Logan’s Moving Pictures — DEEP BREATH — takes a look at the short-lived bad idea X-Men Origins series… Yes, that’s right the long-titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
A few weeks ago I went to see a Georgia Bulldogs game with one of my closest friends, a guy I’ve known since middle school (or junior high, which is what we called it when I went there in the stone age). I’d never been to Athens, as such I’d never set foot in the stadium or on the campus, and the Bulldogs are a team I’ve watched on and off my entire life, mainly because of my dad and my brother Ryan, they were pretty big fans. These days my dad keeps his sports watching to a minimum, says it upsets him too much to see his teams lose. On the ride up to the game, about a 3-hour trip from where we live, we talked about all kinds of nonsense, but one thing has stuck with me all these weeks later.
I was telling him about some work-related drama, nothing too heavy, mostly just dealing with people who either don’t know what they’re doing or are too lazy to do it. We all encounter that in whatever job we work in, I know I’m not special there. I will say this, if you don’t run into either of those people at your work, it might be time to take a hard look in the mirror…but I digress. We were talking about spreadsheets, and I was lamenting the fact that I just have never taken the time to really, truly learn how to do things in Excel. He’s a wizard with it, has offered to show me tricks and give me tips for years, but there’s just something in me that can’t get up the desire to learn more. He brushed it off and said something to the effect of, “Well, it’s like with you’re writing. I could never sit down and a keyboard and just write something, I don’t have it in me.”
I know it wasn’t his intention, but that sentiment has been echoing in my head ever since and I’ve spent a great number of days just staring at blank pages, not able to find any sort of starting point for anything or any film I’ve wanted to write about. At most I’ve gotten out a handful of sentences, maybe a paragraph. I’d call it a day, say at least I got something, only to revisit the next day, decide I hate it, and then delete it.
But what do you do to fix it?
Especially when you have a (mostly self-imposed) deadline!
I can’t speak for any writer but myself, but the solution/inspiration has always come from the least likely places, and generally when I finally just let go and decide that I’ll just be done with writing altogether. This time it came from Twitter. More precisely, a link to Twitter sent to me by E.i.C. and good buddy Adam. It was to Hugh Jackman’s account and it was something I’m sure everyone has seen by now since it was weeks ago. But, if you haven’t, here, take a look.
I was immediately taken aback by the fact that Ryan Reynolds was directly addressing a problem I was struggling heavily with at that exact moment. Then I was giddy with the announcement that not only was Deadpool 3 on its way but that it would feature the return of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Then I was instantly sad that it would be two long years before we got to see the duo back together again. It was quite a rollercoaster of emotions.
After watching the teaser a few times I started thinking about the journey Ryan Reynolds had gone on to bring Deadpool to life, and of course, that got me thinking about his very first outing as Wade Wilson, way back in 2009, co-starring in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. May of 2009, in fact, and I don’t think there was a movie Ryan and I were more excited for that year than this one.
We both love the X-Men, of course; I’ve written on that before, but Ryan was also quite the fan of one X-Man in particular, a mutant named Gambit, who was set to also make his live-action debut in this X-outing. As for me? Well, if you ask anyone who knows me who my favorite comic book character is, well, they’d tell you it’s Deadpool. They’d be wrong, but that’s what they’d tell you. In truth it’s another mutant named Cable, who made his debut on film in Deadpool 2 a great number of years later. But Deadpool is certainly the runner-up for my favorite character. So, my brother and I were both beside ourselves with anticipation for Wolverine’s first solo outing, easily our most anticipated film of that year.
And Boy were we surprised when we got to see it.
There were A LOT of really wonderful films in 2009. A lot.
For anyone who doesn’t remember the cinematic landscape of 2009, let me give you a list of great (or at least GOOD) films that came out that year (at least ones I consider great anyhow): Fantastic Mr. Fox, A Serious Man, Inglourious Basterds, District 9, Where the Wild Things Are, Up in the Air, In the Loop, Moon, Avatar, Coraline, The Secret of Kells, 500 Days of Summer, Up, Precious, Mother, An Education, Zombieland, The Princess and the Frog, Star Trek, The Hurt Locker, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Crazy Heart, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Watchmen, Julie & Julia, Drag Me to Hell, Observe & Report, The Box, Jennifer’s Body, The Spirit, Quantum of Solace and one of my Top 3 favorite films of all time, The Brothers Bloom.
I think it’s easily one of the best cinema years of my life. I could list twenty to thirty more films that I liked, or even tolerated from that year, before X-Men Origins: Wolverine made an appearance. Because good God is this movie bad.
I really don’t even know where to start in talking about the movie itself. I hadn’t seen it probably since its initial DVD release, and I hoped it wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered. I’m sure I don’t really need to hammer home the point that it was as bad, and possibly even worse. I spent most of it wishing Ryan were watching with me, or that we were planning to podcast about it after the fact, just so I could enjoy tearing it apart piece by piece.
There’s so much to mock here, it would have been a blast. But doing it by myself, in a column I write that’s about my movie memories with my family, specifically my brother…that just seems mean. About as mean as making a movie about Wolverine and Deadpool and Gambit that sucks.
For what it’s worth, I do think there are a handful of things that work in the film, the first being Hugh Jackman. It’s almost impossible not to love his portrayal of Wolverine in any of his appearances, and he really does his best not to just stop in the middle of most scenes and scream “What the hell are we doing?” Second, the four minutes we get of Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson (NOT Deadpool). I’d forgotten just how good he was in the minimal screen time he has, magic swords notwithstanding. He’s got the mouthiness of the character down pat, possibly because he’s so similar to how Deadpool was crafted to begin with. Third, I think both Taylor Kitsch and Liev Schreiber are great with the limited material they’re given.
I posed the question to Adam (Mr. E.i.C. here), whose fault is this? Where do we lay the blame for something gone so horribly wrong with a movie featuring a character that, up until then, had been one of the most enjoyable parts of comic book cinema in the last decade? Director Gavin Hood? Screenwriters David Benioff (who went on to develop Game of Thrones) and Skip Woods (who hasn’t written anything major since A Good Day to Die Hard)? Hugh Jackman for not putting his foot down when the script ceased to make sense? Fox, because, well, it’s Fox?
We didn’t come up with a good answer, probably because there isn’t one. The truth is likely just a mixture of everyone wanting to make something great, not having any real clear vision on what it should be, and then delivering a film that reads like it was plotted out by elementary school kids on a playground during recess. I have definitely written better fanfiction than this.
What I got from revisiting this? Maybe just the confirmation that sometimes things in your past were actually worse than you remember them, and rather than just relive that trauma, find a positive memory and just focus on that one. Or maybe it’s that, even if it absolutely sucks, sometimes it’s better to just write it all down and put it out in the world anyway.