X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (Dir. Gavin Hood, 2009)
Warning: This review may contain Spoilers!
The title would best befit a comic book; I know that's the point but it's clumsy as a movie title even for a big blustery comic book movie like this.
No one will use the full title though, I'm sure as Hell not planning on on using it again from this point onward. The film itself gets off to a clumsy start with a cold opening set in 1800's Canada with our wolfish hero as a kid (Troye Sivan) witnessing his father's murder, or who he thought was his father - you see, it's complicated. The kid has the infamous bone claws which can protrude from his knuckles at will and he's working on the screaming: "no!!!" at the sky in a ascending camera crane shot, something he'll be an ace at a lot later in life.
Lil' wolf boy and his likewise indestructible brother (Michael-James Olsen) run off into the night and into seemingly every war in history as they grow into Hugh Jackman and the fierce growling Leiv Scheiber. This montage credits sequence recalls the jaunty sweep through time opening that WATCHMEN employed but here it comes off as more then a little forced.
After surviving a military style execution, the brothers, one good and one bad (guess which is which) are recruited by Danny Huston as a conniving Colonel who is putting together an elite team of mutant folk for a mysterious mission.
The supernaturally skilled group (including Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan, Kevin Durand, and John Wraith) is immediately too much of a kill crazy crew for Jackman and he quits to live a normal life as a lumberjack in his home country. After 6 years of peace with a school teacher girlfriend (Lynn Collins) in an idyllic cabin in the mountains, Huston again appears to warn our constantly scowling protagonist that his former team mates are being hunted down and murdered one by one.
We know, of course, that it's Sabretooth Scheiber and that a huge confrontation fight set piece is coming with him. It's one high octane fuelled fight action scene after another and, yeah, that's what I expected with all the players in place and the pulse pumping perfectly but inspiration was sorely lacking.
There was not a single shot that surprised or excited me. The tried and true frantically running, or at one point walking casually, away from a gigantic explosion shot has been done so many times that it's beyond redundant here (you'd think that the countless Simpsons satires of said effect would've killed off this cliché). The plot is pretty standard stuff too with themes like revenge and betrayal banally balancing everybody's motivation.
Still, the tone of the previous X-MEN movies is replicated convincingly and I'm sure many will find plenty of worth between the lines. Jackman undoubtedly owns the role with a presence that grows in every scene while the dynamic between him and Scheiber has a effective edge albeit being far from fleshed out.
Because of the foul stench of early bad reviews I went in with low expectations and that definitely helped. It's not a badly made or boring movie by any means, just a mediocre super hero movie throwaway that I believe only fanboys will remember with much affection in the near future.
Post note: Incidentely Scheiber and Huston have both played Orson Welles in previous projects. They're both listed on a post I did a year ago about Welles wannabes (May 5th, 2008).