his own movie, did it have to be a fucking prequel? Has there been a good prequel? Dramatically, the idea of a prequel doesn’t work, as the audience already knows the ultimate fates of many of the characters, and thus any peril generated by the film is even more anticlimactic than it typically is in movies where things always work out for the main protagonists. Take this film, which pits Wolverine against Sabretooth, who we already know will survive to be in the first film (albeit in a very different form), and William Stryker, who we already know will survive to be in the second. But moreover, who was it that decided what all movie fans really want to see out of the cool, mysterious characters we love is to see them as wimpy, ineffectual kids? It made no sense when they did it to Darth Vader, and it makes no sense now.
Patton Oswalt – “At Midnight I Will Kill George Lucas with a Shovel”