Written by David Holland
Remember after the shaky ending to the X-Men trilogy, when it was announced that there would be a series of movies focused around individual characters in the X-Men Universe? They were going to start with Wolverine, then do Magneto, then maybe branch out to Gambit? Why on Earth didn’t that happen? After all, the only thing they needed to do to ensure that this was a good idea was make sure the first “Origins” installment wasn’t a total mess.
What Went Well:
Look, anytime we get new mutants that means we get to see new powers in action and that’s always fun. After a montage of the Howlett brothers growing up and fighting in every war for over a century, we see them on William Stryker’s Team X, each of whom is a mutant. Then we get a classic “superhero-team-using-their-powers-to-infiltrate” scene, which is honestly the highlight of the film. Team X includes Ryan Reynolds as “Wade Wilson”, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the comics in which Wade declares he looks like Reynolds. Wilson’s role is so small that throughout the film you find yourself wishing for his levity to come back.
We get another alternate universe version of real events in which Three-Mile Island, which has been secretly turned into Stryker’s layer, melts down because of a climactic mutant battle and not because of human error on a colossal level. And naturally there are flashy graphics and cool uses of superpowers to round things out.
What Didn’t Go Well:
I will freely admit that part of my frustration with Wolverine is a general issue with prequels. If we already know the endpoint, it is difficult to create high enough stakes to give the audience a feeling of suspense. Part of storytelling is not knowing what happens next and a prequel has that taken away from the start.
The movie also goes downhill after the first act. The opening infiltration is really cool, I would compare it to the opening of “Winter Soldier”, setting the stakes for the rest of the movie. But after that, the film seems to lose its way a bit. Chris Bradley, the technopath, and Wade Wilson are both killed offscreen. Losing Ryan Reynolds as Wade so early in the movie and offscreen to boot is annoying. Then we get Wade back as Deadpool…but a version of Deadpool created by someone who clearly knew nothing about the canon character.
Deadpool’s fate aside, the movie just feels like it’s going through the motions. It’s not bad, it’s just sort of… there. There’s not a lot of closure around Sabretooth because he has to live so that he can die blandly in “X-Men”. Wolverine gets a girlfriend who dies in a noble sacrifice that he promptly forgets. Gambit, one of the most popular X-Men left out of the original trilogy, feels shoehorned in just for the sake of including him. At the end you’re left wondering what was the purpose of making this movie other than keeping Hugh Jackman employed. Which I guess isn’t a terrible reason, but it’s not the best reason to make a movie.
If you’re going to make a standalone movie around a single character in your franchise, it needs to be strong enough to justify other installments. Any other franchise thinking about spinning off standalone movies focused on single individual characters should pay close attention to this lesson.
And seriously, don’t do this: