X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Release Date: May 1st, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Gavin Hood Actors: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Taylor Kitsch, Will.i.am, Ryan Reynolds, Lynn Collins, Danny Huston
eatly tying in and building upon many of the characters in the mutant universe, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” will undoubtedly satisfy fans of the franchise. Anyone else needn’t apply. Plenty of action scenes find their way into the origin story, and while most are wildly spectacular, with inventively insane stunts, certain superpowers lend themselves to rather staid showdowns and the occasional over-the-top confrontation that no amount of belief-suspending tactics can overcome. In its defense though, it is a comic book movie, and we finally get to see a glimpse of some twin mutant girls.
Perhaps the most famous of the X-Men characters, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) receives the full origins treatment, with this latest installment in the series chronicling the harrowing events in the mutant’s early life, leading up to the first film. The year is 1845, and young James Howlett discovers, in a cruel twist of fate, the consequences of his temper and the power of his mutant abilities. Swearing to stay by his older brother Victor’s (Liev Shreiber) side, James fights through several major wars and the duo winds up more than dishonorably discharged for their failure to respect authority. A way out comes to them in the form of William Stryker (Danny Huston), the leader of a shadowy elite military group, carrying out dangerous missions with an army of powerful mutants.
When an assignment in Africa sours, the brothers are separated and James, now adopting the name Logan, begins a tranquil new life with girlfriend Kayla (Lynn Collins) as a lumberjack in the Canadian wilderness. But his newfound happiness doesn’t last long when Stryker reappears and draws him back into a world of violence and deception. Logan must rely on his own cunning, a skeletal upgrade, and the aid of a few varied mutant heroes to survive a threat of unimaginable destructive power.
The expected staples of blockbuster superhero movies are naturally included, right down to the outlandish fight sequences, pose-striking before and after important battles, slow motion explosions, and loud noises galore. Despite all the intense bells and whistles, the generic plot points also find their way into the film. Brotherly friends find themselves fighting on opposite sides of morality wars; allies hunt down their own kind, blindly, for a supposed greater good; the villains must create an uncontrollable monster to defeat an even deadlier foe; and innocent victims along with true love stumble into the mess of sacrifices and revenge.
Of course, the main event is the overload of action sequences sure to numb the senses. But the PG-13 rating enforces a brazenly noticeable cap to the violence and bloody realism that could be witnessed when mutants duel with Adamantium claws, swords, and razor-sharp fingernails. Instead, the bloodless fights consist primarily of carefully timed charges, like a bull squaring off with a matador, running, yelling, and grappling. The cautious attention to avoiding truly bloodthirsty engagements throttles creative violence. Even when the hand-to-hand combat looks impressive, the stunts get far-fetched, pushing the special effects to the limit.
The mutant super powers are still entertaining, even when they’re not specifically defined (Gambit’s abilities include a little of everything, although the comics summed it up as the manipulation of kinetic energy), and several new skills get to make a sharp introduction. But the ethical ideas behind living normal lives, concealing inhuman differences, having never asked for such “gifts,” and choosing to exploit them, which made the original “X-Men” movie trilogy so thought-provoking, never quite make it into this new Wolverine spectacle. And that was the most fascinating element of the premise.
– The Massie Twins