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Wolverine. Logan. The Savage X-Man. The Adamantium Atavus. Ol Canuckle-head. The little hairy butthole.
Wolverine did not have the most auspicious start in comics, and you definitely wouldn’t have pegged him as destined to become (for a time at least) The Most Popular Superhero in all of Comics. Some superheroes arrive fully formed, some take a lot of work. Wolverine was originally introduced as a fairly bland and one-note adversary for the Incredible Hulk. From there he migrated to the new multinational X-Men team launched by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum and nobody really gave two shits about him. But, through a combination of refinement and luck, Wolverine eventually came to be the most popular character in Marvel’s stable. How did that happen? Timing. Wolverine was perfectly placed to ride the pop culture currents of not one, not two, but THREE decades.
During his time in the X-Men Wolverine’s character evolved into “Clint Eastwood but Superhero”.
This allowed him to tap into the gritty anti-hero craze of the seventies. Then, Frank Miller established that Wolverine had spent time in Japan and had trained as a ninja, allowing him to benefit from the martial arts craze of the eighties. And by the time the nineties rolled around, Wolverine was so popular that he had basically kickstarted the Dark Age of comics which of course allowed him to remain front and centre for another ten years.
Since 9/11, comics have swung back to wanting more morally pure superheroes like Captain America and Superman, and with Marvel heavily de-emphasising the X-Men in favour of the Inhumans…
…the character is definitely less of a big deal than he once was. Make no mistake though, for a time, Logan was EVERYWHERE. They were organising events around him just so he could appear in every single book. He was like a lucky talisman to boost sales. He was the Crying Purple Gorilla of the Modern Age of Comics.
And I am pretty much totally sick of him.
Look, it’s not the character’s fault. He came by his popularity honestly. He’s got a killer design, a great power-set, a really intriguing backstory and some all time classic stories under his belt. But I was there at the height of Wolverine-mania and I have no desire to go back, especially when so many stories about him are just watching how much one man can be an asshole to the entire world and get away with it.
And there is no excuse for a one-note take on Wolverine, who is honestly one of the more complex and layered heroes in comics. Like I say, this is a great character when done right. But he’s been done wrong. Oh baby. He been done wrong.
One Wolverine story that most decidedly does not suck or have baboon faces is Origin, which is weird because everyone (including the writers) expected it to be a disaster. Wolverine was virtually unique among the major superheroes in that he didn’t have an origin story (the closest he had was Weapon X, another classic tale that showed how Logan got his Adamantium skeleton while still revealing nothing about who he was or where he came from). And that mystery was an essential part of his appeal. But when the first X-Men movie was in the works, Marvel realised that Fox would probably end up giving Wolverine an origin, and it would probably suck, so they might as well create their own and hope that it sucked a little less.
The result was Origin, a slow-burning, beautifully illustrated mystery set in 19th century Canada that did the seemingly impossible job of giving Wolverine an origin that was surprising and memorable while being appropriate for the character. So job done, right? Marvel had given Wolverine his origin, and it was excellent, and there was no way Hollywood could mess it up, right?
This is a device known as a rhetorical question.
The movie begins with a heavily truncated version of the origin story that Marvel introduced in the comics with the explicit intention that Hollywood would not fuck it up. I’d say they failed but honestly, the first fifteen minutes or so of the film are by far the strongest so let’s just call it damage mitigation. It’s pre-politeness Canada, 1845. Little Jimmy Howlett, son of a wealthy landowner, is sick in bed, being watched over by his best friend, an older boy named Victor who’s the son of the groundskeeper Thomas Logan, a brute and a very devil when he’s in his cups.
Logan shows up at the front door, drunk as a Russian, and demanding to see Jimmy’s mother and ends up killing Jimmy’s father. This causes Jimmy to freak out and grow bone claws out of his wrists (that’s touchin’ yerself, that what causes that) and he runs off into the forest. He’s chased by Victor who tells him that they’re actually brothers and that he’s also got weird bone claws from touchin’ himself. And they run off together to fight in every major North American conflict for the next century and change.
And yes, okay? Yes. The titles sequence of the two brothers clawing their way through the Civil War, WW1, WW2 and Vietnam is not only the best sequence in the movie but probably one of the best in the series overall. I do have a question though. Where were they during Korea?
Fair enough. Victor finally goes too far and tries to rape a Vietnamese woman which Howlett (now going by “Logan”) stops but the situation escalates and basically devolves into the two brothers fighting an entire platoon of American GIs. They’re arrested, shot and buried.
And that was the origin of Wolverine.
Okay folks, good hustle, see you in two weeks for…
Oh God damn it…
Okay, so Victor and Logan are approached by William Stryker, now played by Danny Huston who looks less like Brian Cox than any actor this side of Chadwick Boseman. He tells them that he has a dream, a dream of unaccountable Black Ops psychos with superpowers running around the Third World and making it rain blood and severed limbs and they’re all “That’s beautiful, man” and sign right up.
Movie starting yet? Still in the prologue? My Lord, this thing takes longer to get going than meaningful action on climate change. Okay, so.
Logan and Victor are now part of a mutant Black Ops group which also includes Bradley (Domic Monaghan), Fred Dukes (Kevin Durand), Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), Agent Zero (Daniel Henney) and John Wraith played by Will.i.am and who the fuck thought that was a good idea?
Oh. And you see that hyper-link over Will.i.am’s name? Yeah, I didn’t put that in there. If you type his name it automatically creates a link to his website. I am dead fucking serious. Don’t click on it, don’t. Don’t give him the satisfaction. Just, seriously, fuck that guy.
And please, let us take a moment for poor, poor Ryan Reynolds. God he’s trying so hard, you guys. You can see how badly he wants to be Deadpool. But the script just won’t let him. He’s like a master pianist being forced to play chopsticks.
Which brings us to the problem with this script. It’s very, very, bad.
I mean, structurally, it’s…fine. You could take this basic story and make an excellent Wolverine movie out of it. The bones of the script are solid (which is what you need in a Wolverine movie, solid bones). But the dialogue is just the pits. Not even laughably bad, just dishwater dull. The witty macho banter isn’t funny. The romantic scenes aren’t cute. The badass one-liners are eye rolling. You can see the payoffs coming a mile off.
So the group are in Africa trying to find a rare super metal that fell to Earth as a meteorite (it’s not the one you’re thinking of). They find out where the rock is but Victor ends up killing a bunch of people and Logan is so repulsed that he throws up his hands and says “I’m out.”
Flashforward six years and Logan is now living a humble, anonymous life as a lumberjack. In a fabulous show-room cabin with a girlfriend named Kayla Silverfox who could be a model except it wouldn’t be fair to the other models.
Kayla tells Logan a Native American legend of a Wolverine who fell in love with the moon but can never touch her and so howls at her every night. I can only assume that this was a legend concocted by some very stupid Native Americans (or possibly a dumbass screenwriter) who didn’t know that this is a wolf…
…which does indeed howl (though not specifically at the the moon) and that this is a wolverine…
…pure feral rage trapped in an oversized weasel costume that does not howl because that would cut into valuable murdering time.
But anyway, we now know how Logan got the name “Wolverine”.
Hey do you know the secret origin of the name “Captain America”? No, me neither. Because it’s the perfect name for that character and you don’t need to explain it. You don’t need Steve Rogers hearing a story about a CAPTAIN who was from AMERICA who was a real swell guy and wouldn’t it be nice to honour him in some way and and then a lightbulb going off over his head NO. HE’S CAPTAIN AMERICA. HE JUST IS. DON’T EXPLAIN IT.
Ditto with “Wolverine”. He’s called Wolverine because he’s a short hairy guy with claws and a hair-trigger temper constantly going up against much bigger opponents. WE GET IT.
So anyway, Logan’s now a lumberjack and he’s okay but Stryker shows up at work like a drunk ex to tell him that someone’s been offing members of Logan’s old unit and that he needs him to come back. But Logan of course isn’t willing to give up his new life. Stryker pulls the old “Your country needs you” card and Logan counters with “I’m Canadian”, a line that caused cinemas across Canada to erupt in polite applause.
Meanwhile, Kayla is driving along an abandoned road and sees something sinister.
Logan finds Layla’s bloodied body in the forest and swears vengeance as you do and God, movie, but you bore me so.
So obviously, Logan now has to take care of matters like arranging the funeral and notifying Kayla’s next of kin…no, of course he doesn’t do any of that stuff because, as you’ll see later, if he tried we pretty soon wouldn’t have a movie. Logan tracks Victor down to a local dive bar and they have a big manly brawl that ends with Logan getting beaten like a piñata full of Beanie Babies (are they still popular? I am so old, please help).
Stryker sidles up to Logan and is all “Hey buddy. Heard you got beat. That’s rough, don’t suppose you’d be interested in a super-secret military programme to give you unbreakable bones? Oh, dear, I’m being so forward. Forget I said anything.”
Logan, who has somehow spent much of his life around shady military types without understanding what they’re actually about agrees, saying that once “I come with you, I’m coming for blood. No law, no code of conduct.”
Logan? He’s a fucking shady black ops guy who’s recruiting you for a super-secret military programme. You think he’s going to insist you read Victor his frickin’ Miranda rights? Get in the car, jackass.
So Wolverine now gets his bones covered in molten metal because who needs white blood cells? Not Wolverine.
It’s a wee bit uncomfortable but he survives the process and overhears Stryker talking to one of the scientists about how they’re going to erase his memory…somehow.
Unfortunately, he’s an angry drunk and goes on a mad tear, running through the countryside stark bollock naked before finding refuge in a barn and being taken in by a couple of kindly farmers. But enough about the Unscrupulous Mouse on his stag night!
These kindly farmers are the kind of kindly farmers who can tell when someone’s good but has had some bad breaks in life and they know you’re running from someplace but that’s not their business and they won’t ask questions until you’re good and ready now get washed up cause Ma is making something that’ll knock your socks off, you bet. They are so nice that they don’t even mind when Logan accidentally trashes their bathroom with his stunningly convincing claws.
What did they inject him with? Pixels? Holy moly that’s awful. Okay, so Ma and Pa Expendable get whacked by Stryker’s henchman Agent Zero and Logan kills him.
Logan tracks down two surviving members of his old unit, John and Fred, at a boxing club to see what they know about Stryker. Fred is now roughly the size of the Kingdom of Denmark and he challenges Logan to a boxing match because he thinks Logan called him “Blob” when Logan actually called him “Bub” and I have literally spent more time writing this sentence than the writers put into this whole miserable contrived fight. So yeah, Logan beats up Blob to find out where Stryker’s been experimenting on mutants (because apparently not the place he was experimenting on Logan, he has, like, another lab where he summers). Blob tells Logan where the next NPC he needs to talk to is, a Cajun mutant named Remy Le Beau also known as Gambit and winner of both “World’s Sexiest Cajun” AND “World’s Only Sexy Cajun”.
And John goes with them too because heaven forfend we don’t get enough Will.i.am…who the FUCK does he think he is?! Victor arrives and it’s another day, another Sabretooth on Wolverine fight scene. I wouldn’t even mention it except for some truly bafflingly bad continuity where Gambit is knocked unconscious on ground level and the next time we see him he’s running off a roof to leap down on Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting below. I guess teleportation is one of his powers too?
Sabretooth kills John in time to stop the release of “Imma Be” in this universe, therefore securing his legacy as its greatest superhero and then makes tracks. Gambit agrees to take Logan to Stryker’s facility as long as he promises to release all the other mutants who are being held there.
They travel to Three Mile Island and Logan fights his way through to confront Stryker who’s not alone…
Okay. So, because my mutant power is masochism (and cryokinesis), let’s run down Stryker’s plan here.
1) Spend months (if not years) planting an undercover agent to pose as Logan’s girlfriend, using her sister as leverage over her.
2) Then, when you want Logan to come back to the fold, just ask him.
3) When he says “no, bub” you fake the death of his girlfriend.
4) Have him lose a fight with the guy he thinks killed his girlfriend. Remember, he has to lose this fight. Also remember, he’s the best fighter in the world and that’s why you need him. Remember how smart you are.
5) After he loses the fight, ask him again.
6) Spend half a billion dollars injecting him with adamantium to make him indestructible, then lose him.
7) But it’s okay, because the whole time you just needed him to get his DNA to put in another mutant who you call “Deadpool” because fuck you, that’s why.
8) Hmmm, maybe you didn’t need to do the whole thing with the adamantium?
9) Actually, the whole business with the fake girlfriend and faking her death was kind of superflous too.
10) Shit, just get a cotton swab of his DNA and you’d pretty much have achieved your main goal with little to no cost and no loss of life. Oh well. It’s the journey, not the destination.
So anyway, yeah, Kayla is still alive. See why I brought up all that stuff about the funeral? This whole thing about Layla faking her death only works if you just forget about all the stuff that happens after someone dies. Like the autopsy. And the funeral. And the BURYING THE BODY IN AN AIRLESS COFFIN TO BE EATEN BY WORMS.
Wolverine is all “WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?” and Kayla is all “I’M SORRY IT’S A TERRIBLE SCRIPT”. Stryker reveals that Kayla is also a mutant and that her power is tactile hypnosis. Logan storms off and they…just…let him (I’m confused, does Stryker want him or not?) but he comes back when he hears Kayla screaming because Victor has attacked her FOR ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING REASON and then we get anothe Victor/Logan fight because it’s been what, five minutes?
Logan beats Victor and Victor is all “Do it, kill me!” and Kayla is all “You are not an animal” and I’m all “I long for the sweet release of death” and Logan just punches Victor out. Kayla explains that she really did love Logan and can he rescue her sister pretty please? So they run off and they rescue a load of mutant kids including Kayla’s sister Emma Frost…
…and a young Scott Summers. They lead the kids to safety and are stopped by…this.
So. I’m convinced that a Deadpool fan must have murdered the director’s mother or something because I honestly cannot fathom what justified a “fuck you” this massive. Fortunately, the real Deadpool shows up and shoots him in the head and then vanishes…
Wait a minute. Is that right? It feels like the timeline might have been altered. Ah fuck it, it’s clearly better this way.
Before this fake Deadpool is killed, however, we get another fight with Logan, Victor and the vile pretender battling on one of the cooling towers. And I do like how the movie ties in the real-life events of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, showing how one of the cooling towers was completely destroyed, thus rendering most of North America uninhabitable. That’s how I remember it. It would be the worst nuclear disaster in history until Chernobyl was destroyed by that damn fire-breathing lizard.
While that’s going on, Scott here’s a voice in his head leading him and the other kids outside where he finds OH JESUS IN HEAVEN NO NOT AGAIN…
Logan finds Kayla, who’s been badly injured in this Donnybrook and picks her up to carry her away but gets shot by Stryker with an adamantium bullet. Before Kayla dies, she grabs Stryker and hypnotises him, forcing him to walk until his feet are two well-done steaks. She dies and Logan wakes up, his memory now wiped clean. He sees her body, but doesn’t even remember who she is, which, okay, I will admit is actually really tragic and an affecting moment.
And the movie ends with Logan leaving Three Mile Island with his memory gone, and now fully Originated.
There may be movie trilogies out there with a bigger disparity in quality between their first and third entries, but it usually goes the other way, brilliant first installment and a really weak third one. Wolverine: Origins is, at the time I write this, the worst X-Men movie I’ve ever seen (I still haven’t seen Age of Apocalypse or Generation X so we’ll see how long that lasts). And it’s not even entertainingly bad. It’s just dour, ugly, joyless, muscle-headed and dull as a CGI claw.
Hey, was that Stan Lee?!: Having learned nothing from the curse brought down by his absence in X2, Stan likewise is nowhere to be seen here.
Department of Duplication Department: Hoo boy. We have child versions of Logan, Sabretooth and Cyclops, Stryker is now played by Danny Huston instead of Brian Cox and Liev Schrieber is now adult Sabretooth instead of Tyler Mane.
How worried is Guinan right now?:
Guinan is getting worried. So here’s where we start seeing the first cracks in the timeline. If we’re still sticking with the “not too distant future” BS of the first movie’s setting that means that teen Scott Summers (played by twenty year old Tim Pokock) would be close to forty by the time of the first movie.
Also, how come Victor doesn’t seem to recognise Logan by the time of X-Men 1?
Wait, Magneto is how old?!: So the accident at Three Mile Island dates the events of this movie to 1979 which means Magneto’s around 44.
Today, mutants are…: This movie uses mutants as a stand in for the real world plight of badass ex-special ops guys trying to give up the path of violence but who keep getting dragged back in for one last mission after their wives are killed.
We see Stryker walking through the countryside with his feet bleeding. A military unit pulls up beside him to tell him that he’s under arrest for killing a general, yeah I didn’t mention that, it happened, it was boring, I don’t care do you care?
And the audience went:
Fox, I know you’re new to this stinger business but the whole point is that is shows us something shocking. Or surprising. Or, I dunno, interesting. This stinger just shows us something that we were already told was going to happen.
The second stinger:
Logan’s drinking in a Japanese bar and the bartender asks him if he’s drinking to forget and he replies “No. I’m drinking…”
And the audience went:
“…DRINKING TO REMEMBER.” The audience said that. All of them. In unison. Every single English speaking person who saw that scene saw that line coming.
The other second stinger:
Because this movie is playing such a blinder with these stingers some versions of the movie contain an alternate stinger with a close up of Deadpool’s severed head. He looks at the audience and says: “Sssssh.”
And the audience went:
This movie is:
Next Update: 11th October 2018
NEXT TIME: It’s time for our first Patron review, and Amelia has decided to make us all weep like babies.