As a young boy, James Howlett (Jackman) was sickly. Doted on by his doctor father, a tragedy sends him out into the world alone -- alone, that is except for his half-brother Victor (Liev Schrieber). After surviving several wars together, the boys meet up with military man William Stryker (Danny Huston) and along with a group of fellow mutants, they search the globe for an elusive metal derived from a meteorite. When Howlett, now renamed Logan, sees the atrocities committed in pursuit of said goal, he walks away. Six years later, Stryker and Victor come calling, wanting their former ally to participate in an experiment. Fusing his frame with an experimental alloy, Logan becomes Wolverine. Unfortunately, he soon after finds himself a pawn in a much larger crusade against his kind, with his murderous sibling front and center.
Except for the last act appearance of a rather uninspired Weapon XI, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an excellent example of its type. It features the undeniable talents of its "too good to be true" lead actor, and fleshes out his frequently topless physique with all manner of interesting individual diversions. This is first and foremost a character study, albeit it one with killer action sequences and a real sense of scope. What new director Gavin Hood gives this fourth film in the franchise that both Bryan Singer and part-three replacement Brett Ratner missed is the concept of scope. By focusing on only a select group of mutants and not worrying if everyone gets their oh-so-sacred screen time, a sense of depth and detail is created. We learn more about these particular people than the participants in any other X-Men movie.
That doesn't mean Wolverine is all touchy-feely emotions and gloomy self-absorption. The stuntwork here is impressive, though the CGI occasionally shows through, and when pushed into questions of plausibility, Hood goes for the cheap laugh (an old lady's nonchalant comment as a nude Jackman scrambles across the road and into her barn). With the introduction of favored icons from the comics that really don't pay off (including a hilarious looking Blob and that unfathomable fan favorite, Gambit) and a last act confrontation that's more special effects than satisfying, this is not a perfect film. But when you look back at all the previous installments in the franchise, this one soars straight to the top.
Certainly there will be purists who balk at how Hood and his screenwriters mangle and manipulate the mythology, and any ending which leaves several characters unexplained and unaccounted for can't really seal the full entertainment deal. But thanks to Jackman, and an equally enigmatic turn by Schreiber, X-Men Origins: Wolverine suggests that not all back stories undermine the original material's effectiveness. In fact, this is a clear case where history does a better job with a well-known persona than the films that were supposed to establish him in the first place.
What's more dangerous than Wolverine? Baby Wolverine.
Run time: 107 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st May 2009
Box Office USA: $179.7M
Box Office Worldwide: $341.1M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Bad Hat Harry Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Marvel Enterprises, Dune Entertainment, Donners' Company, Seed Productions, Ingenious Film Partners, Big Screen Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 96 Rotten: 158
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman as Logan / Wolverine, Taylor Kitsch as Remy LeBeau, Daniel Henney as Agent Zero, Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, Troye Sivan as James, Liev Schreiber as Victor Creed, Danny Huston as Stryker, http://Will.i.am as John Wraith, Lynn Collins as Kayla Silverfox, Kevin Durand as Fred Dukes, Dominic Monaghan as Bradley, Tim Pocock as Scott Summers, Julia Blake as Heather Hudson, Max Cullen as Travis Hudson, Michael James Olsen as Young Victor, Peter O'Brien as John Howlett, Aaron Jeffrey as Thomas Logan, Alice Parkinson as Elizabeth Howlett, Philip A. Patterson as Firing Squad Leader (as Phil Patterson), Anthony Gee as Carnival Guy, Adelaide Clemens as Carnival Girl, Karl Beattie as School Child, Tom O'Sullivan as Logging Supervisor, Myles Pollard as Phelan, Stephen Anderton as Marcuse, Chris Sadrinna as Van Mier, Septimus Caton as Bartender, Matthew Dale as Surgeon, Nathin Butler as Male Nurse #1, Peter Barry as Male Nurse #2, David Ritchie as Dr. Cornelius, Asher Keddie as Dr. Carol Frost, Socratis Otto as Lead Technician - Alkali Lake, Stephen Leeder as General Munson, James D. Dever as Platoon Leader, Martin Obuga as Muttering Man, Rita Affua Connell as Nervous African Woman, John Shrimpton as Stryker Aide, Henry Browne as Curtis, Tahyna Tozzi as Kayla's Sister / Emma, Daniel Negreanu as Poker Player, Alexandra Davies as Woman of the Night (as Alex Davies), Don Battee as Huge Doorman, Evan Sturrock as Drunken Man in Alley, Rob Flanagan as Driver, Hakeem Kae-Kazim as African Businessman, Alison Araya as Teacher, Eric Breker as Special Forces Commander, Eileen Bui as Vietnamese Child, Adrian Hughes as Hunter #1, Bryon Chief-Moon as Hunter #2, Mike Dopud as Vietnam Army Officer, Beatrice Ilg as Waitress, Kanako Takegishi as Waitress, Panou as Tank Soldier, Johnson Phan as Vietnamese Man, Elizabeth Thai as Vietnamese Woman, Jade Tang as Mutant Twin #1, Joelle Tang as Mutant Twin #2, Scott Adkins as Weapon XI, Warwick Young as Helicopter Pilot