X-Men Origins: Wolverine | rated PG-13 (V) | starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schriber, Danny Huston | directed by Gavin Hood | 1:47 mins
Growing up together, both with special abilities, brothers Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schriber) diverge on how to use such abilities with Logan increasingly aghast at Victor’s relishing using them for death and destruction. Years after Logan quites the special unit black ops team made up of only mutants (featuring Ryan Reynolds in a brief, spectacular swordfight scene), he is dragged back into the game when his peaceful existance is shattered. Turned into an unstoppable weapon with the new nickname Wolverine, Logan goes on a rampage of revenge against the government and his brother who is somehow caught up in the middle of it all.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be a little supplement to Bryan Singer’s much loved X-Men movies. It was supposed to be a cheap cash-in on the popularity of Hugh Jackman’s take on Marvel’s Wolverine. It may be, but it’s also so much better than that and with Singer’s first X-Men a very good, but overpopulated movie weighted down with the task of giving every X-Men their due and Brett Ratner’s ridiculous botching of the third film, Wolverine steps up to the head of the class of Marvel comic book movies. Really.
This is the fourth time Jackman has played Wolverine and he breezes badass through the film. Liev Schriber surprises as a new character with claws, fangs and the pounce of an evil cat. Schriber’s always a villain, but he seems to relish this take on it. The two spend the film’s running time duking it out in sibling rivalry story that spans several decades and wars. Wolverine works so well precisely because it is stripped down to focus on Wolverine and doesn’t try to cram everyone’s favorite X-Men in it. Though a few make cameos to add connective tissue and make the film circle back to the first X-Men (2000). Without that X-Men juggling act or Singer’s high-minded social satire, the film is simply and effectively a lean mean revenge movie with plenty of clever uses for the big guy’s claws and indestructability. And the biggest irony of it all: the CGI effects used to create Wolverine’s claws are terrible. It’s like something out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? You’d think there would be an effort made to make the most key effect in the film look somewhat realistic.
Wolverine is a superior action movie with a few great chase scenes (notably involving a motorcycle and a helicopter) and several good mutant power vs. mutant power fights. The movie has a lot of fun bouncing these powers off of each other for some clever combinations. And that is the real fun of the movie. The only big mis-step here is a goofy aside where Wolverine boxes a former teammate who has become a blob of his former self.
The story is minimalistic. Wolverine barely has time for properly set up exposition, ultimately dumping a ton of information on us in the third act to try to make sense of it all with a series of convoluted twists. This is also another one of those movies where someone kills a government agent saying that they swore to protect the country from dangers “foreign… (boom)… and domestic”.
The die-hard comic book fans may be dissapointed with the lack of depth in the origins backstory. This movie envisions Wolverine’s creation motivated by sheer single-minded revenge. The result of an experiment from a government agent who runs a secret squad of special ops mutants trying to create an even more special squad of super-mutants. When Mutant X shows up in the finale it’s a villain so much better than anything in a previous X-Men movie it seems hardly seems fitting as a prequel.
So X-Men Origins: Wolverine does not have the depth, scope and social conciousness of Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies, and you’ve got to look past some pretty lame CGI, but the slimmed down structure works great to make a rollicking, well made, consistently entertaining action movie. As a clothesline for mutant fights, it’s a great one. It gave me what I expected and much more.