I don't care what's in the title. I don't care that the hero sports muttonchops and adamantium claws. He isn't Wolverine. Any resemblance he has to the Marvel character or the snarling beast Hugh Jackman played in X-Men 1, 2, and 3 is entirely coincidental.
It really hurts to say that. I love this character, and I know Jackman loves the character. I know he loves the fans, and he wants us to be happy with his work. He has gone on record as saying this is the Wolverine film he always saw in his head. But did he really see something so clunky and milquetoast as this?
Logan is a man constantly at war with himself. His gruff exterior hides a man who can be gentle, who enjoys the beauty of the Canadian Rockies and the simplicity of a Japanese tea ceremony. But he also possesses the animal senses and brute force that makes him willing to kill if threatened. He doesn't enjoy killing, he's often haunted by the blood he's shed, but it's his grim destiny.
He's also a guy who has been truly dealt a crappy hand. Everything he loves is taken from him. He's been betrayed and tortured, and he's lost his mind on more than one occasion. But he deals with it by fighting the good fight, and indulging in a cold beer if he's got a chance. None of this makes him particularly complicated for adapting to the big screen. If anything, he's been done a million times before. He's Charles Bronson, he's the Man with No Name, he's Martin Riggs, Harry Callahan, and Bud White.
With a million comic books, three films, and a ton of inspiration before him, this should have been easy. Instead, this is a film that treats a motorcycle jacket as a Tremendous Moment, one that's bigger than a child's discovery that he's packing a pair of bone claws. This is a hero who is more daunted by air travel than the adamantium bonding process. When you prick him (or in this case, slash him) he doesn't even bleed. Our hero looks around with anguished eyes, he suffers nightmares, he assures us that he's "been through worse," and he probably has somewhere in his long life, but it certainly isn't in this film.
Now, I tried to remove myself from the comics and see this through fresh eyes. I tried to pretend the rapid pacing was a homage to comic panels. I told myself that whatever moment Gavin Hood was racing the film towards might actually be worth it. But there's no master plan here. Instead, they just filmed whatever they wanted, crammed it together, and called it a film. There's no point to any of it. It's like looking through a Viewmaster. Click, Wade Wilson. Click, Team X. Click, Gambit. Now you're at the end of the disk. There's not even mindless spectacle. It's just random and useless to establishing anything except a Deadpool spinoff. (Seriously, this isn't Wolverine's origin story, it's Deadpool's.)
You'd think they could have at least rewatched the X-Men films they were making an "origin" story for. Wolverine was pretty well established in the X-Men films, especially in X2. There we see the gory Weapon X scene and it was gorgeously done. In five minutes, we know that Wolverine has been traumatized, and that those claws are alien to him. He's in pain, he's bleeding, and he's desperate to get away from whoever has done this to him. Origins ignores that. Now, he's just angry and cold, but he is fully aware of the procedure he just underwent (after all, he volunteered for it) and he knows he has adamantium claws. In fact, he thinks they're pretty terrific. I refuse to call that nitpicking, or the complaint of a "difficult" fan. If you're going to mess with the comic mythology, fine, but at least honor what was already established onscreen, if only so you don't have to invent the stupidest memory-loss MacGuffin ever to rectify it. (Oh and for those who remember my Weapon X piece, the way they handle the "volunteering" is worse than I feared. But that I'll freely admit is fannish nitpicking.)
There's so much potential here – and anyone with a faint interest in the material could have exploited it. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool was a stroke of genius, and the few minutes he's on screen convince you this film will be worth your time. Liev Schreiber is a fantastic Sabretooth despite his lousy motivation. When the sloppy story actually allows Jackman to be Wolverine, he's as good as he's always been, especially when onscreen with Schreiber. I long to see these two actually go head to head as Sabretooth and Wolverine. There are flashes of true cutthroat savagery between them, but it's purely accidental. They're like outtakes.
Whew. I apologize for writing such a rant, believe me, it was so much more poetic when I started writing. But you know, I could have forgiven a lot if it had just done right by the Old Canucklehead. I went in with very low expectations. As someone who reads anything with Wolverine in it, I'm already fairly easy to please when it comes to the character. He just has to show up most of the time, and I enjoy it as the pulpy stuff it is. So, I could forgive goofy dialogue, I could forgive the sloppy action, I could forgive an awkward story and pointless cameos. Just give me the guy who tries to forget his animal side, and carves his and his girlfriend's name on a tree. When that is taken away show me the man who, when taunted by an adversary, sticks his claws under the guy's chin and pops them. Give me the hero whose claws hurt every time they pop out through his skin, but who grimly unsheathes them anyway. That is the mutant they call Wolverine ... and he's not anywhere to be found in this movie.