X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

**1/2

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Ever since he popped his first Snikt way back in 2000's X-Men, Hugh Jackman seemed destined to get his own spin-off. All manly hair, raw animalistic intensity and chiselled vest-wearing pecs, many thought he was the perfect Wolverine (sit down the losers who complain he's 'too tall') and the fanboys couldn't wait till he got his own feature. Despite rumours of studio interference, gossip-fuelling reshoots and an early leak of the movie which saw it downloaded 75,000 times in one day, anticipation was still high.

As a mutant with near uncharted healing properties and bone-like claws, Jackman's soldier James Howlett is recruited into an elite military squad run by ominous Colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston). However, when he leaves to live a peaceful life, half-brother and bloodthirsty former teammate Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) hunts him down to kill his beloved (Lynn Collins). Offering help to defeat Creed, Stryker proposes an experiment that will fuse an unbreakable alloy to Howlett's skeletal system, rendering him invulnerable.

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So was it worth the wait? Well, unfortunately, the answer is much closer to no. Okay, on the plus side there are sprinklings of nice humour, an excellent Watchmen-esque war-montage credits sequence and a few iconic moments (Wolvie rising out of the water chamber, anyone?), but as things progress we snowball into a silliness that undoes the good work before it with a few ill-judged twists.

Subsequently, you can't help but feel for Jackman. Superb as ever in a role he clearly loves (indeed, at Comic Con recently he thanked Wolverine creator Len Wein for "giving him a career") the man often reported as 'the nicest guy in Hollywood" puts it all on the line by starring, producing and enduring heavy protein-filled workouts at 4am to shape the sinewy beast he's always envisioned. Cynics might complain that his take isn't as fresh as it once was, but our favourite Aussie has now joined the great Chris Reeve as the only actors to play a comic-book character four times.

Importantly, it’s not a washout, it’s just a mixed bag. In terms of action, director Gavin Hood does an accomplished job but doesn’t give us a stand out scene. The script by David Benioff (who sought the project for three years) does many things right but the end result also has more holes than Logan’s sheets after a nightmare (why does he stop ageing as an adult?). On the other three-clawed hand, the final showdown is both underwhelming and ridiculously over the top.

Then there's the nagging question as to whether the story gaps needed to be filled. In Bryan Singer's excellent first two X-flicks the mystery surrounding Logan was part of his appeal and rendered him as the most interesting member of the ensemble. Okay, so the origin story was the obvious choice given X-Men 3’s poor reception, but X2 did such a good job with the backstory that topping it was always going to be as hard as breaking adamantium.

Frustratingly, when X-Men Origins: Wolverine (why not just Wolverine?) becomes more personal and focuses on character, it holds the attention well. The problem is that in true Spider-man 3 style it overcrowds itself by shoe-horning in fan-favourites who end up underdeveloped as a result. Emma Frost? Blink and you’ll miss her. Scott Summers? Did it need to be him? In particular, Ryan Reynolds is predictably outstanding as the quip-dispensing swordsman Wade Wilson early doors (describing him as "cross between Commando and Phantom of the Opera, by way of Caddyshack") only to be sidelined until an eyebrow raiser of a comeback. Sylar from Heroes anyone?

As for Gambit, the miscast Taylor Kitsch does his bits from the trailer, then disappears for a while only to pop up at appropriate points (the kids need help. You do that). Elsewhere, we get Daniel Henney’s expert marksman, Lynn Collins’ love interest, Kevin Durand’s blob and Will I Am’s (better than expected) transporter all fighting for screen time. While Huston does a nice line in nefarious as Colonel Stryker and Dominic Monaghan provides pathos as Bolt, the real standout is Schreiber’s suitably feral Creed. On the back of his standout performance in Defiance, Schreiber is showing he has real game.

Despite the numerous good points, you can’t help but feel that it’s a missed opportunity. Sadly for the admirable Hugh Jackman, X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn’t the best at what it does.

Reviewed on: 10 May 2009
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An exploration of the origins of X-men mutant Wolverine.
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Read more X-Men Origins: Wolverine reviews:

Maria Realf ****
Anton Bitel ***1/2
Donald Munro **

Director: Gavin Hood

Writer: David Benioff, Skip Woods

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will.I.Am, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, Ryan Reynolds, Scott Adkins, Tim Pocock, Julia Blake, Max Cullen, Tahyna Tozzi

Year: 2009

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Australia, US, Canada

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X-Men
X-Men 2
X-Men: The Last Stand