X-Education With Professor K: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

With the release of the first X-Men film in 2000, audiences not only witnessed the dawn of the modern day superhero film boom, but also the beginning of a complicated franchise that would span sixteen years and nine films. With X-Men: Apocalypse on the horizon, Kayleigh Hearn and a rotating cast of merry mutants are revisiting the X-Men films from the very beginning, and examining the comic book storylines that inspired them. What would you prefer, yellow spandex?

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Directed by Gavin Hood

Kayleigh: After X-Men: The Last Stand burned the X-Men franchise to the ground, leaving half its cast either dead or depowered, there was no no place for the X-Men films to go except into the past. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be the first in a series of X-Men: Origins films about characters like Wolverine and Magneto, but the reception to this film was so poor that the franchise changed directions again, leading to a much more successful prequel trilogy. It is honestly amazing that the X-Men franchise survived these two terrible movies back-to-back, because this one is wretched.

Max: X-Men Origins colon Wolverine is objectively the worst X-Men movie. “But Max, what about X-Men 3??” Nah fuck that, that movie had Kelsey Grammer and a cool Kitty Pryde fight. This is rock bottom.

A Wolverine origin movie isn’t like a terrible idea or anything: These movies have been pretty Wolverine-centric from the get go, showing us how he came to be the bar-crawling loner asshole we first meet in 2000’s X-Men could’ve been a good movie. THIS movie is basically just a bunch of studio notes on Post-Its assembled by people who either didn’t see the prior X-Men films or don’t remember them at all. Despite the title, we don’t really see much of Wolverine as a child in this, but audiences get to enjoy five minutes of nonsense that’s supposed to resemble the 2001 blockbuster comic Origin (which we’ll touch on tomorrow).

Kayleigh: I don’t think Wolverine needed an origin movie, especially since after the Origin miniseries made Wolverine’s past fair game, the comics turned his backstory into an impenetrable mess of dead lovers, mystical swords, implanted memories, and other nonsense. X2 ended on a strong note with Wolverine realizing he didn’t want to know his past after all, leaving Stryker and his dogtags behind to start a new life with the X-Men. Did we need to know more? My thoughts after Origins was, “definitely not.”

Origins feels like multiple short films about Wolverine that are stitched together without any sense of cohesion. Origins begins as a Gothic period piece about infidelity and murder, but then immediately drops that plot as soon as the credits roll. Does Wolverine ever pause and reflect that as a child, he murdered his biological father? Nope!

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Max: 2009 was the year of comic movies with immensely complicated opening credits sequences between Watchmen and Origins‘ 100 year montage of Wolverine and his wayward brother Garfield Sabretooth fighting in every American war. On their own, “Wolverine storms Normandy or whatever” would’ve been an improvement over the next hour and 40 minutes, but instead we get two minutes of Logan going “HEY KNOCK IT OFF” throughout history.

Kayleigh: The opening credits are fun until you realize that’s Logan’s entire emotional arc in the movie, right there: he’s totally fine with indiscriminate killing, until suddenly he isn’t. The movie never asks the really interesting questions, like, “what was it like for Wolverine to basically be an immortal for decades?” or what a century with Victor Creed as your only companion would do to you emotionally. Here on out it just jumps from one ridiculous, cameo-clogged action sequence to another. How about Liev Schreibertooth, though?

Max: Liev Schreiber is one of the very few things this movie has going for it, mainly because the only other Sabretooth we’ve gotten on screen was a mute pro wrestler in a bad wig. Schreiber’s basically just a giant cat in this? I kinda love it; he’s constantly like bounding towards people. He even kills Wolverine’s friends and brings them to him, like a cat would.

Kayleigh: I expected Schreibertooth to start belting “King of the Forest” at any moment. He’s also kind of the first example of the X-Men movies retconning themselves—Victor is definitely the Victor Creed/Sabretooth of the comics, but he’s not just a recasting, he’s an entirely different character than Tyler Mane’s Sabretooth in X-Men. So after Vietnam, Wolverine and Schreibertooth are recruited by Young William Stryker—who’s basically the same age as Old William Stryker—into joining a black ops squad of disposable mutants including a hobbit, a Black-Eyed Pea, and the star of the hottest movie of 2016. This a fucking mess of a movie.

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Max: Danny Huston is having a BALL in this movie as Young Old William Stryker. Like, he knows he’s in a big pile of shit so he’s just kinda rolling with every dumb line he gets with a big grin. He doesn’t even bother to do an accent! Wolverine and the Black Ops X-Men murder a warlord’s compound of goons so that Stryker can ask the warlord where he can find Adamantium. THEN they schlep over to a nearby village to get the Adamantium. Stryker wants the Adamantium so that, one day, he can cover someone’s bones in it? Anyway, Wolverine peaces out and this movie once again jumps forward in time.

Kayleigh: Rewatching this, I was amazed at how short Ryan Reynolds’ screentime is. For a few brief moments, his Wade Wilson brings charm and levity to this beige little turd of a film, and the movie drops him as soon as possible! So, to recap: Movie A was a Gothic drama, Movie B was a war film, and Movie C is a romance, with Wolverine now a lumberjack peacefully living with his girlfriend, Kayla Silverfox.

Max: Poor Lynn Collins, saddled with a terrible part in a bad movie. She and Wolverine get the worst exchange in the entire film, which is Silverfox giving us a verrrrrrry shaky rationale for the superhero codename “Wolverine” while Logan is flippantly racist about her people’s foundational mythology. THIS IS WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE/WHEN THE MOON CRIES.

Kayleigh: Silverfox dies, meaning we get two movies in a row where Wolverine holds a lifeless woman in his arms and cries. Thanks, filmmakers! Her death is part of a plot to get Logan into the Weapon X program and undergo the Adamantium bonding process. But—I’m jumping ahead here, but really, who fucking cares—it turns out Silverfox was alive all along, working for Stryker, and has mutant persuasion powers, so why not just have her make Wolverine do it? Why the unnecessarily elaborate plot, which makes Wolverine seem like a fucking idiot for not figuring out Stryker and Schreibertooth were in murderous cahoots? Oh well, at least we see Hugh Jackman’s ass.

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Max: Silverfox dies twice in this movie and we get to watch her and Sabretooth set up her initial fake out death with a blood pouch and everything. It’s like Mythbusters! Once Wolverine gets Powerful Bones, he immediately freaks out and runs off for no reason. Remember how the first two X-Men movies implied Wolverine was a pretty nasty piece of work before he lost his memory? That him joining the X-Men was maybe penance for a lifetime of misdeeds? X-Men Origins: Wolverine is basically like “eh” to all that and so Wolverine is pretty much just An Okay Guy throughout this whole movie. Eventually, a naked Wolverine is adopted by two kindly old Canadian farmers who have long hoped for a son of their own.

Kayleigh: An adorable, Rockwellian couple that immediately get fucking murdered because everything Wolverine touches, dies! Max, this movie is kind of terrible? What follows is a greasy chunk of cinematic spam, as Wolverine sets out to find Stryker. You can hear the producer off screen checking names off a list as Maverick, Blob, a teenage Cyclops who is not Tye Sheridan, and a Gambit who is not Channing Tatum, all have their walk-on cameos. Like, Gambit’s only in this movie to fly a frickin’ plane.

Max: Hey, he also does some video game cutscene BS then comes back after the the third act fight to fly Wolverine away from…THREE MILE ISLAND? Oh man, remember how this movie is a period piece? Set in 1979?

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Kayleigh: X-Men Origins: Wolverine: literally a nuclear disaster. The end of this movie is one of the nadirs of the X-Men film series, re-introducing Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson as Deadpool. Deadpool, that beloved Marvel comics antihero known for being a shirtless, pasty War Boy with no mouth, no mask, and powers stolen from Cyclops and Wolverine. I don’t even like Deadpool and I’m completely baffled at how this film fucks up every single thing that makes this character popular. It’s beyond understanding.

Max: After Wolverine takes down Deadpool (with Sabretooth’s begrudging help), we watch Wolverine finally lose his memory after Stryker caps him in the dome with Adamantium bullets. This is a great piece of terrible scriptwriting because this isn’t something that just happens: Stryker is literally like “oh yeah, I’m going to shoot Wolverine in the brain so he forgets all this.” X-Men Origins: Wolverine operates on like…dream logic. It was really nice of Patrick Stewart to appear in this film thanks to the magic of special effects.

I just noticed the "X" on Wolverine's tank top. I want to punch this movie in the throat.

I just noticed the “X” on Wolverine’s tank top. I want to punch this movie in the throat.

Kayleigh: The amazing legacy of this film is that none of it fucking matters. “But Kayleigh, does anything in a superhero movie truly matter, with all the very real suffering going on the world?” Okay, but, X-Men: Days of Future Past literally sends Wolverine back in time to save us from the two shittiest X-Men movies he starred in and retcon them out of existence. The X-Men films rejected this movie’s reality like a body rejecting a liver transplant. Taylor Kitsch’s Gambit? Sorry man, but John Carter sucked, you’re out. That diamond-skinned girl named Emma? Not the real Emma Frost, she’s in the next movie. Teen Cyclops’ origin, and his first meeting with Professor X? Fuck you, see X-Men: Apocalypse in theaters May 27th. Old-Young Stryker? Here’s New Actually Young Stryker. Absolutely everything about Deadpool? Ryan Reynolds gets his revenge in Deadpool by turning X-Men Origins: Wolverine into a three-second joke. I hated watching this movie.

Liev Schreiber was fun though.

Max: Rest in peace, Will.i.am.

X-Education continues tomorrow!

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