Sunday, May 17, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine **

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
** out of ****

Creating lots of sequels, prequels, and spin-offs are the new trend in Hollywood. Often they serve no other purpose than just to extend a big, money-making franchise. Wolverine is exactly that: just an excuse to make more money by using a popular character from a popular franchise.
Hugh Jackman plays the title character (his fourth time doing so) in much the same way as he played him in the original trilogy: as a tough guy who likes one-liners and to stare ferociously. Cue the slow-motion shot of Jackman as a complete badass walking away from a giant fireball. The movie opens with him as a child; we learn his name was James Logan. Less than two minutes in, he discovers his mutant powers- his healing power and his claws made of bone, he accidentally kills his father and goes on the run. (Apparently he didn't know it was his father. Why?) His friend, who turns out to be his brother, Victor, goes with him. So, less than five minutes in, we have problems with story logic. Victor has the power to grow his fingernails out really long, and then kill people with them. Wow, that' More like gross.
They fight in all the American wars together until they're discovered as mutants and a man named Stryker (a one-note villain played by Danny Huston) recruits them on a mutant team to hunt down adamantium and kidnap mutants for experimentation. Logan doesn't like the work, so he quits, leaving his brother feeling betrayed. He finds a girlfriend, pretty Kayla, and lives in a log cabin with her. Their perfect life is quickly disrupted when Victor finds them and kills her, sending Logan on a revenge quest. To aid him, Stryker makes medical history by infusing liquid adamantium onto his entire skeleton, which makes him indestructible and also gives him metal claws.
The film doesn't have much going for it, so it adds in the usual array of diverse mutants from the comics. Victor eventually becomes Sabretooth from the first movie. Ryan Reynolds plays Wade, who is supernaturally good with samurai swords. There's also Agent Zero, who is supernaturally good with guns. (Sense a pattern?) Kevin Durand plays an indestructible Blob, plays a Nightcrawler-like teleporter except with a cowboy hat, and Dominic Monaghan has a small role as a mutant who can control electricity. A young Cyclops appears briefly in a high school and is captured by Victor. Taylor Kitsch gives an impressive performance as Gambit, the best new character, who can turn a deck of playing cards into deadly weapons. But, the film makes it very clear that none of these guys matter except for Logan and Victor, the two most uninteresting characters in the movie.
Some questions are answered, and a lame ending ties it back to the other films, but the thing is: this movie is completely unnecessary. In X2, Wolverine learns pretty much the whole story from an older Stryker (played as a much more complex villain by Brian Cox) and Wolverine himself decides he doesn't need to know any details because he's satisfied with the life he's chosen with the X-Men. This movie didn't offer us anything new about the character or about the universe, except to die-hard fans. Visionary director Gavin Hood tries hard, but the film just can't be saved.
I have to remind myself that this is just a summer film intended mainly for kids and young teenagers. The story itself doesn't matter; the action does. And yes, it does deliver with several good action sequences, making the film just barely watchable. Sadly, at the end, you just know they're going to make more of these lame prequels just because there is more money in it. (X-Men Origins: Magneto is supposedly in the works.) If they wanted to make a successful origin movie, it simply needed more of the X-Men.
I would recommend this film to fans of the X-Men movies and comic books, and people who like simple action films.

You can watch the trailer here:

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