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IN SHORT: Everything but the kitchen sink. [Rated PG-13. 108 minutes]
If you stacked the various adventures of the X-Men, with or without the mutant called Wolverine, you'd need close to thirty feet of shelf space. We own virtually all of 'em so take our word for it. That's the hard part of watching films like X-Men Origins Wolverine. We have to take all that Source Material and forget all about it. First we'll acknowledge that the character was created by Len Wein and John Romita and that most of the story of X-Men Origins Wolverine comes from stories by Marvel mutant uber-creator Chris Claremont, Weapon X creator Barry Windsor-Smith and the Origin, plotted by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada and Paul Jenkins, finished by Jenkins and artist Andy Kubert. That would be a lot of junk to work through for any writer. The X-Men Origins screenplay does a pretty good job keeping focused on events in the Western hemisphere. Fanboys wishing to see the continuing adventures of Logan in Japan are advised to buy plenty of tickets to this film and hope Hugh Jackman wants to buy another house or two. <vbg>
This origin story begins in Canada, 1845, as pubescent James Howlett (Troye Sivan) falls ill and older step-brother Victor Creed (Michael-James Olsen) gloats over his younger brother's suffering. The elder Master John Howlett (Peter O'Brien) is concerned for his boy's well-being, even as the drunken father of young Creed -- the boys share mommy, we guess -- pounds on the door and forces his way into the Howlett mansion. A battle ensues. A gun is fired. Master Howlett lies dead and young master James pops his claws for the very first time and, enraged, dispatches his step-brother's daddy. Brothers flee into the Canadian night. Then comes the American Civil War -- they fight for the North; World Wars One and Two and so on thru the war in Viet Nam, where both are executed for talking back to a superior officer. Or something. Death, in the mutant world, is a temporary thing. Both Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Creed (Liev Schreiber) get better.
Oh, Logan = Howlett = Wolverine. Where the "Logan" comes from is never explained in this film as it should be. Else we blinked and missed it. Either way, it's just another example of too much crammed in or left out of the script -- and we're barely past the opening credits, give or take. Hang on tight folks. If you've already watched the three X-Men movies, you have enough background as to mutant powers and whatnot to get you through. If not, X-Men Origins Wolverine will leave you in the dust.
Post "death" both Creed and Howlett are recruited into a super-secret team of extraordinary humans -- "mutants," if you will -- by one Col. William Stryker (Danny Huston). Also in this "Team X" are others with gifts: sword wielding killing machine Wade Wilson aka "Deadpool"(Ryan Reynolds); teleporter John Wraith (will.i.am); Chris Bradley aka "Bolt" (Dominic Monaghan), who manipulates electrical energy; and the equally vicious pair of Agent Zero, David North (Daniel Henney) and Fred J. Dukes (Kevin Durand). Their first mission, to retrieve a meteorite packed with a material to be called adamantium, leads to the slaughter of an African village and Logan quitting the team.
Dukes will proceed to pack on another 500 or 600 pounds, becoming the being fanboys love as The Blob. How the name is introduced is just one of the major spoilers ruined if you've seen the trailer. Too bad. It was a great retcon.
Six years later, a much happier man is living in sin with the lovely school marm Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), somewhere in Canadian logging country. Kayla tells Logan a native story of the Moon and the Wolverine. A couple of days later the now homicidal maniac Creed finds his brother and wreaks havoc. [oh, you figure it out] Seeking revenge, Logan submits to a process that bonds adamantium to his skeleton . He will be the tenth experiment in this process -- Weapon X, if you will. From here on out we'll not explain a second more of story, except to mention additional appearances by fan fave Remy "Gambit" LeBeau (Taylor Kitsch) -- who can energize playing cards and things and make 'em blow up real good -- as well as a teenaged Scott Summers (Tim Pocock) and Kayla's sister Emma Frost (Tahyna Tozzi). Forget that Frost looks nothing like the native American that Silverfox is. Both are captive of Stryker down the line, along with a couple of younger versions of other mutants from the X-Men movies, and all are way secondary to anything interesting.
Lest any fanboy think this film is just a rehash of what's come before in Marvel comics; we've never heard of "Weapon XI" -- and we're not going to credit the actor either, lest we spoil the twist that someone has likely plastered all over the 'net by now. It isn't all that big a deal given that the overall film has run out of steam long before a climactic battle . . . like we have to explain that as well? We didn't think so.
Fanboy anticipation aside, X-Men Origins Wolverine is a great disappointment. If you know nothing going in, you'll know even less coming out. If you expected this film to pick up and continue down the path laid down in the X-Men trilogy, this prequel will not satisfy (even if it does tie in to the very beginnings of X-Men movie continuity).
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he would have paid . . .
As review proof a film as you can get, it's still a mess and a let down. You're better off buying the book at the link below.
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