Some things we can learn from “X-Men Origins – Wolverine.”
(1) Most superhero franchises seem to die at their third installment, as the producers toss so many characters into a single film in some impatient and misguided effort to sell more toys and generate more interest, etc., and the script collapses under all of this weight. (See “Spider-Man 3,” “Batman Forever,” “Superman 3,” and obviously the third X-Men film) The studio must then find a way to re-invent the franchise and make us forget the disaster of that third film. Hence, “X-Men Origins.”
(2) The re-invented film franchise is going to be inherently uneven, because the writers/directors/producers can’t quite decide which characters they want to bring back, which actors can be jettisoned for new talent, and how “loyal” they want to be to the first four pictures. Do they want the film to truly feel as if it is part of the same world, or a new franchise entirely (i.e. “Batman Begins”). This was the main reason that “Superman Returns” was such a weird film. Yes, the actors were all new, but it wanted us to believe that Parts 1-3 actually happened, but part 4 did not, and…really? This Wolverine movie isn’t quite that disjointed in its adherence to the X-Men world created in the other films, but there are a lot of little things that give you pause and make you say: “Wait. They didn’t even try to make this guy look like he did in the other movies.” Or: “Wait. Why isn’t this guy around in…” Etc.
(3) If you know that your movie is a bit weak in execution, but you are still an ambitious filmmaker who really really wants to make a good adaptation of a character who has a tremendous following and thousands of stories already written about his adventures…well, just create a really cool big-budget montage at the start of your film. “Watchmen” did this, mostly because the filmmakers didn’t have time to adapt the entire graphic novel, and decided to use the opening credits as a place to get the audience caught up on fifty years of superhero history. Pretty clever. “Wolverine” does the same, and so we have an interesting montage of Wolverine fighting in the Civil War, WWI and WWII, and Vietnam, all the while growing disgusted by battle, and truth be told, it created an interesting history and mythology for the character…something that the rest of the script did not quite do.
In all, this wasn’t a great film. Some fun moments. Worth watching, sure, but a prime example of:
(4) If you’ve got a big-screen HDTV, just wait for most of these big-budget summer movies to come out on DVD. Much cheaper than paying to sit in a huge theater with a bunch of loud teenagers. Much more enjoyable, and you feel so much better that you didn’t drop twenty or thirty bucks on the experience.