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'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Wolverine

Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.'

20th Century Fox
X-Men Origins: Wolverine kicks off the summer of 2009 not with a bang, but a semi-enthusiastic, 'could have been better but it's okay enough for an action film if that's all it aspires to be' whimper. Whimper's not exactly the right word as that implies Wolverine completely sucks. It doesn't. The action is eye-popping and in your face and the acting is spot on. Hugh Jackman does everything possible to make this fourth X-Men movie sparkle, but the story lets our mutant hero down.

It's not the fact this is an origin story that makes it a lot less fun to sit through than the first two X-Men movies. The idea of bringing one of the audience's favorite characters completely into the spotlight in a solo film is good in theory. We love Wolverine. We love Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. Give audiences more of what they already adore and 20th Century Fox should have been good to go. But a story of the coherent and compelling variety is important and while Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Iron Man got it right on all counts, Wolverine takes a step backwards in comic book-inspired movie storytelling. It fails to provide a strong plot to go along with all the incredibly intense action scenes.

The Story

As is spelled out in the title, this is the story of how Wolverine became Wolverine. Not where he got his mutant powers to begin with, but how the man Logan became a mutant who uses his extra special abilities - and steely claws - to fight the good fight. Wolverine's all about doing what's right despite his upbringing and early association with a brother who doesn't follow the same moral code.

We first meet Logan and Victor as kids in the 1800s then quickly follow them as they fight alongside fellow patriots (of the non-mutant variety) in a succession of wars (WWI, WWII, the Civil War, Vietnam...) until finally after surviving a hail of bullets from a firing squad, they're locked away. Even the least observant person on the planet would know there's something wrong with anyone who miraculously heals after being shot dozens of times at close range.

Hugh Jackman, Taylor Kitsch, Wolverine
Hugh Jackman and Taylor Kitsch in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.'
© 20th Century Fox
It's in their military jail cell they first encounter Stryker. Stryker not only understands who they are but embraces what makes them different. He has big plans for Logan and Victor (who's just as lethal as his brother as his mutant name Sabretooth implies). Stryker has a group of mutants working for him on a secret project, the mysterious Weapon X program, and for a while Logan and Victor work side by side on Stryker's team. But killing innocent people isn't in Logan's makeup so he quits and leaves everyone behind, including his brother.

Years later (sometime in the '70s) Logan's quiet life in Canada is interrupted by the appearance of Victor who's sole goal is to kill his brother. Logan's been living a quiet life with his schoolteacher girlfriend Kayla Silverfox, but when the love of his life is taken away from him by his brother, the claws - literally - come out. Revenge is the only thing on his mind and if that means he has to work with Stryker, then that's what Logan does. But Stryker's a lying, conniving, snake in the grass - something Logan learns way too late.

The Cast

Jackman is Wolverine. He knows this character now inside and out, and even though it's his fourth time as the lethal yet humane mutant, his performance doesn't feel any less fresh than it did in the original X-Men. Stepping back in time to fill in Wolverine's backstory, Jackman's called upon to perform even more aggressive, heart-pounding action scenes in Wolverine than in previous editions. And although it's been nearly a dozen years since the first X-Men, Jackman hasn't slowed down one bit. He looks like he's in better shape now than back in 2000, and he handles all the physical demands of the role perfectly.

Liev Schreiber isn't known for action films but he's terrific and terrifying as the vicious Sabretooth. Danny Huston is convincingly menacing as Stryker. Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson (the wise-cracking expert swordsman who enjoys his job as a mercenary), Taylor Kitsch as Gambit (a card playing mutant from New Orleans who can explode items), Kevin Durand as The Blob (a disgustingly obese indestructible mutant), Lynn Collins as Kayla (Wolverine's seemingly sweet and innocent love interest), and will.i.am as John Wraith (a mutant with the ability to teleport) all put in appearances - some far too briefly - and add a little flair to the film with their performances.

The Bottom Line

Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.'
© 20th Century Fox
Those familiar with the X-Men comics will have a very different viewing experience from those, like myself, who only know X-Men from the films. Reactions from critics I sat with varied depending on their level of X-Men knowledge. The couple who knew their comics approved of the first half of the film but intensely disliked - on the verge of hated - the second. Coming from an X-Men rookie point of view, I understood the story and loved the action scenes, but wasn't blown away by any of it.

My initial reaction to Wolverine is that it was okay - just okay - and that's stuck with me in the days since the screening. The action scenes were pretty spectacular, in particular one involving a helicopter, some Humvees and Wolverine on a motorcycle. I actually felt a little winded after it was over, that's how well it drew me in. And there's absolutely nothing bad to say about any of the performances. But, overall, X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn't do much for me one way or the other.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a forgettable summer popcorn flick with a few good one-liners, Jackman looking incredibly studly with his layers of rippling muscles, and a couple of really interesting new characters who we didn't get to see enough of at all. Gambit, John Wraith, The Blob, and Wade Wilson are in and out way, way too quickly which is a shame because Wolverine was a lot of fun - albeit bloody and violent fun - and more interesting when Wade Wilson and the crew were wreaking havoc on the screen.

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.

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