Misunderstood Masterpiece III. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
You're wrong and I can prove it
*Not everything you're about to read is 100% accurate. But why let the truth stand in the way of a good blog.
I genuinely love this movie! I genuinely consider it better than Logan. I’m not messing you about. No don’t laugh… I get what you’re saying but no. The next instalment of Misunderstood Masterpieces explores the first solo outing of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in comparison to James Mangold’s Logan prior to the release of the director's next supposed franchise-crushing sequel.
Do you remember the 2000s? The birth of the modern superhero monopoly began at the beginning of the century with X-Men; without its grittier tone and enticing character design of which should be colourful clowns running about stopping a magnetic man from stealing your car keys, your precious MCU would be nothing more than a fever dream.
The mutant story of prejudice drew in huge superstars that helped to elevate the portrayal of Charles Xavier and Magneto and also shine a spotlight on the supporting cast around them - including one relatively unknown: Hugh Jackman as grizzly clawed fan favourite Wolverine. Rock Singer Glen Danzig and Gladiator Russel Crowe both passed on the ridiculous role, with the latter finally recommending his favourite Aussie to fill the hairy void.
Roll on nine years and the completion of the X-Men trilogy left fans clambering for the hero’s origin story - which writer David Beinoff had been working on since the completion of X2. Although the film was originally written as a dark and brutal R-Rated character study, the producers soon realised how ridiculous this would be, as it would alienate the primary audience of comic-book readers: kids.
Fresh off the back of critically successful South African crime drama Tsotsi, director Gavin Hook took the helm of the project because of the similarities in both lead characters. His first decision was to create a dynamic rival in the form of Sabretooth by making him Wolverine's brother - changing existing comic book lore with a move that somehow made perfect sense and is to this day one of the few alterations that fans are actually onboard with.
On top of that, Liev Schreiber’s suave and menacing interpretation of the role became a perfect antithesis to Wolvies’ characterisation, highlighting the internal battle of a protagonist unsure of his place in the world, with a villain that has a confident control over his.
This back-to-back brotherly dynamic is delivered to the audience with a perfect opening montage that enriches the history of characters through history itself; amplified by a relentless anthemic theme by Harry Gregson-Williams that evokes the many tragedies the pair have already faced leading to ‘the’ quintessential wolverine story: Weapon X.
Although how Wolverine got his metal was retroactively explored in X2, many felt its short handicam flashbacks didn’t truly chronicle the origin’s justice. They wanted an expanded story fleshed out with a smattering of additional mutants that fans wanted to see in the original series: including Gambit, Blob and Will.I.Am.
In pursuit of creating the ultimate killing machine, Danny Huston takes over from Brian Cox as Colonel William Stryker and assembles his team of mutants like pawns in a game of chess against the Wolverine - who cleverly proves himself both right and wrong for the title.
Ultimately these mini mutant battles, leading up to a final 2 player showdown with that signature gritty X-Men take on Deadpool, provided the film with the true feel of a comic book universe appealing to a family target audience and providing both a segue into the main franchise and the potential for further spin-offs exploring character origins, without which we would have never gotten the greatest franchise entry: First Class.
Despite a leaked copy prior to the movies’ release circling the internet so Rupert Murdoch could watch it on a yacht, the movie performed swimmingly at the Box Office, but became critically shipwrecked by reviewers for its classic comic book plot and poor CGI - citing the hairy man’s metal claws retracting from his wrists as ‘not life-like enough’.
Hugh Jackman himself has gone on record showing distaste for the film which ultimately lead him down a path that would undo the very comic book nature of a comic book movie and banning children from the cinema so they couldn’t see it.
Not to be confused with Old Man Logan (the story with the symbiote T-Rex and the Road trip with Hawkeye in the Spider-Mobile), just plain old Logan. If you like your superheroes dying from the minute they enter the frame, caring for an old man with dementia that they will later kill in clone form and void of any smile whatsoever, this is the film for you.
Although James Mangold helped Jackman deliver a darker toned Wolverine, big in Japan tale called The Wolverine 4 years prior, the pair conspired to rid the character of all happiness and truly darken the X-Men world with the death of just about everybody.
As the sole writer of the film, Mangold takes the hit for this. There is no hope. No costumes. No conventional heroes vs villains in a final stand against the forces of darkness. Just an old man dying of metal poisoning who keeps passing out trying to take his adopted Spanish daughter to the other side of the country - not even in a Spider-Mobile.
Mangold has essentially bottled depression. Those who tore Origins apart for its plot, praise Logan for its dark tone and harrowing R-rated violence, but fail to see just how far from the comic book mark the film has ventured.
For some people this is a good thing, but for those who have watched the character develop over several movies and save the X-Men universe in Days of Future Past (his previous entry), it’s a huge kick in the bubs to suddenly say oh by the way everyone’s dead and the ones that aren’t yet are certainly heading that way.
I urge you to call someone after watching Logan if you feel like there is nothing left in the universe to live for - which is ultimately how I left my screening of the film.
Like sticking a straw into your heart until all that’s left is sad and Spanish.
Logan is not how comic book movies are supposed to be. The score should rattle your bones with ambition; The hero should rise up to take on an equally compelling villain for the greater good in a bombastic showdown that ties everything together; The ending should leave the door open to inevitable sequels and spin-offs to show the world lives on and you could be the hero we need next.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine had the colour to fill the pages. Logan did not. It’s as simple as that. For those who like hardcore violence and enjoy watching people get massacred with adamantium claws, just play the awesome movie tie-in video game, often critically cited as better than the movie itself.
Oh what’s that? You thought I was going to say X-Men Origins is actually a comic-book Masterpiece? The reality is that the sheep have given Logan this title and that’s where the true misunderstanding lies.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine available now on Disney+