During his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy, French author Henri-Marie Beyel fell victim to a psychosomatic illness now known as Stendahl Syndrome. Characterized by fainting, catatonia and intense hallucinations triggered by being overwhelmed by art, it is believed to be the result of a literal sensory overload. With the majority of the outbreaks happening in Florence where works are particularly lush and plentiful, one could make the argument their art having such an impact the highest compliment an artist could receive. But what about when a work of art causes an overtly negative reaction that pushes its viewers to the absolute limit causing a passionate outburst of violent anger? So was the opening night screening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or as actor Steven Trolinger put it, “the worst thing that has ever happened.”
It’s hard to believe one year has passed since the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, henceforth referred to as The Events of 5/1. Before we continue, I’d like to point out that I absolutely do not care in the slightest about a film’s faithfulness to its source material. While my familiarity with the Marvel Universe is above-average, I can recognize that comics and film are both different mediums and can divorce the merits of one when evaluating the other. My loathing for this film isn’t because I feel some nostalgic loyalty, but rather because it is an absolute abomination on every imaginable level.
For every hyperbolic critique people tend to lob at a movie, this was perhaps the first time that all of them were true. Most glaringly, there was no plot. No story. At all. Some of you reading this now may remember thinking the “movie” was “OK,” “wasn’t that bad” or that you even “liked it.” Well riddle me this, what was the “movie” about? I challenge you, in once sentence, to describe The Events of 5/1. The whole 82 minute running time is an attention-deficit fueled* experiment in human endurance. Don’t get it twisted, I love a good summer blockbuster shiny-go-boomy movie as much as the next real American, but if I’m going to turn my brain off I don’t need it pried from my skull.
“Director” Gavin Hood is the “film’s” cinematic angel of death. His inept handling of The Events of 5/1 seems to almost be intentional. Either that, or he has perhaps never seen a motion picture before and doesn’t understand how they work. Evidence for this is seen in an overhead shot of a character looking to the sky and screming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” happening no less than FOUR (4) times in the film. Even what would be the film’s highlight, the opening scene of Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds, some truly inspired casting) smart-mouthing a room full of soon dead bad guys, becomes inverted into one of the film’s greatest flaws as we don’t see the character for another seventy minutes until he returns with his mouth sown shut and everything endearing about the character removed.
But the silver lining in the F-5 funnel cloud that was The Events of 5/1 was seeing it opening night in New York City and, for the first time, seeing an entire audience turn on a “film.” Even with the bootleg leaking over a month prior** the entire theater was sold out and packed into Union Square like chickens in a slaughterhouse. The first five minutes seemed fine, heroic action was cheered and one-liners were repeated with the word “bitch” added to the end, all-in-all a typical opening night Manhattan screening. But then, the first “NOOOOOOOO” happen and the audience stared in dumbfounded silence. Were we not in on some joke? Ten minutes later, serious revelations were met with laughter, moments of heartbreak were heckled and action sequences were met with outright groans. Yes, it was that bad and this summer movie “opening weekend” audience knew it. It got so bad that when the credits rolled, the audience (and I swear to gosh this happened) rose to their feet and BOO’ed the movie while pelting the screen with garbage. There was no smattering of applause as rows of disenchanted moviegoers cleared the theater row-by-row with heads hung like a Catholic funeral. When it came time for the bonus scene at the end of the credits, I optimistically yelled from the balcony “HANG ON EVERYBODY, THIS IS GOING TO REDEEM EVERYTHING!” not anticipating that us remaining moviegoers were to be subjected to the absolute worst most hackneyed written moment of dialogue in the history of cinema. The audience boo’ed again, and we all went out separate ways in order to drink to forget.
With it still having an impressive weekend and Fox hoping to make a sequel and several spinoffs, some are clamoring for a reboot of the franchise. I disagree as, living in a world where X-Men Origins: Wolverine was made and released, I think we need a reboot of humanity as a whole. It’s important that we never forget the Events of 5/1 or else we are doomed to repeat them. Just as the Bush Administration will be defined by 9/11, Obama’s legacy will be that of letting The Events of 5/1 happen under his watch. I attempted to find a copy of the film to listen to the director’s commentary, hoping there would be some explanation for letting such an atrocity take place, but it’s been stripped from all the copies at rental outlets and only made available through the deluxe $34.99 Blu-Ray edition of the film and I flat-out refuse to contribute any more to their evil empire.
We Give X-Men Origins: Wolverine aka The Events of 5/1 a Zero Out of Five
Until next time…let’s agree to agree!
*Realistically speaking, if there was a fuel for the film it would be some mixture of Surge, Red Bull and the liquid at the bottom of the ham in your Lunchables.
**A bootleg which, in all honesty, is a superior cut if only for using the scores of The Dark Knight and Transformers in place of Harry Gregson-Williams’ series of noises.