1) Character – oddly enough, I actually didn’t mind most of the characters as such.
a) Awesome action sequences – However, all characters suffered from lack of development because the director/studio decided the running time should be dedicated to awesome action sequences. As I’ve said before, an origin story should be more focused on character development than plot.
b) Individual characters – for what time the characters were given to develop, I really have no problem with any of them. Whether or not the actors portrayed the characters very well is another issue, and for the most part I think they did an adequate job. I’m sort of annoyed the Hudsons were relegated to “Nice Old Couple” but given the way the writers couldn’t settle on one plot, maybe it’s for the best they weren’t the same couple as from the comics.
c) Test characters – Okay, I do have a problem with putting characters in a movie just to see if there’s enough interest to give them their own movie. There was no other reason for Gambit to even be here nor the screen time devoted to Wade Wilson. Hell, Gambit was on the movie poster! He had what, ten minutes of screen time and all of it was superfluous. The information he provided could have come from anywhere else. He made exactly zero difference. This is too bad. I’m not a particular fan of Gambit as he is a real [Denis Leary] in the comics (and no, I don’t buy that whole “but I’m changed now even though I’m not doing anything to actually correct my past mistakes” line of garbage). Poor Wade Wilson. He deserved better.
2) Plot – this is really where the story broke down. I wouldn’t even say there were too many subplots; I would just say the writers didn’t really know which direction the plot should go and ended up making a convoluted, illogical mess.
a) Awesome action sequences – Why yes, this appears as a problem twice in the way this story was crafted. The plot was sacrificed as often if not more so than character development to make room for awesome action sequences. I understand that some action sequences were shot in post-production just to have even more awesomeness. And this subjects the movie to the law of diminishing returns. The more spectacular stuff the audience sees at the beginning of a movie, the less spectacular that stuff seems by the end of the movie, or else the movie has to just keep trying to top itself in every single action sequence, and that is very difficult to pull off.
b) Potential plot – Part problem with the plot comes from the fact it is a prequel, so some elements of the plot were introduced to be consistent with the “X-men” movies. By the way, I’m not going to debate whether this would have been better if it had been rated R with all the blood and gore that goes with it. Maybe it would have, but maybe not, as the ’90s cartoon had none of that and it still managed to be true to the character of Wolverine. But I think the main problem is that the movie was struggling to explore two rather different plots and managed to craft neither properly.
I) My brother’s keeper – If the movie had explored the relationship between the two (half)-brothers and their responsibility towards each other (Wolverine trying to rein in Sabretooth’s increasingly feral nature and Sabretooth feeling he still has to protect the weaker younger sibling), this could have been really good. There still could have been plenty of action sequences as the two fought through wars, and the culmination of their battle could have been the Weapon X program. In the comics, Wolverine was the first test subject but if it worked (and it did), Sabretooth was always intended to be the next up in the vat. Perhaps audiences would have thought a bromance was too lame for Wolverine, but I think it could have worked and had plenty of action.
II) Becoming Weapon X – If the movie had just focused on how James Howlett ended up Weapon X, that may have also worked. It probably would have worked better if the Stryke team was the actual Weapon X team from the comics (and Silverfox would have been much more bad-ass), but this plot still could have possibly worked with the characters provided. The lead up should have been shortened to get to the adamantium bonding sooner and Wolverine should have had his memories wiped PRIOR to that process (like in the comics). Then the rest of the movie could have focused on him trying to figure out who he was, and Wolverine re-finding his humanity and making the choice not to be a mindless government killing machine. That would have also tied in better with how we meet Wolverine at the beginning of X-men.
3) Setting – Mostly stuff to get blown up. I don’t know if this had to be set in Canada as such, but I thought the transition from soldier to remote Canadian logging town was effective in showing Wolverine’s desire to get the hell away from it all. As far as the story allowed, the setting played its role in helping develop the characters.
4) Narrative Structure – all parts of a plot were technically present and accounted for, even if there were two parallel plots running at the same time.
a) Awesome action scenes – Yes, this shows up a third time as a problem in this movie. Instead of contributing to the set-up or climax, the sheer number of awesome action scenes was just a distraction.
b) Lapses of logic – ARGH! A bullet taking away his memory? What the hell? What the HELL! Again, I am willing to overlook shaky logic in any story, especially superhero movies. However, when the opening montage establishes that bullets to the head do NOT effect Wolverine, that mechanism can’t be used later! Also, Deadpool. Seriously. What the hell? And how does Stryker ever get a position of authority again?
Overall – The characters and plot are weak, so the story is really weak, and no amount of awesome action sequences is going to make up for that. The ending is unsatisfying due to a serious lapse of logic. If you really want to see a good adaptation of one of the subplots the movie was trying to make into the main plot (and to me the best origin story prior to Marvel actually getting around to writing the origin story), I recommend the ’90s “X-men” cartoon episode “Weapon X, Lies, and Videotape.” Oh, yes, a cartoon for kids with that title. Yes, it’s a kids’ version of what happened to Wolverine in the Weapon X program, but it’s a good adaptation that tells a good story. The characters are developed (although it does help to be familiar with Wolverine, Beast, and Sabretooth), the plot is straightforward but solid, and it works better as an origin story in 22 minutes than this mess of a movie.