‘Wolverine’ not as sharp as it should be, but still X-citing
Although he may not look the age, Hugh Jackman shows us just what a supercentenarian superhero can do in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
From a young age, James Howlett (Jackman) was different.
As a mutant with the dual powers of healing wounds incredibly fast and controlling the claw-like bones that sprout from his hands, he has the potential to be an unstoppable fighting force. So says his half-brother, Victor (Liev Schreiber), who has similar abilities and an almost unlimited bloodlust.
The brothers eventually become part of the mutant military squad Team X, whose operations become more and more reprehensible until James quits, taking up the alias Logan and living a quiet life with the loving Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins).
But the elder sibling is not about to be ignored as he goes on a rampage, killing off their former teammates, hoping to attract his attention.
When Victor goes too far, Logan goes against his better judgment and takes the offer of Team X’s commander (Danny Huston) to make him even more powerful. With the indestructible metal alloy adamantium grafted to his skeleton, Logan – reborn as Wolverine – pursues revenge, unaware of the plot going on under his nose.
Jackman’s fourth go as the most popular X-Man of all time has its pros and cons. While he excellently captures Wolverine’s tortured existence, the actor can’t help mugging as he has in previous installments, making the movie more comical than it needs to be.
Schreiber is surprisingly watchable as Victor – better known to X-fans as Sabretooth – getting the psychotic temperament of the feral man-beast just right. Although, did they have to make his movements look like a house cat?
Huston is convincing as a young William Stryker, the main villain of “X2,” whose dealings with mutants resonates from a malicious manipulation and a personal vendetta.
Such is the back story of nearly every other major character, many of whom we barley get a chance to know: Dominic Monaghan as the electrically inclined Chris Bradley/Bolt; will.i.am as teleporter John Wraith; and Ryan Reynolds as katana-wielding wiseacre Wade Wilson, a quick-witted mercenary whose mere minutes of screen time aren’t nearly enough to satisfy those who know the history of “The Merc with the Mouth.”
With a lifespan that goes back all the way to the mid-19th century Canada, it’s impossible to condense Wolverine’s best Marvel Comics moments into one movie. A lightning-fast montage of he and Sabretooth fighting in every conflict from the American Civil War to Vietnam is proof of that.
Likewise, there are far too many mutants introduced to get a solid story. The title character – aka Wolvie aka ol’ Canucklehead aka “the best at what he does” – is who we care about, and when the plot sticks to that – especially in the dead-on scenes regarding Logan’s transformation into Weapon X – it works well enough.
But, the script insists on shoehorning in more and more, including Kevin Durand laughably sporting oceans of padding as corpulent Fred Dukes – The Blob – and even worse, forcing fan favorite Gambit into a pointless role, made even more disappointing by Taylor Kitsch’s smug performance.
Given the film’s conclusion, this “everything but the kitchen sink” approach almost makes sense, but only so much can work before the surplus starts bursting at the seams.
To be fair, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was doomed from the start because of the practically unreachable expectations set by comic readers who have known the hero for 30 plus years. Some X-fans may become ex-fans as a result of the film, but it does feature action aplenty and gives us a decent insight into one of the greatest comic book characters ever drawn.
Now playing at the West Theater.
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