In terms of quality, the X-Men franchise has been frustratingly uneven. In all fairness, there were more misses than hits. The right ingredients were there: a source material rich with compelling social commentary, character drama and exciting superhero action. Barring a few exceptions, the right talents, both behind and in-front of the camera, were usually hired for the job. Yet the eventual end product was often ruined by a few fatally misguided decisions.
The original X-Men has often been credited as starting the current superhero craze, but that’s not exactly fair. It was the success of Blade that gave Marvel the encouragement to pursue further cinematic adaptations.
Looking back, the first X-Men film hasn’t aged as well as other nostalgic superhero fare. It’s not without its merits, especially in the casting department — Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart have got to be some of the finest casting decisions in the series — but the franchise is lacking exciting action set pieces, and the interesting characters are mostly underused. But back then, as a young X-Men fan, I was excited and took what I could get it.
Its sequel, X2: X-Men United, is arguably better. There’s better use of its ensemble cast, there’s some great mutant action and a great villain played by Brian Cox. But you could already see that most of the marketing and screen time was going to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).
This was one of the many mistakes made in its second sequel, X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s not that Jackman wasn’t proper casting, it’s just that there were so many interesting characters to explore.
X-Men: The Last Stand had many more problems than its excessive focus on Wolverine. Some blamed its director Brett Ratner, who quickly replaced director Bryan Singer as he departed the project to direct the ill-fated Superman Returns. In fairness, he might only deserve some of the blame — but does certainly deserve some.
Its greatest sins lied with its haphazard script that had too many rushed sub-plots and cringy one-liners that felt tonally alien to its previous two installments. Singer made the superheroes look respectable in their leather clad outfits but suddenly, in Rather’s vision, they looked positively goofy.
Still the film made money and producers had an ambitious project in mind: making a spin-off franchise series starring its various X-Men characters. The first one would star their biggest cash-cow: Wolverine. The second one would be about Magneto. We would never see the Magneto spin-off, though some of its ideas were carried off in its eventual reboot/prequel X-Men: First Class.
But we were treated to unintentional hilarity that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. A film so bad, the franchise itself had to viciously mock it through its later Deadpool entries.
Since we’re on the brink of X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘s ten-year anniversary, I decided to write about its hilarious awfulness. I’m not going to delve too deep into its problems, I’m just going to mention my personal favorite moments of this gloriously awful superhero film.
The Opening Title Sequence
The best thing about the movie, meaning something that is actually good and not “so good, it’s bad”, is the opening title sequence, where we see a montage of Logan and his brother/arch-nemesis, Sabretooth, fight in numerous wars of American history. It’s a truly awesome sequence…but the film quickly falls apart after that.
Having said that, Liev Schreiber is great in the role, even if he doesn’t get much to work with. It’s unfortunate we would never see a reunion between these two characters. I would have liked to see him return in Logan, perhaps being the main antagonist or a henchmen who redeems himself in the end. Alas, at least Schreiber is kicking ass as Ray Donovan.
I don’t think any actor in X-Men Origins: Wolverine would consider their performance in the film the highlight of their career. But I’m sure all of them felt better about themselves when they acted beside will.i.am.
Will.i.am is not generally known for his horrible acting, though he is quite well-known for making horribly annoying music. I don’t know whose bright idea it was to cast him, but if his music wasn’t so annoying, I would have felt sorry for him. His attempt at a southern accent might be one of cinema’s worst.
It’s pure schadenfreude seeing his bumbling performance, and it’s quite satisfying when Sabretooth finally kills him.
An unfinished workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was infamously leaked online. This incident caused so much uproar within 20th Century Fox, that even the FBI were involved in catching the original uploader. (Though by that time, roughly 4.5 million people had already downloaded it.)
There’s a few good laughs to be had watching the workprint, especially with the unfinished special effects. Though frankly, some of the effects in the finished film didn’t fair much better. The film features a lot of embarrassing green-screen buffoonery. Most notably in the final fight with Deadpool.
But of all the awful effects in the film, the worst has to be the first time we see Wolverine’s classic adamantium claws. As the good fellows from Red Letter Media stated, they look straight out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The producers clearly did not give a damn about the Deadpool character, nor didn’t think his cult fandom would be profitable enough. Their treatment of this character is one of the worst in the superhero genre. Though to be fair, Ryan Reynolds does already show signs of his neat comic timing.
Plus, no matter how bad it is, it would eventual be worth it, just for that hilarious after-credits scene in Deadpool 2.
What’s Wrong with Your Face?
I’m really looking forward to Martin Scorsese’s upcoming return to the crime epic with The Irishman. Scorsese, in my humble opinion, has never made a bad film. But I’m slightly worried about its extensive use of digital de-aging effects, on its senior citizen cast. It has never really looked good. At best it has looked passable.
One of the worst examples of this is Professor Xavier’s cameo at the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As you can see from the above picture, there’s something terribly wrong with dear old Patrick Stewart. Our erudite starship captain went through a ghastly digital facelift. What should have been a joyous cameo is completely ruined by its laughable effects. I don’t even understand the reasoning. Stewart looks magnificent for his age, especially then. And who really cares anyway?
The Beginning of a Continuity Nightmare
While It’s certainly fun to rag on the terrible special effects, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is also notable for irreparably screwing up the series continuity. Ever since then, the Fox executives clearly didn’t care about the timeline making sense.
Besides Sabretooth being played by a different character (and looking completely different), they clearly share no history with one another when they fought in 2000’s X-Men. But in the prequel, they are as close as brothers. Memory loss or not, you’d think Sabretooth would at least mention it.
Cyclops saves Wolverine in X-Men but seems to have no memory of how they crossed paths in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Again, you think he’d at least mention it.
This baffling trend would continue in more movies, with characters reappearing, being recast or sometimes being resurrected. Emma Frost was a child in X-Men Origins: Wolverine but was an adult in X-Men: First Class. Moira MacTaggert makes a cameo appearance in X-Men: Last Stand, which takes somewhere in the present. Yet she also appeared in X-Men: First Class, which takes place in the swinging sixties. Also,Xavier dies in X-Men: The Last Stand but would appear in X-Men: Days of Future Past. I guess it was hinted that he would transform his consciousness in another body, but he just looks like good old Patrick Stewart in that film.
None of it makes any sense. Perhaps the writers didn’t care, didn’t bother to look up or figured their audience didn’t care either. Even though I’m certainly not a big Marvel fanboy, at least they do seem to take better of the continuity in their cinematic universe.
The Future of the X-Men Franchise
One could easily regard the Wolverine trilogy as separate from the X-Men series. Doing this, you have a trilogy that gets consistently better with each follow-up. You start off with the hilariously bad (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), move on to the good (The Wolverine), to something very special (Logan). No matter the embarrassing schlock the character appeared in, at least Wolverine (and Xavier too) received a dignified demise.
Unfortunately, the X-Men franchise will likely end on a low-point. Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past seemed to have rejuvenated the series but then he completely screwed it up with X-Men: Apocalypse. All signs point to the upcoming Dark Phoenix being a dismal experience, with reported disastrous test screenings and extensive reshoots.
Since Disney has bought off Fox, we can likely expect our favorite cast of mutants to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The quality will very likely remain consistent, though the films themselves will not be very challenging.
I’m afraid we won’t get to see something like Logan for a long time — or the so-bad-it’s good, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
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