X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Ryan Reynolds
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.
Parental Notes: This is a fairly average PG-13. The violence is mostly cartoonish rather than graphically bloody.
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“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is the first in what seems likely to be a series of prequels to the successful X-Men franchise of films. This one, as its title suggests, explores the origins of the wildly popular character Wolverine. The film traces his history from his discovery of his abilities as a child through the events which lead to the metal plating being applied to his bones to the final confrontation which leads to his amnesiac state at the beginning of the first X-Men film. The film doesn’t quite gel into the action-packed awesomeness of the first X-Men film, and is probably best-suited for fans of the franchise and of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in particular.
The opening sequence and credits give us a high-level view of Wolverine’s past. Born James Logan in the 1800s, he and his half brother Viktor (Liev Schreiber) both possess healing abilities and unusual claws — though Viktor’s emerge from his nail beds. They are essentially immortal, and fight in war after war, becoming increasingly skilled soldiers. Viktor, however, is also becoming increasingly sadistic and brutal. The two wind up recruited into an all-mutant squad of soldiers under the command of William Stryker (Danny Houston) — but Stryker will do anything to achieve his objectives, including massacring civilians. Logan gets fed up and walks away, but of course you can never entirely walk away from that kind of thing.
Years later, Logan is working as a lumberjack in the Canadian Rockies and living with his beautiful girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). Anyone whose seen a handful of Hollywood films knows that sort of idyllic life can’t last, and it doesn’t: Viktor, who has gone rogue since Logan left the squad, shows up and kills Kayla. Logan wants revenge, but Viktor is stronger than he is — so he makes a deal with Stryker: Logan will submit to an experimental procedure to plate his skeleton with adamantium, and in return, Stryker will stay out of his way when he goes after Viktor.
Jackman has been playing Wolverine long enough now that he inhabits the character effortlessly, but his character, as with the rest of the characters in the film, doesn’t really require much stretching of the acting muscles. The actors’ job is to go through the paces of the action sequences and not be too wooden the rest of the time. Nobody here has much depth, nor is much needed: folks don’t go to see an X-Men film looking for great character development or moving studies of the human condition.
We go to see X-Men films for the action, the attractive actors, and the super-powered mutants. All of those are present in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” though perhaps the action gets a bit shorted. There are still some awesome fight sequences, though, including a couple featuring the character Wade “Deadpool” Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). The film occasionally gives the impression of too much stuff packed into too small a container — there are loads of mutants briefly and then tossed away (poor Gambit is one of these; he appears for about half a fight scene, and mostly serves as a plot device), but the other films in the franchise have had similar issues, so that’s nothing new.
Still, if you’re a fan of the franchise or of Wolverine in particular, this is a film worth seeing on the big screen. Sure, sometimes the CGI is a little cheap and the story is a bit cheesy, but it offers more screen time for Wolverine and more mutant action. If that’s what you’re looking for, this should hit the spot.