“Wolverine” like its star Jackman is a crowd pleaser
Rumor has it the filmmakers of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” were a little concerned about the box office potential of this fourth installment of the hugely popular superhero franchise. They were kidding right? With each of the three previous adaptations out-grossing its predecessor, a film featuring arguably the most beloved of the X-Men-Wolverine-is as sure a bet as Hollywood can release.
While not on the genre-changing level of last year’s “Dark Knight,” or the impeccably well written “Iron Man,” the latest X-Men film rides the talented and muscular coattails of Hugh Jackman, its magnificently charismatic star. His acting chops, not to mention his character’s lambchops, lend the film the right dose of heft and empathy and camouflage a rather straightforward (some would say formulaic) screenplay.
Those of us who think a superhero’s backstory is the most interesting component of this type of film will enjoy the nearly two hours’ worth they’ll get here. The film opens with a terrific montage of Wolverine (Jackman) and his mutant brother Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) fighting side-by-side in a series of battles dating from the Civil War up through Vietnam.
The story doesn’t quite explain why, as young boys, they were born with feral accoutrements, or why they stopped aging. But that doesn’t detract from the heightened intensity of the film’s superb action sequences, which thankfully are adequately truncated and don’t overstay their welcome. Occasional sarcastic one-liners, many delivered by the character “Deadpool” (Ryan Reynolds, who has far too little screen time), keep the proceedings from being too self-serious.
Seeking isolation as a lumberjack in remote Canada, Logan (Jackman) appears perfectly content to live out his days tempering his carnivorous powers with his female companion Kayla (Lynn Collins). But soon enough his past catches up to him, and he’s asked to join a special forces team by Col. William Stryker (Danny Huston, playing a younger version of the character portrayed by Brian Cox in previous films). A personal tragedy provides all the motivation for revenge he’ll need.
The film doesn’t delve deeply into the political complexities of mutants the way the previous installments did, and while the effects are workmanlike there is nothing here that demands a second viewing. In a sense, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is content to play to the masses, and it might disappoint its comic book fanboy base that will likely demand more.
But there is no shame in being a crowd pleaser, and Jackman and Schreiber-who played a similar brotherly foil role in the excellent “Defiance”-deliver the snarling, sibling goods and make the film thoroughly enjoyable, if not memorable.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.