A spin off and prequel to the popular X-Men films, X-Men Origins: Wolverine chronicles the tragic and often violent life of everyone’s favourite mutant, in the process delivering an entertaining yet not entirely engrossing action thriller.
Living up to its title, ...Wolverine begins in Canada, 1845, where mutant brothers James Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) go on the run after the murder of their father. A subsequent impressive opening credit sequence show the pair living their lives as men of war, battling in every grand American skirmish from the Civil War to Vietnam.
Soon after, they are recruited by the manipulative Colonel Striker (Danny Huston) to be a part of a team of mutant mercenaries. It is during this time cracks appear in their relationship, as a difference in the ethics of war and Victor’s embrace of his sadistic animalistic nature, send the two their separate ways.
At this point is where ...Wolverine really shines, as the viewer witnesses Logan strive for a life of normalcy, by working as a logger and living a life of domestic bliss with the hypnotic Silverfox (Lynn Collins). Yet her death at the hands of the jealous and vengeful Victor prompts Logan to embrace the killer within, and undergo a radical procedure which will enhance his powers and help him attain revenge.
As Logan/Wolverine, Hugh Jackman –in his fourth turn as the title character – slips into his role comfortably. Always the consummate performer, Jackman is all menace and raw power, never allowing himself to coast while showing off a stunning physique, which is as much an important element of his character as any emotional preparation.
Mostly due to the fact that we have seen Jackman play this part before, it is ultimately the films side characters who many will discuss upon the films conclusion. Schreiber in particular leaves a stern impression as the vivacious Victor Creed, bringing a physicality and disarming confidence to his role which matches up well against Jackman’s strong screen presence.
Smaller –and unfortunately – less developed roles in Ryan Reynold’s witty sword wielding assassin, Deadpool; and Taylor Kitsch’s cool Cajun, Gambit, make an impression, yet will leave many pining for more.
Like a good comic adaptation should, ...Wolverine weaves various genres into its tapestry of destiny and bloody retribution. Here is a revenge film, a conspiracy thriller, and a chase movie all in one, filled with scrappy yet slick action choreography brimming with plenty of M rated violence, a shift in direction needed to suit the characters dark and violent nature.
Yet surprisingly, for all of its testosterone driven momentum ...Wolverine’s best moments are when it is allowed to slow down from its hurried pace and focus more on character development. Yet it’s tenacity to rush through these moments and onto the next fight scene stops short of making the film a good an all rounder as, say, Bryan Singer’s two X-Men films.
Directed by Gavin Hood – he of acclaimed drama’s Tsotsi and Rendition – ...Wolverine seems to be a film stuck in two worlds – one a character driven superhero film; the other a thrilling actioner - which can’t quite achieve a balance. A major problem is pacing; breathing room was needed to really make these characters and their relationships much stronger.
As it stands, X-Men Origins: Wolverine sits comfortably between Bryan Singer’s first two X-men films, and Brett Ratner’s cluttered yet entertaining The Last Stand.