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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