- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Will Harris
-Men Origins: Wolverine” is the kind of motion picture that makes filmmakers loathe the World Wide Web.
There’s been nothing but sketchy buzz about this film for months, thereby making 20th Century Fox’s decision to sic the FBI on the perpetrator who leaked an early print of the film to onto the ‘net seem less like an attempt to exact justice and more like a desire to make it seem like they had a product that was actually worth stealing. And, yet, when the time came to release the film, instead of offering up advance screenings to all critics, they opted to go with a predominantly cold open, thereby limiting the number of reviews that would see print prior to the day it hit theaters. Very rarely does this maneuver prove to be a harbinger of a top-notch film, and “Wolverine” is no exception to that rule.
While it’s no surprise that Fox would have had an interest in spinning off the most popular member of the X-Men into his own movie, it’s hard to imagine why they thought a full-length origin story was a good idea. If superhero movies have taught us nothing else, they’ve at least educated us that the first chapter of most comic-book franchises tends to be the least exciting because the action invariably takes a backseat to lengthy explanatory scenes which lay out how the superhero came to be.
Not that the back story of Logan (Hugh Jackman) isn’t an interesting one. After all, the film starts in the 1800s, and by the time the credits are over, we’ve seen him fight his way through the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Perpetually by his side is his brother, Victor (Liev Schreiber), who we have since come to know in the “X-Men” films as Sabretooth. As you might guess, neither of them age, or perhaps they just age very slowly as a result of the fact that they both heal so quickly. The film never addresses this directly, instead preferring to leave the focus on their other gifts: Logan has retractable claws which emerge from the vicinity of his knuckles, apparently made of bone, while Victor has razor-sharp nails.
As we soon learn, Victor’s very much the loose cannon of the siblings, necessitating that Logan serve as his conscience, though suffice it to say that he’s not exactly Jiminy Cricket. When the two of them join a team of fellow mutants under the command of the ethically-questionable General William Stryker (Danny Huston), the relationship between Victor and Logan reaches a breaking point, and Logan walks away from the team and his brother. The family reunion doesn’t occur for another six years, and when it does, it’s less than pleasant.
While “Wolverine” contains several nice fight scenes and a couple of enjoyable action sequences, one can’t help but feel that it thoroughly wastes Jackman. After spending three films building up a character that made you grin the moment he came onto the screen, he gets precious little opportunity to flex his charisma. Despite occasional moments where he chomps on his trademark cigar and flashes his grumpy wit, the film is soon dragged down to the level of a standard revenge flick, making it feel less like a comic-book movie and more like a Stallone / Schwarzenegger film from the ‘80s. (The frequently cliché-filled dialogue doesn’t help the situation any.) Even the other heroes and villains from the Marvel Comics universe can’t help save the situation, though Gambit makes the most of his limited time on the screen.
“Wolverine” ends as those who’ve seen the “X-Men” films know that it must: with Logan losing his memory, so that he can eventually get it back in “X2.” Unfortunately, it will probably also serve to remind viewers how good that film was, and how much better “Wolverine” should’ve been.
Ultimate Two-Disc Edition Blu-Ray Review:
You’d think that a big summer blockbuster like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” would be loaded with extras, but the special edition DVD is just as disappointing as the film itself. Though there are two commentaries to choose from – one with director Gavin Hood and another with producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter – neither one is very good, while the conversation between Stan Lee and Len Wein (“The Roots of Wolverine”) doesn’t divulge anything that the average comic fan doesn’t already know.
Luckily, the film's HD release fares much better. Along with the aforementioned extras, as well as the production featurette ("Wolverine Unleashed") and deleted scenes that appear on the DVD, the Blu-ray edition includes an intimate behind-the-scenes look at each of the major characters ("Weapon X Mutant Files"), a making-of featurette on the helicopter chase sequence, and an Ultimate X-Mode BONUSVIEW feature that offers up three picture-in-picture video tracks and a pop-up trivia track. Additionally, this is the first Blu-ray release to include the new Live Lookup feature, which lets you connect to IMDb via BD-Live to check out actor filmographies and other information related to the film. It isn't revolutionary, but it's definitely a handy extra should the occasion present itself.