Serving as a prequel to X-Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was originally intended as a series on several major characters, including Magneto, which it’s working draft script had portions incorporated into X-Men: First Class. The film features Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, Blade: Trinity), Dominic Monaghan ( Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck in The Lord of the Rings), Liev Schreiber (Sphere), Kevin Durand (Resident Evil: Retribution), and Taylor Kitsch (Battleship, John Carter). It’s quite terrible, as according to WIRED‘s article, “Looking Back at X-Men Origins: Wolverine — Yep, Still Terrible“:
The Wolverine opens in theaters this week, at the apex of a long and artful ad campaign throughout which Marvel and Fox have been crossing their fingers and hoping that you’ll forget the stinkers that came before.
But where’s the fun in that?
Aside from a brief cameo in X-Men: First Class, Wolverine’s last time on the big screen was in his first solo film. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was technically a prequel to the first X-Men movie trilogy. Continuity-wise, it’s a mishmash of material, drawing on everything from Wolverine: Origin, to Ultimate X-Men, to bits and pieces of arcs from other X-Men and Wolverine comics. Wolverine’s backstory is convoluted even by shared-universe superhero standards, and boy howdy does Origins: Wolverine dive headfirst into the nonsense.
Before we go any further, let me make something clear: This movie is spectacularly bad. I mean, it’s just transcendently awful. Mystery Science Theater 3000 bad. It’s so bad that, until I volunteered to take the bullet of recapping it here, I had never been able to bring myself to watch it sober, and, now that I have, I can assure you confidently that, if anything, intoxication led me to underestimate how very bad this movie is.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is worse than Spider-Man 3. It might actually be worse than X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s the kind of movie that’s so terrible that you find yourself genuinely curious as to which drugs the people responsible for this film were taking, and where you might be able to procure some. It’s so bad it comes through the other end and resolves into a sort of shell-shocked hilarity.
Now, normally, I’d never advocate revisiting a years-old prequel before a new movie, but this really can’t do anything but make The Wolverine look good by comparison, so grab yourself a beer and a bad cigar, and let’s dive in!
The movie opens in the wild Canadas, where sickly kid James and his buddy Victor Creed witness Victor’s father murder the man James assumed to be his own dad. The stress of this triggers baby James’s mutation, and let me tell you, there is no better moment to establish the tone of this movie than a six-year-old in Wolverine’s traditional berserker-rage pose, arms outstretched, claws out, yelling “NOOOOOOOOOO!” at the sky.
Then, he fillets Victor’s dad, who it turns out is also James’s dad. Oops. Mom rejects James, because that’s what the progression of the plot requires, and little James flees into the night, probably to a life of drugs and late-night VH1 retrospectives. Someday, he’ll be sitting in a support group of former child actors, and he’ll mention that he was in this movie, and everyone will scoot away a few inches. Poor kid never had a chance.
Nah, Victor tackles him, and they promise to be BFF murderbuddies forever and always. Meanwhile, a mob has assembled in record time and is now searching the woods in response to what the 19th Century forensic investigators of the Canadian frontier have immediately identified as the work of a small child with retractable claws.
“Keep on running,” tiny Victor tells tiny James. “Don’t look back.” They keep on running, all the way through a montage that takes them through the Civil War, World War I, and World War II, during which we establish that James grows up to have luxuriant hair, and that both brothers are totally fine getting shot in the chest, and also that Victor runs like a big cat, despite the fact that it makes no anatomical sense for him to do so and probably slows him down significantly. When you have a healing factor, you can get away with goofy stuff like that.
Also, the World War II sequence shows neither hide nor hair of either Captain America or the Howling Commandos, which is a good sign that this Wolverine movie is bullshit. Everyone knows that the main point of Wolverine flashbacks is to work in as many other Marvel cameos as possible.
But no, all we get is Victor being disproportionately bloodthirsty and James halfheartedly holding him back. Finally, their wacky hijinks land them in front of a firing squad and then in prison, because, again, healing factors. There, they meet Col. Stryker, who will later be the villain of X-2, but for now is basically Evil Charles Xavier, assembling a crack team of mutants to enforce Canadian supremacy, or something. The bros can either join him or rot in prison forever.
Because the movie’s only ten minutes in, they join up, and we next see them on a plane with what comics fans will recognize as various members of Weapon X, who include a Green Lantern, a founding member of the Black Eyed Peas, and a Hobbit. Victor and a guy named Wade—that’s Deadpool to those of you who care, which I promise you’ll have stopped doing by the end of this movie—have a bit of a pissing contest, and everyone goes out to commit some mild atrocities, and, in the case of Daniel Henney, to be outrageously pretty in slow motion.
Henney, as Agent Zero, flips around and shoots some guys, Fred Dukes punches a tank to death, and then there’s a slapstick moment of the whole team riding up an elevator, which gives Wade a chance to mouth off and
Meriadoc BrandybuckChris Bradley to show off his electricity powers. And then Wade deflects machine gun fire with two swords, because it’s that kind of movie; John Wraith teleports around, and Stryker gets really excited about a fancy rock, so they all go off to massacre a village. Jimmy isn’t into the pointless slaughter, so he breaks up the fellowship and goes off by himself to take the ring to Gondorstrut around the Rockies topless like some kind of mutant Canadian James Dalton. Six years have passed, and now our boy James is going by Logan, working as a logger, and shacking up with Generically Hollywood First Nations hottie Kayla Silverfox.
Meanwhile, at a circus in Illinois, Bradley is enjoying quiet retirement with a trailer full of light bulbs when Victor comes calling for some murder. At the same time, James wakes up from a nightmare, yelling, claws out, for an up-close-and-personal demonstration of how much lower the CGI budget was on this than on any of the X-Men films. He’s having nightmares about the wars—”all of them”—which prove prophetic when Stryker and Zero show up for a sass-off. Stryker tells Logan that someone’s hunting down the old team. Logan is indifferent.
Later, at home, Kayla decides to share a myth from her generic First Nations tribe. My primary consultant, Google, tells me that, based on the names that come up in the story she tells, it’s probably supposed to be an Innu legend. However, the makers of Wolverine lack my close personal relationship with search engines, so they never get further than “my people,” which is shorthand for “someone didn’t want to do any research.” I suppose it’s also possible that Kayla is faking her First Nations affiliation and just making shit up, which would make sense in light of later events, but given how little thought seems to have gone into this, that might be overgenerous.
This is my favorite part of the movie, because in addition to underlining the fact that no one involved in this film did any due diligence by way of researching First Nations, it makes it really obvious that no one involved in the making of a movie called Wolverine has any idea what a wolverine actually is.
So, Kayla tells Logan this flowery myth about how the moon and Kuekuatsheu—Wolverine—were lovers, and the Trickster lured Wolverine out of the spirit world, which trapped him on earth, and that’s why wolverines howl at the moon.
For those of you playing along at home, let’s unpack this real quick:
First of all, in Innu myths, the moon, or the closest thing to a personification of the moon, is male. Second, Wolverine/Kuekuatsheu is an actual figure from Innu myth, but he himself is a trickster god. He’s generally pretty silly, and kind of a dick, and never, ever a romantic hero. So, team Wolverine appropriated the hell out of a mythic figure to drop into a convenient hole in their plot—but that’s not the most amazing part of this whole glorious train wreck.
Because it’s pretty clear, from the myth and the number of times the movie is now going to hark back to it, that everyone involved in the making of this movie genuinely believes that wolverines are wolves.
Do you know what wolverines are? Hint: They aren’t wolves. They aren’t even canids: they’re the largest member of the weasel family. They are scrappy little bastards, they smell terrible, and they look like very large, stocky ferrets. They do not howl, at the moon or otherwise.
Congratulations! You now know more about wolverines than anyone involved in the making of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
It’s obvious by now that Kayla Silverfox is super doomed, so when she’s driving alone and comes along a lone Victor looming in the road, there’s not a lot of question as to what’s going to happen. Meanwhile, Logan comes across the severed head of a wolverine—an actual wolverine, mind you; at least the prop guys seem to have done their homework—which has been left, presumably for his benefit, outside the lumberyard. Sensing danger, he sprints through the woods, but not fast enough to prevent Victor from apparently killing both Kayla and her truck.
This triggers another episode of yelling at the sky.
Later, at a bar, Victor cheerfully creeps out the locals until Logan shows up spoiling for a fight, some more terrible-CGI claws, and the kind of overenthusiastic foley that you only really get to indulge in when you’ve got an extended brawl between two characters with healing factors. Finally, Victor throws Logan in front of a semi, lectures him briefly, and walks off, leading to the contractually obligated Wolverine-in-the-emergency-room gag.
Stryker shows up and, in a creepy little nod to X2, swears on his son’s life that he didn’t know Victor was the one knocking off members of Team X, although we all know he’s lying, because it’s Stryker.
Logan can’t win this on his own, but Stryker offers him the tools to defeat Victor, which is to say, adamantium bones. Everyone goes to great lengths to impress on him that this is going to suck a lot, and it does. Inspired by his lost love’s dubious understanding of both zoology and mythology, Logan requests new dog tags that say “Wolverine.”
Logan is lowered into a tank of water, with his crotch neatly covered and his dog tags still on—wouldn’t they melt or something?—and gets all adamantiumed up, surviving the agonizing process by focusing on how much of a jerk his brother is.
But wait! Still submerged, Logan overhears Stryker threatening to erase his memory, pops his now-bladed claws—which doesn’t make a lot of sense, considering that everywhere else, the adamantium just took the shape of his bones—and guarantees that a large number of Weapon X employees will have recurring nightmares about being skewered by an angry naked man.
Then he cuts his way through a steel door with a giant X, because, after all, this is X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and jumps off a waterfall to his death, leaving the rest of us to go back about our lives.
No, actually, Stryker orders Zero to hunt him down and take his head off. Maverick, clearly upset at the fact that shooting Logan didn’t kill him despite the fact that Logan surviving a firing squad was what led to their first meeting, stalks off to do just that.
The Hudsons, a kindly old couple named after the founders of Canadian superteam Alpha Flight, see naked Logan go running into their barn. Being the kindly old couple that they are, they respond to the nude trespasser by inviting him in and dressing him in their son’s old clothes, after which he joins them for an awkward dinner before retreating to the barn to think about the dead Kayla Silverfox and how little she knew about wolverines. Before he knows it, it’s the next morning, and kindly old Mr. Hudson has just given Logan a movie-accurate replica of his first jacket from X-Men when Zero shows up, shoots the Hudsons, and blows up the barn.
Wolverine rides out of the explosion on a convenient motorcycle. It would be unreasonable to expect anything else. There’s an epically silly chase scene involving trucks and helicopters, and several moments that were clearly shot so they could be used in the trailer.
And then Wolverine rides the momentum from an exploding car to cut up a helicopter midair, because of course he does. Wolverine threatens Stryker, kills Zero, and continues on his merry way, walking away from an explosion in slow motion, because this movie is nothing if not consistent.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, an unnamed scientist gives Stryker a fancy gun and a bunch of adamantium bullets, which no one bothered to mention to Zero’s team. Also, someone tells Stryker, they’ve located a young mutant he was looking for. Another one.
Cut to a pleasant suburban high school and a Spanish class, which we’re watching through a red filter. Three guesses on who that young mutant is going to turn out to be.
Logan tracks down Wraith, now a boxing promoter, and Fred Dukes, who is well on his way to an exciting new career as the Blob, to find out what went wrong with Victor. Wraith mentions that Team X was set to hunting down and rounding up other mutants, but he’s not sure why. Logan pisses off Dukes, and Wraith convinces him that the way to get Dukes to make friends is to let the Blob kick his ass in the ring, for reasons that no one can quite seem to pin down.
But hey, why the hell not?
In detention, Scott Summers gets a visit from Victor, who chases the kid through his conveniently empty school until his sunglasses get knocked off and he takes down half the building. And back at the ring, Logan learns that Victor hasn’t gone rogue at all—he’s been working with Stryker the whole time. Wolverine got played: Stryker and Victor killed Kayla so that Logan would let them put the adamantium in him. Worse still, Stryker is somehow taking the mutants’ powers, trying to combine them.
Only one prisoner has ever escaped Stryker’s island prison—Gambit—and Logan and Wraith head to New Orleans on matching motorcycles to track him down. Logan goes to talk to Gambit, who’s holding court over a poker game, while Wraith heads out back to get murdered to death by Victor Creed. Gambit ultimately agrees to lead him to the island, where we cut to Stryker having some family time with his creepy, cryogenically frozen son before introducing his boss to Weapon XI. XI is Deadpool, with his mouth sewn shut, which kind of fundamentally misses the point of the Merc with a Mouth.
Stryker’s boss fires him for being a genocidal lunatic, so Stryker stabs him.
Gambit and Wolverine fly in to Three Mile Island, where Stryker’s main operation is hidden, and Gambit is actually pretty funny and charming, continuing the X-3 tradition of cameos significantly better than the movie around them.
Wolverine jumps out of the plane, and skips across the water, stone-style. He gets into the facility just in time to see a blindfolded Cyclops dragged off, and find his way up a whole lot of stairs to a medical facility where a team of surgeons are fumbling around with a guy under a sheet while Stryker observes.
Stryker explains that the entire project has been a desperate attempt to justify Deadpool’s silly code name through a strained reference to a “pool” of mutant powers and the fact that this movie is dead in the water.
Oh, and Kayla Silverfox is alive, and she’s standing right behind Logan. OH, SNAP! Turns out she faked her death with the help of Weapon X, and also that she has tactile hypnosis powers, and, oh, yeah, a sister who can turn into organic diamond. Logan is understandably pissed, because this evil broad clearly used her hypnotic powers to convince him of any number of untruths, toying with his heart and leaving him with a large weasel for a codename. She stands there and cries silently. Later, she’ll probably comfort herself by getting some other poor sap to believe that platypuses are actually ducks.
Wolverine leaves, and it turns out Stryker’s offered Kayla her sister’s freedom in exchange for her taxonomic complicity. Stryker also promised Victor adamantium, but it turns out Victor would never survive the process. Kayla tries to get Victor to jump ship, and Victor starts to kill her again, for real this time. Fortunately, Logan intervenes, and he and Victor have a “strike me down and take my place” moment. Logan declines, agrees to help Kayla rescue her sister, and goes off to play hero as Stryker orders the meds to activate Weapon XI.
Kayla leads Wolverine into a prison full of X-Men cameos. Wolverine cuts the place up and frees everyone, Kayla joyfully reunites with her sister, and they all head out together and live happily ever after.
Nah, Deadpool stops ’em at the door. His mouth is now actually fused shut, and his eyelids are pinned back in a way that I guess is supposed to evoke his traditional mask. He’s also got implanted katana, which he can retract in the same style as Logan’s claws, because why the hell not?
The fleeing mutants are briefly paralyzed by how goofy all of this is. Logan unfreezes first, and orders Kayla to find the kids another way out so that they won’t have to deal with Wade Sword-Hands, whom Stryker is apparently controlling via keyboard commands, because if the marriage of technology and biology has a future, it’s as a text-adventure assassin.
I take it back. This is the funniest part of the movie.
Meanwhile, the kids are facing off against armed guards, and Emma Frost shifts to her diamond form, which, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine makes her look like she got her powers via a bite from a radioactive Beadazzler machine. She and Teenage Cyclops clear the room pretty effectively, though.
Kayla insists that she has to stay, and orders her kid sister to lead the rest of the X-Teens to freedom. Fortunately, even blindfolded, Scott Summers has a really good sense of direction, so they’re able to find their way out. Again, the bit actors and their dialogue are consistently better than the rest of the movie; maybe the X-Teens and Gambit can have their own breakout movie. X-Teens, is a stupid name, though, so they’d probably have to call it something snappier. X-People? Nah, too many syllables.
There’s a great “Really? Really?” moment in Logan and Deadpool’s fight, when Deadpool displays yet another power, and Logan just sort of shrugs and sighs in miserable solidarity with the audience. Victor shows up to save Logan from a tumble into a nuclear reactor, because “nobody kills you but me,” and then they fight Deadpool back to back, in what I guess is supposed to be a poignant callback to their days as battle bros. Deadpool blasts the hell out of both of them with Cyclops’s force beams until Logan decapitates him, which is ironic, because the last command Stryker typed into his Deadpool Text Adventure was <DECAPITATE>. God, I love this movie.
Deadpool’s head, still blasting, neatly spirals through the reactor.
Stryker still has the gun with adamantium bullets, which he now plans to use to wipe Logan’s memory, because that makes perfect sense. Logan gives Victor a hand up, Victor says something about brothers looking out for each other. Then, they both jump off the collapsing reactor. Logan is about to be crushed by the wreckage, but Gambit swoops in to the rescue. Logan sends him to help the kids escape, while he finds an actually-mortally-injured-this-time Kayla Silverfox, who has conveniently landed nearby. They make out, and he insists he’s going to get her out alive, and then he literally walks off into the sunset, carrying her.
Until Stryker, miraculously unharmed, shoots him in the head with the magic adamantium bullets. He’s going to kill Kayla, but she uses her hypnosis powers to get him first to turn the gun on himself, then to throw it away, turn around, and walk as far as he can.
The X-Teens emerge to safety, where they’re met by a suspiciously ambulatory Charles Xavier, in case you forgot that this movie was in official X-Men continuity.
Back in the ruins, Gambit finds Logan with a head full of bullets and no memories save for what’s on his dog tags. Logan yells “What’s my name?” a few times, giving a legion of fan fiction writers the vapors, and runs off with Gambit, before doubling back for a poignant moment with the corpse of a woman who, as far as he knows, he’s never met.
This is supposed to take us full-circle to the events of the first X-Men movie, and it does explain why Wolverine doesn’t remember any of the X-Men when he meets them in the first movie, but it doesn’t really cover why they don’t remember the guy with the claws who busted them out of Canadian mutant gulag when they were teenagers. That seems like the sort of thing that sticks with you.
The credits roll, but it’s not over! Nope, there’s Bill Stryker, still waking in a daze, his shoes shredded and his feet bloody, as if he’s just come off of four days on the floor of San Diego Comic Con. He’s found by some army guys, who tell him he’s wanted for questioning in relation to the death of the general he stabbed, but obviously the charges won’t stick, since he’s back and promoted to General in X2.
There’s also a stinger with Deadpool’s decapitated head, and if you’re guessing that the twist is that his eyes pop open—well, you’re not wrong.
The title of X-Men Origins: Wolverine hints that it was supposed to be one of a series of origin-story films. They stopped after this one, which is a bit of a shame—I feel like this team’s take on Mr. Sinister could have been the funniest thing ever to grace the silver screen—and focused their efforts on the semi-reboot First Class, The Wolverine, and the upcoming Days of Future Past, which, if nothing else, promises signature X-Men continuity clusterfuck on a scale even Origins couldn’t have hoped to deliver.
But before you go see The Wolverine, take a minute to look back at the bewildering edifice on whose shoulders it stands, and raise your glass to the majestic Gulo gulo—which is not a goddamn wolf.
According to the CinemaBlend review: