The “X-Men Origins” prefix looks a little silly now it’s not been followed up with any other characters’ backstories, which is ironically the fault of this film and its dismal reputation. But while it’s certainly no masterpiece, Wolverine’s origin story gets a lot right, and is not worthy of its fanboy-driven derision.
In-keeping with the original X-Men trilogy, our supporting characters are rubbish here. But while those films at least had Xavier, Magneto and Wolverine to cling to, now we’re down to just one. After a very hasty flick through Wolvy’s past, via a superb opening credits sequence, our hero finds himself on bad guy Colonel Stryker’s (Danny Huston) crack team of mutants. The problem is that Wolverine’s life, from his childhood pre-Civil War, to his work in the mutant team post-Vietnam, takes up but a few minutes of the film, so we know absolutely nothing about the team of mutants he’s on.
This presents problems when Wolverine leaves the team and they start getting hunted down and killed one by one (still in the first half an hour), as we still have no idea who they are. Similarly he has found a girlfriend. We don’t know where or how, she’s just there. The fact that everyone around him is as disposable as they are two dimensional makes it really hard to care about what’s going on.
The traumatic events in his past that led him to be the metal-skeletoned muscle man of the original movies are dealt with so briefly it’s a disappointment given their almost legendary status in the minds of fans. There’s no angst over whether or not to go through with the medical experiment. Motivated by revenge, Wolverine doesn’t stop to ask questions, so he can get to more fighting as quickly as possible.
But the fighting is one of the things this film gets right. It wasn’t till the X Men prequels that the people who make these films really started to take advantage of a world of characters with weird and interesting powers, and Origins does this more than any other film in the franchise. Almost every major character is a mutant, with numerous cool and exciting superpower-based scenes. This is the opposite of the more recent The Wolverine, which had hardly any mutants, and more of a focus on story.
The themes of exclusion and prejudice that gave X1 and 2 more substance than your average superhero movie are gone, which is a shame, but they’re replaced by Will.i.am, so who can really complain? This is good popcorn entertainment but is better only than The Last Stand in terms of overall quality. While Origins is certainly a worse film, there’s a lot of entertainment value, even in some of its more absurd moments.