Whoever leaked a workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine online did Fox a favor. Maybe the bad buzz from this brain-dead (and incomplete) print will spur the studio to make some last-minute fixes. Spoilers definitely ahead...
So first of all, let's just say that if you're not one of the estimated 75,000 people who've already downloaded this film from the Internet, you really shouldn't. For one thing, it's clear from watching the "workprint" that this film will look superb on the big screen - the action sequences really are widescreen and amazing, and there's plenty of dementedly awesome stunts. But also, this incomplete print is still missing a lot of the finished special effects, and some scenes are lacking, purely because the last elements haven't been slotted in yet. By all accounts, it's also an early cut, missing some scenes and without the final edits. You'll have much richer viewing experience if you see this film in the theater.
But also, I'm hoping, after watching the thing, that the studio will take this opportunity to make some improvements. As it stands now, unless the film gets re-edited pretty drastically, we're looking at a movie-length episode of Heroes, only with amazing stunts and mind-blowing action. (This early synopsis pretty much covers the bases, although it's missing a few plot wrinkles.) If all you care about is cool fight scenes and things exploding, then you're good to go. If you want to care, even a little, about the people who are fighting each other, then this film needs a bit of surgery.
The good news is, I don't think it's a lost cause. Without knowing what scenes ended up on the cutting-room floor, or what stuff director Gavin Hood added in reshoots (which might not be in this early cut), here are my 10 suggestions for ways the movie could improve drastically.
1) Pick just a couple of sequences of Wolverine looking up at the sky and screaming, and trim out the rest. Seriously, I felt as though someone involved with this film decided "Hey, that scene where Kirk looks up and yells 'Khaaaaan' so loudly the Reliant can hear it from orbit was pretty cool. You know what would be even better? If it happened like five times." Just, you know, pick your favorite howl-at-the-sky moment and keep that one.
2) Cut back on the love story, or give it some depth. I can't honestly remember the last time I saw a love story with less chemistry than the Wolverine-Silver Fox romance in this film. We don't actually see them meet, they're just suddenly a couple. And then she tells him an old Native American fable about a Wolverine and the moon, and then it turns out she actually just tricked him into loving her using her tactile hypnosis, and zzzzzz. Did they film more scenes of these two? Like, a scene where they meet, or where they act like normal people? Could we swap those out? We don't need to have an origin for why Logan calls himself Wolverine, at least not if it's going to involve his girlfriend telling him an old legend.
3) More male bonding. I can't believe I'm actually having to tell an action movie to have more male bonding, but there you have it. Every time there's male-bonding on screen, this movie shudders to life. Wolverine gets some nice male bonding with Wraith in a couple of scenes, and then he pairs off with Gambit. The rest of the time, though, all the male characters seem to hate each other, and not in an interesting, sparky way. Cut out one of the ten thousand scenes of the male characters grimacing at each other, and find some more footage of Wolverine being friends with another man. It's like the life-blood of action movies.
4) Make me understand Logan and Sabretooth. This is the biggest problem, actually. The whole movie is basically about the relationship between Logan and his brother Victor, starting before the Civil War and continuing until almost the present day. Pretty much the first time we see the two of them together as adults, Logan seems to find Victor's bloodlust obnoxious, so there's no arc. Logan doesn't start out admiring Victor and then realize that he's a monster. He just knows Victor's a monster from beginning to end. Did they film any scenes of these two actually acting like brothers? If not, then at least trim out some of the earliest snarking between them, so it feels a bit more like an arc.
5) Just generally trim it down. Right now, the running time is about one hour, 45 minutes. It could easily lose 15 minutes of random mutant cameos, without losing anything. Basically, this film probably needs to be a 90 minute action movie, with not much lag time from set piece to set piece.
6) Kill some subplots. Like, do we need to know that Beak (Dominic Monaghan) goes and gets a job at a circus where he charges $1 a pop to see him keep lightbulbs lit using his mutant power? Really?
7) Don't even try to make sense. I've tried to wrap my mind around this movie's plot, and it just sent me into a cranial mobius strip of confusion. And yet, I have a total soft spot for movies that make no sense but are totally awesome - I loved Doomsday, after all. At its best, this movie is joyfully nonsensical, like when the scientist chick tells Logan, "We're going to make you indestructible, but first we have to destroy you." They should just give up on any attempt to explain what Stryker's plan actually is, and just run with it.
8) Stretch out the first 20 minutes a bit. The movie's first 20 minutes feel seriously rushed, as if the script can't wait to breeze past Logan's childhood, through like five major wars, into the major conflict with Victor and his decision to become a lumberjack. Maybe this is all the shot of that part of the movie - but if there's any part of the film that could benefit from a slightly more leisurely pace, it's that early section. It's like, "Wait, he's in Vietnam. And now he's a commando. And now he's a lumberjack. Wha?"
9) Just ditch the cheesy Deadpool remote control. At the end, when Colonel Stryker is hunt-and-pecking commands for the newly jazzed-up Merc Without A Mouth, the interface just looks terrible. Is he controlling his supermutant using an old Commodore 64? Just trim out those shots. We get it, Deadpool is working for Stryker.
10) More funny bits, please. Again, no telling what they shot and didn't use. But every now and then, the movie actually becomes a bit comic, and it feels like a different movie. Like Wolverine accidentally trashing somone's restroom with his new adamantium claws. Or the bartender realizing he doesn't have insurance, and his bar is about to get trashed by a mutant brawl. So if there's more stuff like that, that could push this film into being an action-comedy, please pull it off the cutting-room floor. Note: by funny bits, I don't mean Wade Wilson stating the obvious in a funny voice.
11) Oh, and here's a bonus one: Cut down on the flashbacks. This movie isn't that long. We don't need to see Wolverine reliving the same stuff over and over, especially when it's often stuff we've just seen a moment earlier.
Like I said, I can already tell from the incomplete print that this movie is going to look amazing, and have some kick-ass fight scenes. You've glimpsed some of them in the trailer, like the truck-motorcycle-helicopter conflagration. There's tons more, and it really is fun to watch - and it'll be ten times more fun on the big screen with a giant Slurpee brainfreeze happening. I especially love all the stuff with the gun-toting Agent Zero.
So yeah, don't pirate this movie, because it'll be way more fun with the final effects. And also, because there's still a chance that some judicious editing will make it a fair bit more watchable than the rough cut.