a critiQal film review X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Set 17 years before X-Men, this prequel focuses on Logan's (Jackman) early encounters with Sabretooth (Schreiber), William Stryker (Huston) and the Weapon X program that gave him his adamantium skeleton.

Reviewed
924 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 37s)
  • ...an action-packed prequel, made better by Ol' Claws himself, Hugh Jackman.

It seems time flies quicker with each passing year, doesn’t it? It seems like just moments ago we were in the midst of our Christmas Movie Marathon – and already it’s time once again for our Summer At The Movies!

In a summer that will include sequels galore (even the rebirth of a series long thought dead!), there was only one option for us when we were looking for a good way to kick things off – 2008’s Oscar® host Hugh Jackman and his return to the guy with the sharp claws in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

While the film has already generated a lot of hype thanks to it’s much-ballyhooed early pirated copy a few months ago, we hadn’t had a chance to catch a viewing of that, and we were anxious to see if Jackman and pals would be able to live up to the X-Men trilogy with this prequel. Would X-Men Originis: Wolverine kick off our Summer At The Movies ’09 with a bang (like last year’s Iron Man (2008)), or were we destined to enter the summer with a whimper?

Hugh Jackman is back as the clawed mutant, and he’s more pumped than ever. With Wolvy’s veins bulging at the seams, viewers know they are in for an action-packed ride (ie…Schwarzenegger of the 80’s), but would the acting be up to par as well? Jackman, who has shown he has range as an actor in previous films, does feel a little stilted this time around, and the slow sequences (of which there are very few) do feel a bit forced.

Thankfully, most of the supporting cast does a good job of filling in the blanks. Whether it’s Ryan Reynolds as a wise-cracking swordsman – and then a freaky Deadpool – or Liev Schrieber as a particularly animalistic Sabretooth that puts previous versions to shame, the supporting cast is full of sparkling gems. Liev in particular is a big surprise, as his previous attempts at acting (see The Omen (2006)) have not given viewers much to go on. This time around, however, he leaps (literally) into his role, baring his fangs and attacking the role with a fury. Even Taylor Kitsch, a newcomer this time around and not a household name, performs admirably as Gambit, keeping up with the major names with ease.

Of course, there are some problems for fans of the comic book X-Men, especially concerning Deadpool. Known in the comics as a wise-cracking unkillable outside-of-the-box thinker, he gets short shrift here. While Reynolds is great in his pre-Deadpool persona, the mishmash that is Deadpool is a far cry from the character from the comics, and fans may feel largely letdown by his big screen appearance. It’s too bad, as that crazy character deserves better.

Probably the biggest problem with X-Men Origins: Wolverine was also the biggest dilemma facing the writers when they started out to make this prequel film: since Wolverine doesn’t remember his past in X-Men (2000), how do you tell a prequel even the hero doesn’t remember? Unfortunately, the filmmakers went with the oldest cliche in the book: amnesia. While that is tolerable since they are able to create the effect in a new way, one line sticks out as being a bit too much: “it won’t kill him, but at least it will make him forget”.

Do the filmmakers really think the viewing public isn’t smart enough to figure that out without them throwing it in our faces? Apparently not. With that one line, suddenly the viewer feels a bit of a resentment towards the filmmakers, and the ending seems just that much cheesier and cliched. Trust viewers to figure things out without in-your-face guiding like that, and the viewers will be a bit more appreciative.

As for the rest of the storyline, however, the writers did a brilliant job of tying together pieces that would expand to become X-Men (2000) and it’s 2 sequels’ storylines. Tossing in bits and pieces (including a glimpse of someone the viewer assumes is Stryker’s son, who appears in a much bigger role in the trilogy, and a young Scott Summers aka Cyclops), and the viewer gets a sense of familiarity while the film ties together it’s future in more securely with the X-Men films. While all prequels do a decent job of hinting at their future films, X-Men Origins: Wolverine manages to go beyond that, inserting itself flawlessly as an integral part of the X-Men storyline – albeit with somewhat of a cop-out with the whole amnesia thing.

The special effects are on a par with the rest of the X-Men films, with the viewer never even pondering whether Wolverine’s claws (at first just an extension of bone) are real or not – or any of the other mutant powers, for that matter. Whether Wolverine is being tossed through the air onto a helicopter (as seen in the previews) or Wraith is flitting from one spot to another or Deadpool’s freaky visage, the special effects are flawless, and really help to add to the mutant vibe the films try to relay.

While it does have a few flaws (especially the amnesia cop-out) and is more action-oriented than story-oriented (at least compared to it’s X-Men predecessors), X-Men Originis: Wolverine showcase of the shadowy past of everyone’s favorite clawed mutant that was hinted at in the trilogy and the exceptional supporting cast performing outside their normal comfort zone make X-Men Origins: Wolverine a worthy addition to the X-Men family of films – and one that, like it’s predecessors, shouldn’t be missed in theaters.

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