***SPOILER WARNING: AND THERE’S AT LEAST ONE BIG ONE***
This movie got a slow pitch from me as far as initial expectations were concerned. I wanted Die Hard with adamantium claws, big explosions, and some rough Wolverine vs. Sabretooth fights. Maybe some continuity-referential Easter eggs for bonus points. For the most part it delivered that much (minus the eggs) — it just suffered from a series of isolated tumors of awkward executions and special effects that came off looking unfinished and slightly askew.
The basic story structure and majority of the script were on the mark. It stuck to the existing mythos of Wolverine’s origins pretty well, and took its chances in the final minutes with surprisingly original twist with the Deadpool character, Wade Wilson, played by Ryan Reynolds. I’m going to give the film its highest marks on the story itself, though it lacked the broader timely relevance of an Iron Man or V for Vendetta, so at least in the scheme of comic book films I’ve seen it’s better than X3 and Elektra, even better than Daredevil, but it’s firmly middle of the road, just below the overall quality of Hellboy (and I give Hellboy the nudge above Wolverine because of the visual innovation). Wolverine is handily middle-of-the-road, which isn’t a tremendous knock. It just doesn’t go the extra mile.
The movie also suffers from a few off-kilter moments where one of two things happened: 1) The special effects being used weren’t nearly as polished as they should have been or 2) They were polished. They just chose inferior technologies that weren’t up to today’s standards. The first example of this was Wolverine’s claws, something that should have been on the list of the three top things that should not have been screwed up in this movie; yet on several occassions, when Logan was standing still moving little more than his fist, the claws seemed to jerk out of sync with his subtle motions to the point that they looked as if they’d been pulled from an ACME crate in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. I’m also going to call out the surprise appearance of Patrick Stewart toward the end. I can’t tell if there was age-defying CGI going on there or if they just caked on the make up and wrinkle cream too much, but I really felt as if I was looking at another actor with Patrick Stewart’s eyes, nose, mouth, and voice stapled on. All of this was distracting if nothing else.
I’m also going to lay my lifelong nerd card on the table with this next criticism, which is that Cyclops’ optic blast does not burn things. It is a force blast. I wouldn’t mind if the films had defined this earlier, but he has shot living being before in the X-films, and they have not burst into flames. The official Marvel Universe entry for Cyclops corroborates this:
“Cyclops possesses the mutant ability to project a beam of heatless ruby-colored concussive force from his eyes…”
That said, when Scott Summers blows apart his high school, there should not be flaming cinders left across everything he hits with his optic blast. I’m willing to accept that the grafted optic blast onto Weapon XI, the super-mutant that Wade Wilson becomes, just isn’t as powerful as Cyclops’ because it barely makes it past cutting through the nuclear power plant smoke stack. The nature of the superhero movie requires a suspension of disbelief, but the effects gurus really should have covered their bases for continuity’s sake just a little better.