Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Will i Am, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, Ryan Reynolds, Scott Adkins, Tim Pocock, Julia Blake, Max Cullen, Troye Sivan, Michael-James Olsen, Peter O'Brien, Aaron Jeffery, Alice Parkinson, Tahyna Tozzi
Written by: David Benioff, Skip Woods
Directed by: Gavin Hood
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity
Running Time: 107
Date: 04/08/2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Lost Claws

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the comics of the early 1980s, Wolverine was a mystery, a man with no past who was devoted to good but constantly wrestling between his animal instincts and his humanity. Now, thanks to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he has an origin, and he's no longer mysterious. Every comic book fan knows that origins in movies are the most boring parts, and that's the main reason that the second entries in superhero series are always the best: X2: X-Men United (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), The Dark Knight (2008), etc. But here are two full hours of origin, with all the dull exposition and half-baked dialogue that implies.

Essentially, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) grows up -- barely aging -- and fighting alongside his brother Victor (a.k.a. Sabretooth) (Liev Schreiber) in various wars. Eventually they part ways when Victor becomes too reckless and murderous. Wolvie/Logan retires to his home country of Canada with the beautiful Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), but launches back into action when Victor brutally murders her. His former boss, Col. Stryker (Danny Huston) offers to help by lacing his skeleton (and his retractable bone claws) with "adamantium," an indestructible alloy. However, there's a sinister plan behind it all.

This Wolverine no longer wrestles between his two opposing sides, since he's beholden to the unwritten Hollywood moral codes that state the hero must never kill anyone in cold blood. Oh, he gets to yell and scream from time to time, but he always pulls back at the last second. Victor never does any wrestling either; he's one of those one-dimensional, purely evil Hollywood villains that sneers and snickers and says things like "Well, well, well."

The director of this dud is Gavin Hood, who won a Best Foreign Language film Oscar for the awful Tsotsi (2005), from South Africa. He further establishes his utter disinterest in art or personality in movies by succumbing to Hollywood's siren song and sequel lust. He directs with a kind of detached soullessness, with less-than-seamless visual FX, perhaps with one eye on his paycheck. Bryan Singer came to the first two X-Men films with a love for the characters and a liberal feel for their story of intolerance. His vision is all but gone now, exchanged for a committee-approved, machine-stamped product.

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