Review by Paul Stathakis | May 11, 2009

But, what about his origins?

”X-Men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine” deliv­ers what its ads promised it would: tons of action, includ­ing a death-defy­ing leap onto a heli­copter, a motor­cy­cle stunt that makes Ethan Hunt look like an ama­teur, and numer­ous duels with oth­er mutants. Yes, the hero of the film takes a beat­ing. He gets thrown around, he gets back up, he vows to fight on, and he nev­er quits. On that lev­el, the film excels. But what about Wolver­ine, the char­ac­ter? What about his back sto­ry? The film deliv­ers action and amus­ing one-lin­ers you’d expect from a char­ac­ter like Wolver­ine (a char­ac­ter that Hugh Jack­man was born to play) but what about his ori­gins as the title sug­gests? The film shows how Wolver­ine got his name and the process which gave him a near-inde­struc­tible body. But is all that enough? Cer­tain­ly not.

Wolver­ine came from a trou­bled home. The open­ing scene offers a small glimpse into his child­hood. As a young­ster, he not only wit­nessed a killing in his house­hold but took someone’s life out of anger before run­ning away from home with his broth­er, Vic­tor aka Sabre­tooth (Liev Schreiber). We learn that Wolver­ine, first known as Logan, served in the army, and par­took in sev­er­al wars, includ­ing World Wars I and II and the Viet­nam War as well. That’s about as much as we learn about our hero before we embark with him on his per­son­al jour­ney of revenge.

The super­hero fran­chise is a del­i­cate one. Near­ly all Mar­vel adap­ta­tions have been box-office hits and Wolver­ine will undoubt­ed­ly fol­low with a strong audi­ence atten­dance.  One some­times won­ders if these films mere­ly exist for the sole pur­pose of gen­er­at­ing rev­enue.  Whether “X-Men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine” is about enter­tain­ment or not is ques­tion­able. And I say this because of the fact that fans get less here when they deserve more. Fans have been wait­ing tire­less­ly for months to see this adap­ta­tion, to learn about the famed superhero’s past, and to see if the film­mak­ers would fol­low the mythol­o­gy of the Stan Lee com­ic books. “X-Men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine” focus­es main­ly on action and a roman­tic sub­plot instead of div­ing into the mytho­log­i­cal uni­verse of the super­hero.

Spe­cial-effects afi­ciona­dos will want to see this movie. Many sequences, how­ev­er implau­si­ble, are kinet­ic and excit­ing. One of the most spec­tac­u­lar duels takes place on a large cement struc­ture. It’s glo­ri­ous­ly direct­ed, as glo­ri­ous as a light-saber bat­tle from one of Lucas’ Star Wars movies (not that I’m com­par­ing the inge­nu­ity of “Star Wars” to the medi­oc­rity of “X-Men Ori­gins: Wolver­ine”).  The bat­tle is enter­tain­ing.

Fun is prob­a­bly the word that best describes the film. It’s about high-octane action, about Hugh Jack­man, about the intense work­out he under­went to mus­cle-up for the role, and about the superhero’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­u­al­ly avoid being defeat­ed by any foe that chal­lenges him. If you go into the film expect­ing action, you’ll find what you’re look­ing for. Any­one who expects a lay­ered sto­ry with great rev­e­la­tions may be dis­ap­point­ed.

Wolver­ine is not a bad mutant. We know this from the com­ic books and from the X-Men movies. In his eyes we see a burn­ing pas­sion for revenge but we know which side he’s on. And his yearn­ing for vengeance (as a super­hero) is some­what jus­ti­fied. We know that the peo­ple he seeks are vil­lain­ous and he spends the major­i­ty of the time seek­ing them. That’s the film, in a nut­shell. That said, wouldn’t it have been fair­er in this case to name the film some­thing along the lines of “Wolver­ine: Quest for Jus­tice”?

 

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