Movie Review: X-Men les origines: Wolverine
By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
A chaotic headbanger, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is saved from pure flat-footed blockbuster franchise adequacy by six things, three of them on Hugh Jackman's left hand, three on his right.
Don't those retractable metal alloy blades look like a blast? The way they slide in and out like that? It's the only special effect in this entire mechanical enterprise that's the least bit special. It is cool, plain and simple, the way Jackman's mutant Wolverine slices through helicopter rotors or the passenger side of an oncoming truck, while his nemesis Sabretooth, played by Liev Schreiber, uses his own Howard Hughesian claws to drag a signature across someone's car hood, or someone's neck. Or the script. That would've been worth slicing.
This fourth "X-Men" picture ties for weakest "X-Men" picture with No. 3. The third one came not from Bryan Singer - he directed the enjoyable first two - but from Brett Ratner, whose career to date peaked with the shot of Salma Hayek bending over the car hood in "After the Sunset."
Gavin Hood isn't that kind of director. Hood's Oscar-winning film "Tsotsi" revealed a talent for blunt, effective storytelling, but with "Wolverine" Hood appears mismatched, uncertain as to how to activate and stylize this sprawling origin myth (sounds so much classier than "prequel") designed to showcase Jackman's arched eyebrow of rage, bare bum of destiny - at one point, naked, he darts through a waterfall and across a barnyard like a starlet in a '70s drive-in picture - and his mighty pecs of stardom.
Though they're brothers under the skin, across the centuries and behind their respective, superhuman muttonchops, Jackman and Schreiber periodically try to kill each other in "Wolverine." That's most of the plot. Screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods keep the slaughter coming (I wouldn't take anyone under 12 to this one), and every other retort pulls a variation on "Hunt him down. Take his head off." The film races around introducing this character and that one, jumping from Canada to Nigeria to Ohio to the Three Mile Island power plant, setting up the next round of impalings. "Wolverine" delivers a tremendous number of impalings. It may as well be called "X-Men Origins: Rise of the Impalings."
Those who saw the previous "X-Men" features will have little trouble sorting through the mutants here, such as teen versions of Scott "The Fire Beam" Summers and Emma Frost. But there's a rote quality to the proceedings, and director Hood shoots the action in such a way as to minimize the performers' abilities to perform it. The editing by Nicolas De Toth and Megan Gill chops each new incident of violence, along with simple one-two exposition chunks, into 12 or 15 erratic fragments. "Wolverine" has been shot, cut and packaged for those afflicted with ADHLAS which, as you may know, stands for "attention deficit hey look a squirrel!"
The performers compensate some. Here and there you get what you want from an "X-Men" prequel, thanks to the irrepressible Jackman; the slippery, can't-ever-trust-him-for-a-second Danny Huston; Lynn Collins' heartfelt, charismatic Kayla; and a wittily seething Schreiber, underplaying while overplaying - a neat trick. Across the next decade we'll no doubt see more "X-Men Origins" tales. Whoever develops them should take the time to re-view Singer's contributions to the franchise. "Wolverine" makes last summer's "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight" seem like a long time ago indeed.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity).
Running time: 1:47.
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine); Liev Schreiber (Victor Creed/Sabretooth); Danny Huston (Stryker); Dominic Monaghan (Bradley); Ryan Reynolds (Wade Wilson/Deadpool); Taylor Kitsch (Remy LeBeau/Gambit); Will.i.am (Wraith); Lynn Collins (Kayla).
Directed by Gavin Hood; written by David Benioff and Skip Woods; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, John Palermo and Jackman. A 20th Century Fox release.