Wolverine – indestructible, invulnerable and the best there is at what he does.
What Wolverine does isn’t pretty and hasn’t been since he graced the pages of The Incredible Hulk in 1974. Since Marvel unleashed the Wolverine, he has become one of the most dynamic, deep and popular characters on the company’s roster.
“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” provides Marvel with the chance to take the savage off of the printed page and onto the big screen, to tell the story of how he became what he is. Despite Wolverine’s earlier appearances in the X-Men franchise, this is his story alone. Armed with an A-list leading man, a $150 million budget and backing from major studios, director Gavin Hood produces a solid, if predictable, popcorn movie.
Wolverine opens with two brothers, James and Victor, and the emotional burst that triggers the younger brother’s mutant powers. Soon, the two vow a pact against the world and anyone who would come between them. James and Victor fight through wars together, until an offer from the mysterious General Stryker brings them to a team of mercenary mutants. Once the killing extends from crime lords and rebels to innocent civilians, James walks away.
Six years later, James, now going by just Logan, lives as a lumberjack in Canada with the beautiful Kayla (Lynn Collins). Their life is perfect and peaceful; no need for financial windfall or world travel. As long as they have each other, they have happiness. Then Stryker shows his ugly mug, and it all falls apart. Stryker, Victor and their backers have something in store for Wolverine…leading him down a path where he accepts the Adamantium injection that gives him his signature claws.
Wolverine escapes, finding shelter with simple folks until he gets his head together. When Stryker steals even that from him, revenge is the only choice left. Wolverine proceeds to hunt down his enemies, joust helicopters, box former colleagues, fight his brother (several times) and ride to the rescue of his fellow mutants.
The final fight scene takes place atop Three Mile Island in a spectacular series that only adds to the superhuman levels of the film.
Wolverine is a heroic story of one man’s rise to his own definition. Instead of attempting to adapt and combine multiple stories from the comics, this film is the transition of one famous character to a broader audience. Actor Hugh Jackman has the range to make Wolverine as enraged or compassionate as the role depicts. Purists may despise the film, but the film provides the tools for Wolverine to become an even bigger household name.
Wolverine played with the fascination and curiosity of readers for a long time before any of his origins (and there have been several) reached the printed page. Simply re-telling any one of these is a wasted chance at modernizing and expanding the character, giving him a chance to grow in new directions in the future.
Wolverine features plenty of other Marvel characters from X-Men fame, but only a few who play a predominant role. Cyclops, the Blob, Emma Frost, Gambit and even Professor X play roles which may be important in future installments of the series, but their role in this film is to help sell tickets to comic fans (or at least offset those pissed off by changes to Wolverine’s history or Deadpool’s powers).
Jackman defined the role when he appeared on-screen in X-Men (2000). Instead of picking out a proven action hero, giving him a bad haircut and claws and force-fitting him into the badass prowling Marvel comics pages for decades. Jackman was consistently good in both X-Men and X2. X3 was too disjointed to give anyone, even Jackman, much room for success. In “Wolverine”, he’s very comfortable as the character, struggling through the transformation that makes him the antisocial hero he becomes.
Schreiber is appropriately menacing as Logan’s brother, Victor Creed, if a bit undersized. Kitsch has the easiest path toward an effective cameo, with Gambit written as cool down to the bone from his first frame. Kevin Durand is great as the Blob, and Will.i.Am is solid as John Wraith. Reynolds is a proven commodity who channels sarcasm and athleticism to create his take on Wade Wilson. Huston is less than terrifying as the mastermind Stryker.
Wolverine is a movie about extremes; the good guys are white knights, the bad guys are agents of chaos and greed, and the action sequences overcome human limitations and the laws of physics. It’s everything that the American public has come to expect from a summer blockbuster, though in 2009, this one has more heart than most of the competition.
The DVD includes several commentary tracks including one with director Gavin Hood, and one with the producers. There is a brief feature on Wolverine’s complete origins. Alternate and deleted scenes feature changes to Wolverine losing his memory and a cameo by the girl who would become Storm. The alternate memory scenes make Wolverine less courageous than his legacy would allow. Stan Lee and Len Wein star in a fun dialogue on the creation of Wolverine, Jack Kirby, the X-Men and how Marvel became reliant on mutants.
The second disc of the DVD provides the digital copy of the film for use in digital media players.