X-Men Origins: Wolverine

wolverine

Over the course of the “X-Men” trilogy there has been one constant story thread that has been touched upon, yet it’s never been fully explored. For those of you that have watched the series, then you most likely know exactly what I’m referring to… the origin of the most popular mutant of all, Logan/Wolverine. Finally, after three highly successful films chronicling the adventures of the X-Men team, 20th Century Fox has chosen to spin-off Wolverine into his own movie and potential franchise by providing his official origin story with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” presents many key events in Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) life prior to his fateful arrival at the X-Mansion in the original “X-Men” film. Beginning with his initial discovery as a youth that he possessed the ability to unsheathe claws from beneath his skin, to his complicated friendship and eventual hatred of his former best friend Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber), his time spent working for the government as part of an elite team of mutant trackers, and all of this culminating in a senses-shattering showdown that will leave no one unscathed.

The mystery behind Wolverine’s origin has been a long-standing plotline, not just in the film trilogy, but in the various comic books in which the character has appeared. In 2001, Marvel Comics began a six-issue limited series aptly titled “Origin” that would establish the official backstory for the berserker mutant once and for all. Obviously, so long as interest in the onscreen version of the character remained alive, it would only be a matter of time before his origin, or at least some semblance of it, made it to the big screen as well.

Many times with spin-offs, the story tends to be weaker than those utilized for the main franchise; however, this film appears to be one of those very rare exceptions where the quality actually remains intact. Written by David Benioff (“Troy”) and Skip Woods (“Swordfish”), with some elements loosely based upon the mini-series “Origin”, the story focuses upon some of the various influences, circumstances, and powerful outside forces that shaped Logan into becoming one of the most dangerous mutants on the face of the Earth.

The story spends ample time showcasing the extremely visceral nature of the film’s two primary characters, Wolverine and Sabretooth, and how they deal with their inner beasts in drastically different ways. Along with this complicated relationship, the film delves into the almost constant, yet subtle, manipulation that eventually led to Logan’s decision to participate in the excruciatingly painful Weapon X program, which bonded liquid Adamantium to his bones. It’s during these moments of manipulation, mostly at the hands of William Stryker (Danny Huston), that the film’s story really shines.

Another strong aspect of the film is the sharply written, and often times witty, dialogue. The interactions between the characters felt believable and completely natural within the scenes. Some spin-offs suffer from an over-abundance of clichés or merely recycled lines and moments from the original franchise on which they are based; however, “Wolverine” easily side-steps these issues in every respect. In the hands of less capable writers that didn’t feel some responsibility to keep the quality of the franchise intact, the dialogue, and the rest of the story for that matter, could have potentially gone the way of so many other spin-offs and failed miserably, thus hurting the main franchise in the process. As a fan of the series, I am very pleased by the fact that even though this is the fourth film in the franchise, the creative minds behind the series continually try to surpass what has come before.

For all you action fans out there do not worry. This series hasn’t lost sight of one of its key elements. Throughout the film’s story the action scenes never take a backseat to the drama unfolding within the characters’ lives. The fights are much more violent and at times graphic in comparison to the previous three films of the “X-Men” franchise; not to mention, even more up close and personal due to fewer mutants with projectile-like abilities. The decision to make the fights even more brutal worked very well alongside the animalistic overtones of the story; although it may have resulted in some parents not wishing their children to see the film, despite the fact that they may have seen the other three in the series.

Of course, what would a comic book movie be without the use of visual effects? Well, obviously it would be quite boring, but that almost goes without saying. For the most part, the CGI-intensive sequences were well executed; however, there were some surprising scenes in which the effects looked a bit shoddy. Oddly, enough these scenes involved the use of Wolverine’s claws, which by this point should have been mastered and no longer a cause for concern. I’m not sure what caused the problem, if it was a lack of texture on the CGI claws or what, but something was definitely off about them during a couple of scenes. Please note, that these are not pivotal scenes and that the problem was not all that detrimental to the end result of the movie, it’s just something that I found frustrating and thought honestly shouldn’t have occurred within the film. Otherwise, like I said, the visual effects were very good, and at times numerous sequences were truly awesome to watch and easily overshadowed any of the weaker moments in this area.

Lastly, the acting for the film, just as it was in the original three movies, remains consistently high throughout. Despite having played the role of Wolverine three times already, Hugh Jackman is still able to bring a fresh new approach to the character that is crucial to the continued success of the series. No doubt the ability for Jackman to convey such enthusiasm for the role was assisted by the fact that he was so passionate about finally getting to tell the official origin for this beloved comic book icon. Another neat aspect of the character that was explored a little further in this film than in the previous movies was Wolverine’s famed “Berserker Rage” (comic book fans know what I’m talking about). Although, we don’t necessarily get to see an all-out fully realized rage, we are given a much closer look at what he would be like if he succumbed to his unbridled fury, and it was obvious that Hugh enjoyed this new side to the character being explored.

Supporting Hugh are some extremely talented actors beginning with Liev Schreiber (“The Sum of All Fears”). Liev takes a role that was relatively wordless in the original film, and was tasked with creating a character that was dramatically rich, incredibly feral, and ultimately could become the nemesis to Wolverine we saw in the first movie. Not necessarily an easy job, but Liev pulled it off perfectly. He delivered a multi-layered villain that was a prime example of what Wolverine could have become if given a couple of different choices along the way, and Liev is clearly relishing every evil moment he gets onscreen. Next is actor Danny Huston (“30 Days of Night”) taking over the role of William Stryker from Brian Cox (“X2: X-Men United”). Danny played Stryker with the perfect blend of subtle manipulation and malice. At times he would be fatherly, especially towards Logan (albeit only to further his own agenda), but then he would snap and show his true colors by unveiling an obviously twisted, sadistic, and potentially unstable man who wanted nothing more than unlimited power to quell the surging mutant problem.

Rounding out the supporting cast is actor Ryan Reynolds (“The Proposal”) and singer turned actor Will.i.am (“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”). I’ve become a fan of Ryan’s work over the last few years, and I enjoy his unfettered sarcasm that he seems to imbue into almost every single character he portrays, but never in a way that feels unnatural or tired within in the role, mind you. In this film, Ryan isn’t given all that much screen time, but what he does get he definitely makes the most of by making his character of Wade Wilson (comic book fans know him as the Merc with the Mouth, Deadpool) an enjoyable addition to the group of rogues that Stryker has assembled. Sadly, his role was intended as an introduction to the character in hopes of getting an eventual spin-off for him as well, a tactic that most likely worked given the film’s success; however, I for one wish there could have been a little more of the character in this story, not to mention fewer major tweaks to the character’s origin that don’t line-up with the comic books. But, I digress. Last, but not least, is Will.i.am as John Wraith, a mutant teleporter. Will shows that he definitely has potential, displaying some good comedic timing in a few scenes, and a natural charisma that makes for a more interesting character than I believe he would have been if played by another actor.

Directed by Gavin Hood (“Rendition”), “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is an incredibly fast-paced action film that delivers on all counts. Granted there are some gripes with the movie, but overall it’s a very solid addition to a terrific franchise. This is a must-see for fans of the original trilogy and a perfect jumping on point for newcomers to the series.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and brief nudity.

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