X-Men Origins: Wolverine

cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, and Ryan Reynolds

director: Gavin Hood

103 minutes (12) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley

In The Simpsons episode Three Men And A Comic Book, Bart, Milhouse and Martin acquire a copy of ‘Radioactive Man’ #1. In it, they discover the origin of the hero’s powers. “So that’s how it happened,” they coo! Oh, the irony, for every comic-book reader knows, the hero’s origins are dealt up every issue.

Wolverine, as Chris Claremont used to tell us, is the best there is at what he does; what’s more his skeleton is laced with adamantium, the strongest metal known to man. What we never knew of course was Wolverine’s origin story. Well, after dicking around with various origins over a period of years Marvel finally settled on something like a lucid history for the character, and this film plunders the bits it wants.

My opinion hasn’t changed much since I reviewed the theatrical release except to reiterate that Wolverine is the hollow at the centre of the film. The main character is rather less here than he is in the X-Men movies. An Empire critic has suggested that the character is more intriguing with no memory, he is certainly less superficial. Hugh Jackman plays it permanently bemused.

As I said back in the day, the adamantium treatment, which should be a major scene, is over in a slash, because we have already seen it more effectively in shadowy flashback in X-Men 2. We are not really interested in how he got his leather jacket; we have already seen Indy get his hat!

claws against knives in Wolverine

So, a flawed film, but not an innately bad film; and one which I suspect will do very well for DVD sales, perhaps among those who never saw it on the big screen. Certainly not the death-knell for the comic-book movie as was suggested at the time of release. ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America’ might continue the decline, or they might not, and of course there might not even be a decline. ‘Green Hornet’ and ‘Green Lantern’ might confuse the issue. ‘Avengers’ and ‘Spider-Man four’ will almost certainly reboot the whole genre. Compressing the history of comics, the quirky little independent stories are already in production with Jonah Hex and Scott Pilgrim, Y: The Last Man, and The Losers; moving perhaps away from the conventional superhero.

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Extras on the DVDs depend on the format; there is a two-disc deluxe version and no doubt more in the pipeline. Commentary tracks, Stan Lee and Len Wein discussing character origins, Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins is a making-of featurette, and the usual deleted scenes. You pays your money… A sequel is in the pipeline, apparently.