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Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine Is One Ridiculous, Wild Ride!

May 2, 2009

About five minutes into X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hugh Jackman (as Logan) and his wife (Lynn Collins) leave their mountain-top shack and drive their beaten up truck through the Canadian forest to a lumber yard. As enormous machinery lifts gigantic trees in the background, Jackman, clad in heavy duty pants and a flannel shirt, with an axe slung over his shoulder and a chewed up cigar in his mouth, steps out of the car, kisses his wife goodbye, and throws the axe to one of his fellow bearded buddies, before stepping into the truck bed and riding off to work. The whole scene exists as if to say, “Look how manly Wolverine is! He’s a badass that’s hairy, tough, and gruff! He’s strong and looks like a wild animal!” In all reality, the scene actually sets up the film quite well, for that’s about as subtle as Wolverine ever gets. Bombastic, clichéd, cheesy, and explosive, Wolverine elicited much the same reaction as when I saw 300: It’s definitely not good, but it’s awesome!

The plot is roughly summed up like this: Logan was once a part of group of bad mutants that used their powers to accomplish some decidedly bad things. Alongside Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), John Wraith (Will.I.Am), Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), Bolt (Dominic Monaghan – LOST actor #1), The Blob (Kevin Durand – LOST actor #2), and his brother, Victor/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), Logan worked as a criminal for years. Somewhere along the line, though, Logan has a change of heart, decides to turn from his evil ways, move to Canada, get married, and live a humble life as a lumberjack. (Keep in mind, I never read the X-Men comic books, and I’m sure that massive liberties were taken in constructing Wolverine’s past, but I’m going on that I was presented with.) Logan’s woodsy life is all well and good until his brother shows up one day and wreaks massive havoc on him and his wife. Turns out, Sabretooth is working for William Stryker (Danny Huston), a scientist who wants to “help” Logan, who renames himself “Wolverine” because of some ridiculous fable, become much more powerful by bonding a newly engineered indestructible metal, adamantium, to his entire skeleton. For the record, I was so happy when this actually happened- the three boney claws that came out of Logan’s hands before were just gross looking.

Anyway, it turns out that Stryker has a hidden agenda, and Wolverine is not keen on helping him after his metalization is complete. He lets his inner animal rage, and he runs away. From there, the rest of the movie follows Wolverine’s journey to take revenge upon his brother and bring down the company that made him into his new self. Along the way, Wolvy gets into about 10-20 fights, almost decapitates his brother about 30-40 times, gets stabbed and instantly heals about 50-60 times, and entertains the audience for about 70-80 minutes. We also meet a myriad of other mutants along the way, and it becomes abundantly clear that Fox is planning on making many more of these “Origins” movies with the introduction of Emma Frost, Cyclops, and Deadpool. And while it’s certainly fun to see all these characters come to life on the big screen, one of them stands out above the rest:

Gambit! Thank goodness we finally get Gambit! As a fan of the 1992 X-Men TV series, I was always sad that he was left out of the original film trilogy, but I can see why- he’s so similar to Wolverine. Friday Night Lights’ Taylor Kitsch was perfectly cast as the sarcastic, rebellious, poker-playing, kinetic-engergy-controlling Cajun, and it was a delight to watch the Southern gent go up against Wolverine. In my favorite scene in the film, Gambit and Wolverine go head-to-head in a game of Texas Hold’em poker, and it appears that the filmmakers wanted to give a shoutout to the legions of online poker nerds, as the scene features poker pro, Daniel Negreanu! But the card game quickly escalates into an all-out brawl in the alleyway with some of the coolest special effects I’ve ever seen. Forget 2011’s Magneto, I want to see X-Men Origins: Gambit! The Gambit effects in New Orleans are second only to the effects in the Wolverine‘s final fight scene, which I won’t give away, but trust me: it’s amazing.

Wolverine is far from a perfect film. The dialogue is often ridiculous, and the story is completely secondary to the action. The film serves simply to show audiences how Wolverine got to where he was at the beginning of 2001’s X-Men, and the ending (I mean the first ending, not the other two that roll during and after the credits) feels very abrupt. Still, Director Gavin Hood had to spin a lot of plates at once, since Wolverine had to serve as a sequel to the X-Men franchise, a prequel to the X-Men story, and a foundation for all future X-Men movies that Fox and Marvel want to produce. Of course, a better script would have helped tremendously, but for what it is, which is a summer popcorn flick, I was more than entertained. Liev Schreiber plays the antagonist effectively, and Hugh Jackman has true screen presence, and even if he does flex and roar a few too many times throughout the film, Wolverine is definitely a fun character.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the perfect film for these recessionary (or if you’re a college student- final exam) times. It allows you to turn off your brain, kick back, laugh at the dialogue, and enjoy the special effects and excitement. For a couple of hours, you forget about the stress of life and instead walk in the shoes of an adamantium-lined superhero. Like I said before, it’s not good, but it’s awesome. I’ll give it a B.

Now I want to hear from you! Let’s hear what you thought about Wolverine in the comments!