This year’s summer movie season is starting even earlier than the movie industry had planned. Almost a month before the official release date, a mostly completed version of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” has been leaked and is making the circuit on various torrent web sites. A big-time summer movie leaking early isn’t unprecedented, both the 2003 version of “Hulk” and the third Star Wars prequel, “Revenge of the Sith” were floating around online before their theatrical release dates. However, with the rampant growth of high-speed internet connections and DVD burners, the effects can be far more damaging than in previous instances. The film has reportedly been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times already and bootleg copies are almost certainly available on street corners and out of car trunks around the world.
20th Century Fox is taking this very seriously and doing everything they can in terms of damage control. They’ve called in the F.B.I. and the MPAA to help track down whoever leaked the print. The most damaging part of this could be the groundswell of lukewarm to poor reviews that are emerging from those who have watched the unfinished version. Foxnews.com even had a (somewhat positive) review up, before coming to their senses and yanking it down. With the bad taste of X-Men 3 still lingering, the last thing this movie needs is negative buzz in the fanboy community. There’s still residual fanimosity over 20th Century Fox’s threats to prevent the release of Watchmen from a few months ago, another excuse to hate on Wolvie is not what Fox needs right now.
How closely the leaked version is to the final cut of the film depends on who you ask. Ain’t It Cool suggests that millions more dollars and weeks of reshooting have gone into the theatrical version. It would be a shame if the negative reviews were to gain traction and the efforts to improve the final product were stymied. Will the summer movie schedule start off not with a bang, but a whimper? We’ll have to see if this will prove to be a wound too damaging for even Wolverine’s mutant healing factor to overcome.