One Of The Worst X-Men Movies Set The Stage For The Best

Witness the origin...

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“Wolverine’s fun and cool, but I wouldn’t be down for my fourth time doing it if there wasn’t something more interesting to it than just slicing and dicing and smoking a cigar and saying a few cool lines,” Hugh Jackman said to Entertainment Weekly ahead of the release of 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In fairness to Jackman, there is more going on in director Gavin Hood’s 2009 X-Men spin-off. The problem? Fifteen years later, almost nobody likes much of what the movie has on its mind.

Origins was the first X-Men solo film and, to this day, is widely regarded as one of the worst movies in the long-running franchise. Were it not for the existence of films like 2019’s Dark Phoenix, it would probably be damn near unanimous. Yet, for all of the bad that can (and has) been said about Hood’s ill-fated film, it also set the stage for better films to come. It also — perhaps indirectly — paved the way for arguably the best X-Men movie ever made.

Following the success of the original X-Men trilogy, Fox hired David Benioff long before his Game of Thrones days to pen a screenplay for a solo film focused on Wolverine that would see Jackman donning the claws once more. Eventually, Skip Woods (Hitman) was brought in to revise Benioff’s script. Meanwhile, Fox considered a number of directors for the film, including Zack Snyder (Watchmen, Man of Steel), at least briefly. Hood, who was coming off the mid-budget thriller Rendition, was eventually tapped to fill the director’s chair.

As the title implies, the idea was to tell an origin story for Wolverine, dating back to his days as a mercenary before being brought into the Weapon X program. It included lots of interesting ideas, including bringing us Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, even if it was a version that diverted an awful lot from the source material. We also finally got the fan-favorite Gambit in live-action, as well as a meaty role for Sabertooth, played by Liev Schrieber. There was, if nothing else, potential given the pieces on the board. Unfortunately, it just didn’t come together.

The end result was a mish-mash of messy action, unsatisfying storylines and a poor use of what the pages of Marvel Comics had to offer. The film was met with terrible reviews from critics that set it up for a disappointing run in theaters. Origins made $374 million at the box office, significantly less than the maligned X-Men: The Last Stand ($459 million). That’s certainly not what Fox or Jackman had in mind at the outset.

“I'm very grateful because I managed to buy a house off that film, so don't get me wrong. I own the mistakes I made,” Hood said reflecting on the film in a 2016 interview with IndieWire. “I learned a great deal.”

Whoever is to blame, Fox had a larger franchise to consider. Tellingly, the studio opted to reboot the main series with 2011’s very well-received X-Men: First Class. That movie only featured Jackman in a brief cameo. Interestingly enough, it also made less than Origins, taking in $355 million globally. But Matthew Vaughn’s film had the benefit of a positive reception. That goes a long way sometimes.

When it came to Wolverine’s on-screen future, things were slightly less clear. Origins did just well enough to convince Fox to press forward with another solo film. However, it was evident that much needed to change. Fox didn’t ignore what went wrong with Hood’s film but they also embraced the popularity of Jackman’s Wolverine. The potential to tell more personal stories with this character was rich. As a result, James Mangold (Walk the Line) was tapped to direct what became 2013’s The Wolverine.

If we didn’t have X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we wouldn’t have Deadpool.

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The film was a marked improvement over its predecessor, to put it mildly, one that performed much better critically and commercially. Taking Wolverine to Japan for a grittier, more emotionally-centered adventure, Mangold managed to craft something more akin to what fans probably had in mind the first time around. That film’s success, in turn, paved the way for an even better sequel that took things to another level entirely.

Reuniting Mangold and Jackman, 2017’s Logan finally took the gloves off and allowed the character to go R-rated in a violent, personal story that felt unlike anything that had come before in the comic book genre. Shockingly uncompromising for a movie made within the confines of a larger franchise, it is widely considered to be one of the best comic book movies ever made and even scored a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. It’s downright difficult to imagine that it lives in the same universe as Jackman’s first solo film.

Aside from the sequels that followed, Origins is also indirectly responsible for 2016’s Deadpool, as Reynolds became obsessed with getting the character right. That movie was a monster success that teed up the even more successful Deadpool 2, which remains the highest-grossing X-Men movie to date, taking in $786 million. More than that, the success of that film helped give Fox the confidence to allow Mangold to make Logan R-rated. Strange as it may be, a lot of good indirectly came from a movie that people, generally speaking, hate.

Strange though it may seem, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is owed some credit for the much better movies that followed. Without that first entry in this kind of odd trilogy, we might not have gotten to a place where Logan (or even Deadpool) was allowed to exist. Fox made a shockingly successful creative pivot. From the ashes of failure, greatness was found.

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