(director: Gavin Hood; screenwriters: David Benioff/Skip Woods; cinematographer: Donald M. McAlpine; editors: Nicolas De Toth/Megan Gill; music: Harry Gregson-Williams; cast: Hugh Jackman (James Logan/Wolverine), Liev Schreiber (Victor Creed), Danny Huston (Stryker), Will.i.am (John Wraith), Lynn Collins (Kayla Silverfox), Kevin Durand (Fred Dukes), Dominic Monaghan (Bradley), Taylor Kitsch (Remy LeBeau/Gambit), Daniel Henney (Agent Zero), Ryan Reynolds (Wade Wilson/Deadpool); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Lauren Shuler Donner/Ralph Winter/Hugh Jackman/John Palermo; 20th Century Fox; 2009)

“What we get is an efficient but thinly plotted comic book violence packed story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine gets an intensified introduction in South African filmmaker Gavin Hood’s (“Tsotsi”/”Rendition”) dull-witted testosterone filled emotionally-cold action filled version of Stan Lee’s Marvel comic book prequel X-Men Origins. But there’s nothing really that interesting learned about him in this film to warrant going back to his roots. The childhood backstory trauma scenes of a sickly Logan unwittingly offing his own father do not add much to the dark psychological turf of the revenge film, that has at a later time an angry Logan waking from his slumber to become an indestructible and brooding mutant going after those who done him wrong.

What we get is an efficient but thinly plotted comic book violence packed story, where the well-choreographed CGI fight scenes and all the loud explosions give the film its comic book looks. The screenplay by David Benioff and Skip Woods leaves some messy trails since it cannot seamlessly mix action and plot into a cohesive whole.

After murdering his murderer father with knuckles that have retractable steel claws, the young Canadian James Logan in 1845 runs away from his wilderness home with his older but less stable half-brother Victor and the two will soon morph into Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) and find themselves as hardened ageless ideal soldiers of superhuman strength with plenty of wars (Civil War, WWI, WWII and Vietnam) through the decades to keep them busy (don’t ask why the Canadians are fighting America’s wars!). Recruited by the evil mysterious Major William Stryker (Danny Huston) for a covert-ops unit known as Team X, after the mean-spirited Victor killed a superior officer in ‘Nam, the brothers have a falling out over an unsavory Team X operation in Lagos that results in the senseless brutal killing of innocent civilians. Six years later, Logan is living in the backwoods of the Canadian Rockies as a humble nice guy lumberjack with his sweet Native American schoolteacher girlfriend Kayla (Lynn Collins). But Victor, whose fingernails release claws, claws Kayla to death in an effort to bring his brother back to covert ops (it doesn’t make common sense, but it makes pic sense). Seeking revenge on Victor above all else, Logan allows the reptilian Stryker to perform a top-secret experiment that will make him indestructible as a super-strong metal, adamantium, is now infused in his bones and he earns the name Wolverine. Before you know it, Logan realizes that Stryker is a sleaze and not to be trusted, as the bad dude has also removed his memory during the procedure leaving him as an amnesiac.

From hereon the film regains its comic book footing as it moves steadily into the action-thriller mode, with Logan trying to slay his brother and then befriending him again, having an exciting reunion with his former Team X operatives such as teleporter John Wraith (Will.i.am) and the prosthetically overweight Fred Dukes, aka The Blob (Kevin Durand), and using the slick New Orleans cardsharp Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) to take him to the secret island Stryker uses for his mutant experiments (a place Gambit escaped from called Three-Mile Island).

The comic book action scenes include for your mindless viewing pleasure motorcycle chases, helicopter crashes, numerous fights and explosions, impalements, and a wonderfully wrought near-decapitation.

The only question now becomes of how far on the dark side will Logan go to get his revenge, as he reflects that he’s not an animal and wants to be human.

The big budget film comes with a lot of big bang in its special effects, but shows very little imagination. It was instantly forgettable (it was like not only Wolverine had his memory erased, but so did the audience).

X-Men Origins: Wolverine