Theatrical review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Alleged re-shoots, director versus studio clashes, a leaked work print sparking an FBI manhunt – the tortured journey of X-Men Origins: Wolverine to the big screen would seem to tell its own story of what to expect…

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Released: 29 April 2009
Certificate: 12a
Director: Gavin Hood
Screenwriters: David Benioff, Skip Woods
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Running Time: 107 mins

Alleged re-shoots, director versus studio clashes, a leaked work print sparking an FBI manhunt – the tortured journey of X-Men Origins: Wolverine to the big screen would seem to tell its own story of what to expect. And while far from the disaster some may be expecting from those early warning signs, the first solo outing from the X-Men franchise stays true to its troubled history. This is a film that, like its main character, is confused as to its real identity.
Faced with the conundrum of re-introducing a character who’s already been well served by the original X-Men trilogy, the filmmakers take a kitchen sink approach in the hope that something will stick. Want an origin story telling how Wolverine gets his metal claws? You got it. How about a re-imagined Sabretooth vs Wolverine slugfest? Sure thing. And while you’re at it, perhaps a mini X-Men film with a new gallery of mutants? Hell, why not.

Trouble is, Wolverine tries so hard to give fans everything they could possibly want that it barely has time to do any of them all that well. So the keenly anticipated Gambit and Deadpool are given terribly short shrift (although Reynolds’ three minutes of screen time as a pre-Deadpool Wade Wilson are worth the price of a ticket alone). Meanwhile, the intriguing family triangle of father-like creator Col Stryker (Huston), and rival siblings Sabretooth/Victor Creed (a truly menacing Schreiber) and Wolverine (a reliably committed Jackman) is never given the time it deserves.

But Wolverine’s biggest problem is that, save for a terrific opening credit sequence that zips through four wars in two minutes, and a lively introduction to the Team X band of mutants, there’s little here to get the pulse racing. For a summer blockbuster, that’s disappointing. For a Wolverine film, that’s pretty hard to forgive.

Despite a committed cast and occasional glimpses of quality, this is more X-Men: The Last Stand than X2.