Eye For Film >> Movies >> X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) Film Review
Traditionally, men who wished to disappear from their present, real-world circumstances would join the French Foreign Legion, no questions asked – but in the world of entertainment, it is just as often the profession of Canadian woodcutters that provides much-needed asylum for those in search of escape.
When Monty Python's all-English weatherman (or barber, or pet-shop owner) suddenly expresses, in both speech and song, his desire to be a lumberjack, part of the joke is that the character's proclivity for transvestitism cannot truly be concealed even in a vocation of such supposedly rugged manliness. These comic resonances persist when, in Star Trek: Generations (1994), we learn that the hammiest of Starfleet captains, one James T Kirk, has also always fantasised about being a lumberjack.
This is the career path chosen by immortal mutant Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, too, after he has turned his back on a life of bestial militancy – although, in Logan's case, being a lumberjack does not signify sublimated camp so much as a harmless, healthy outlet for his innate drive to cut and slash, as well as a job that marks him out instantly as Canadian. After all, Logan's Canadian identity (which he himself regularly emphasises) sets him apart from his controller/nemesis Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston), the US patriot whose use of pre-emptive strikes, extra-judicial detention and out-and-out torture associates him with the worst neo-con follies of Bush-era America.
If all this sounds merely like an expanded footnote on the semiotics of the lumberjack, then that is only to capture something of the essence of XMO: Wolverine (as the PRs are nattily calling it) which, as a 'forgotten' prequel, is itself merely an expanded footnote on the three pre-existing X-Men films. Sure, there is action aplenty (indeed, so much of it that four major wars, spanning more than a century, are crammed into just the opening title sequence). Sure, there are early glimpses of some of the characters (Stryker, Cyclops, Professor X) who later become important in the existing X-Men ensemble films, and there is the introduction of several popular characters from the Marvel comics (Gambit, Deadpool, White Queen) who never made it to the film trilogy. We even find out how Logan came to acquire the nom de guerre Wolverine and a skeleton of indestructible adamantium (not a part of his innate mutation).
None of this elaborate backstory, however, can in any way contribute to our appreciation of the later Wolverine's psychological make-up, for the simple reason that all the character formed by Logan's rich, epic experiences here simply expires at film's end, necessarily erased so that he can become the amnesiac blank slate found drifting aimlessly at the beginning of X-Men (2000).
So in a sense, while this prequel tells us plenty about Logan's past history – the boyhood discovery of his powers (first used against his own father) in 1845, his decades spent on the run with wilder half-brother Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), their recruitment by Stryker into a covert unit of mutants, Logan's disenchanted withdrawal from the group and relocation to the Canadian Rockies with new girlfriend Kayla (Lynn Collins), Logan's re-emergence to seek revenge upon Sabretooth for the murder of Kayla, and his gradual realisation that Stryker and his secret experiments are the real threat to all mutants, himself included - almost none of this will be relevant, except as a footnote, to the character whose later adventures we already know.
Not that footnotes are incapable of having an appeal all of their own. The set-pieces here are spectacular, the dialogue unusually witty, the performances engaging – and the incidents and dramatis personae are paraded thick and fast enough to keep even the most jaded filmgoer entertained for the duration. It is just that, if you sit right through the final credit crawl until the pointless coda, you may find yourself, like Wolverine himself, driven to drink by the perverse hope that it will help you remember in any detail what you have just seen happen - but already forgotten.Reviewed on: 29 Apr 2009