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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

The fourth installment of the X-Men franchise is indeed about rapier-wristed Wolverine, although the “origins” in the title may be a bit misleading.  As a child of the North American frontier in 1845, James Logan (Troye Sivan) discovers the identity of his real father and that he has a mutant half-brother, Victor Creed (Michael James-Olsen).  He also discovers that retractable bone claws extend from the back of his fists when he gets agitated.  There is no explanation for this; no explanation for Victor’s Sabretooth fangs and fingernails either.  Mutants are never explained, just born and closeted in a “don’t ask-don’t tell” cloak of secrecy.  Don’t get them pissed, either.

As adults the two brothers battle their way through the opening credits in several American wars (Civil, WWI, WWII, Viet Nam) culminating in a firing squad execution for conduct unbecoming - the murder of a superior officer committed by Creed (Liev Schreiber) with Logan (Hugh Jackman) defending his brother against fellow soldiers.

The execution’s failure brings them to the attention of Col. William Stryker (Danny Huston), who offers the two instant freedom in exchange for joining his special ops force, Team X.  Stryker (a military name if ever there was) has assembled a team of mutants whose mission is to find a meteorite-based substance named adamantium (named after the cartoon superhero ant?  The Brit rocker?).  Stryker will stop at nothing to obtain adamantium, even genocide.

The mutant bully team includes teleportation master John Wraith (Will I. Am),  super-human strongman The Blob (Kevin Durand),  the self-healing, immortal Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), the telekinetic, incendiary Remy LeBeau a.k.a. Gambit and Bolt (Dominic Monaghan) who controls electricity as if he created it.

The Nigerian mission highlights the brothers’ differences.  Creed possesses an all-consuming bloodlust, while Logan possesses a conscience, frequently putting the two at odds with each other.  When Stryker orders the liquidation of an entire Nigerian village, Creed relishes the task, while Logan is disgusted, and quits the team.

Six years later he’s a Canadian lumberjack living a rough but idyllic life with schoolteacher Kayla (Lynn Collins) when Stryker finds him and tries to recruit him for another special mission.  Seems someone is systematically eliminating the mutants, one by one.  Logan’s not interested – until Kayla is murdered by Creed.

Logan and Stryker enter into an uneasy alliance to destroy Creed, and Logan undergoes a procedure which bonds adamantium onto his skeleton, rendering him virtually indestructible.  Logan escapes the nearly completed procedure when Stryker tries to erase his memory, winding up naked in an elderly farm couple’s barn.  Wouldn’t you know they’d have a deceased son whose clothes fit Logan perfectly, including a leather jacket, and a ’48 kickass motorcycle that he escapes with when the couple is murdered by Stryker’s team, gunning for Logan?

From there the double-crosses, betrayals and twists deposit the viewer ultimately on Three-Mile-Island, where Stryker keeps a caged stockpile of mutants (both male and female) and a secret organic killing machine of conglomerate power, built from spare “parts” (Weapon XI).

The ultimate battle pits Logan against Stryker, Creed and Logan against Weapon XI, and Logan against his erased memory; add a mutant mass escape and rescue, and a resolution that doesn’t really resolve anything, and you’re left with an ending that leaves the door open for multiple sequels and action figures.

Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is ferocious with grief and driven by revenge. His triangular mane of hair remains intact in the face of all that action.  Liev Schreiber brings a dangerous presence to Sabretooth, portraying him as a vicious soldier of (mis)fortune.  Danny Huston infuses Stryker with rationalizations and a misguided patriotism that make him a natural for the straight-faced, lying Colonel.

Academy Award winning director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) keeps the action and the slo-mo coming in scene after scene of impalement and explosion.  Creed and Logan approach each other like head-butting rams, with much sharper consequences.  Logan roars his rage to the sky while Creed relishes his “bag-lady nails.”  Violence is presented like a painful choreography of destruction, inevitable and as necessary as oxygen.

Die hard fans will no doubt spot inconsistencies (the original graphic novel placed Wolverine’s height at 5’3”, hardly a Jackman characteristic) but for the most part, the film is an entertaining, fast-paced thriller that grabs viewer interest from beginning to end, barely stopping for breath let alone sentimentality.

Looks like this franchise won’t be X-tinct anytime soon.