X-Men Origins: Wolverine finally premiered here in the Philippines yesterday–30 April 2009–a day early to the international release. What a treat for workers who are celebrating Labor Day today.
The famed victim of leakage and piracy, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (directed by Gavin Hood), according to lead star Hugh Jackman, is not an X-Men IV. It is a prequel, rather, to the X-Men trilogy–a biopic of a fraction of Wolverine/Logan/James Howlett’s violent, pre-adamantium life roughly 20 years before the X-Men; his family, exposure to war, emotional development, and the tragedies he had to confront. The film centers, generally, on Wolverine’s involvement in the Weapon X program (spearheaded by Colonel William Stryker), and his relationship with his brother, Victor Creed/Sabretooth.
Little Girl: Are you Spider-Man?
Logan: No darlin’, Spider-Man is a sissy.
I have seen accounts of Wolverine’s past in the animated series, The Uncanny X-Men, but I never got to formulate even a gist from it. Being out of reach of the Wolverine Origin comic book series, I never understood the violent past of Wizard magazine’s most popular comic-book character of all time. Until now. I didn’t realize it would be like this: In 1845, a young but sickly James Howlett (Troye Sivan) and Victor Creed (Michael-James Olsen) witness the death of James’ alleged father, killed by Creed’s dad. James, consumed by rage, awakens his mutant powers–boned claws emerge between his knuckles which his uses to kill Mr. Creed. As he dies, Mr. Creed reveals that he is James’ real father. Such a classic revelation. James and Victor hasten away, growing and sticking together through the years.
The beginning credits unroll, and we see a storyline in the background–the adult years of James (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) fighting together in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. While in Vietnam, Victor kills his superior officer, sentencing him and James to death via a firing squad. Because of their other mutant ability to heal faster, they are able to withstand/escape death.
Because they are basically indestructible, colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston) enlist the two mutants on his crew of mutants: the shatterproof Frederick J. Dukes/Blob (Kevin Durand); the teleporting John Wraith (will.i.am); Chris Bradley/Bolt (Dominic Monaghan), who could manipulate technology/electricity; expert marksman and tracker, David “Agent Zero” North (Daniel Henney); and martial artist Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). While the team was searching for adamantium in Nigeria, Stryker orders the killing of innocent natives. James, sick and tired of wars and killings, leaves the group, leaving his brother abandoned.
After six years, we see James working as a logger in Canada. He lives with his first love, Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), a teacher. It is from her that James hears a tale about a moon and a wolverine (which he later adopts as his codename). Although he has left his past, it still returns to haunt him. Apparently, Victor is on the hunt for previous members of Stryker’s team. His first victim is Bolt, who has become a “freak” in a circus. With the recent killing, Stryker (who doesn’t know who is responsible for the murder) approaches James and asks for his help to stop the murderer. James refuses.
In an unfortunate, but expected turn of events, Victor locates Kayla and kills her, enraging James and his revenge. He finds Victor and fights him, but is defeated. Striker finds James in a hospital, and offers his aid, claiming to “give the tools” that he needs to defeat his brother. James accepts.
It is revealed that Stryker has found the adamantium, where he plans to infuse into James’ skeleton.
To beat Victor, you’re going to have to embrace the other side of you. Become the animal.
–Stryker to James.
James is given a pair of dog tags with the name Wolverine and Logan. Logan, in the refinement of his skeleton, endures the most painful procedure of his life in an adamantium tank. He undergoes a brief state of unconsciousness where he is thought not to survive the procedure, but thanks to his healing ability, he survives. A careless Stryker, who voices his plans to wipe out Logan’s memories and use him as a puppet in war, is overheard by Logan (who seemingly has a sensitive hearing range). Refusing to forget his past (mostly Kayla), James breaks free from the lab. Stryker orders Agent Zero to hunt down Wolverine.
A nude James finds sanctuary in an elderly couple’s barn house. The couple clothe and feed James like a son, giving him their son’s leather jacket and a motorbike. Sadly, the couple gets shot dead by Agent Zero the next day. James flees on the motorcycle when Agent Zero, with a helicopter blasts the barn house. James destroys the helicopter, kills Agent Zero to avenge the elderly couple, then heads tor Las Vegas to reunite with former teammates, John Wraith and Fred Dukes.
Here, he learns of the existence Stryker’s new laboratory on an island, and that Victor was working for Stryker all this time–he was framed up through Kayla’s killing to accept Stryker’s offer to be imbued with adamantium. Learning of the deception and that Kayla was killed “just for an experiment,” he seeks the location of the island-laboratory. Dukes leads us to a mutant who escaped after two years imprisonment: Remy “Gambit” LeBeau (Taylor Kitsch).
James, together with Wraith, locate and confront Gambit in a New Orleans bar. Their confrontation is fireworks when Gambit attacks Logan, somehow mistaking him for being Stryker’s worker. Meanwhile, Victor kills Wraith after being spotted in the same area by the latter. James arrives on the scene and fights Victor again, able to outmatch his brother. Gambit halts the bout, enabling Victor to escape. James then deals with Gambit to take hm to Stryker’s island where he would “kill everyone he hates.”
At the island, named Three Mile Island, James confronts Stryker. In a surprising turn of events, we see that Kayla is still alive (her death was faked), she possesses mutant abilities (persuading any human she touches to her command), and that she agreed to Stryker’s deals in exchange for the freedom of her captive mutant sister, Emma Frost (Tahyna Tozzi), who possesses telepathic abilities, and could turn her skin into diamond. Deceived once again, James leaves with a broken spirit, but returns when he hears Kayla’s scream for help in the hands of an angry Victor.
James fights Victor (again!) and leaves him unconscious (he doesn’t kill him). Kayla asks him to help find the captive mutant teens and to free them, in which, Cyclops (Tim Pocock) is one of them. Stryker releases Weapon XI, Wade Wilson or Deadpool, who has become a “dead pool” of mutant powers from Stryker’s team, to kill James. James fights Deadpool and lets the kids flee, during which Kayla is injured.
Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) makes a cameo and guides the kids through telepathic communication with Cyclops out of the lab. He then takes them off the island.
James, on the other hand, is almost defeated but is aided by his brother. They are able to defeat Deadpool and leave most of the island-laboratory in ruins. Victor leaves. James meets Gambit who is ordered to look to the safety of the kids. James finds the injured Kayla, and carries her to seek medical help. However, Stryker comes from behind, shooting James with adamantium bullets that erases James’ memory and leaves him half-dead. Stryker also aims close to Kayla, but is persuaded by the latter to drop his gun and to “walk to bleeding feet.” Kayla dies. Gambit returns to find a reviving James. But James has forgotten who he is, to which Gambit reminds him that he is Logan, as printed on his twin dog tags. The two separate, but not before seeing Kayla’s body whom he no longer remembers. With Gambit gone, Logan closes Kayla’s eyes, then flees from incoming police cars. The badass Wolverine is born.
It was a satisfying biopic. Dark, violent, yet exquisite. It fits within the storyline of the X-Men trilogy; actually, the movie becomes a desirable supplement to the trilogy. Years after X-Men: The Last Stand, we finally get to experience another mutant serving with virtuosity and emotional depth.
Origins is a bittersweet account of an unfortunate comic-book antihero. Life deceives Wolverine since childhood: his father, the death of his first love, and his submission to project X. In the end, he acquired amnesia to escape his cruel deceptions, allowing his memory to deceive his present to forget his past, and forever search for it. In my view, it was a good decision to let Kayla die, instead of letting her live in agony of being forgotten by the one she loves. Sad, but that is the life of Wolverine. What is memory if it is filled with war, death, and pain, & only a small part of it can give you remembered happiness?
It’s funny how innocent people around you die.
–Agent Zero to James
Although Jackman aimed to present a fiercer Wolverine, which I find not fierce as expected, but is just enough. Reportedly, Jackman underwent a year of physical training for the role–stipulating his love and seriousness for the character. For that, I applaud him and his work.