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Sharper than Ginsu knives: Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Bad to the Adamantium Bone

By Ann Morrow

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Directed by Gavin Hood

Brawny Logan, the X-Men anti hero known as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), was a helluva soldier in the Civil War. That’s right, long before he volunteered for the Weapon X program run by duplicitous military scientist Col. Stryker (Danny Huston), Wolverine was exercising his constitutional mutant abilities, such as retractable bone claws and a preternatural “healing factor.” (He can perpetually regenerate, in other words.) He also keeps his mutant brother-in-arms, Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber), from getting carried away with the rape-and-pillage privileges of warfare.

Filmed as a series of montages and slow-mo dioramas, the opening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine atmospherically sets up the prequel to the X-Men movie franchise. The brooding and ferocious soldier of circumstance (given a potent dose of matinee-idol charisma by Jackman) gets his own backstory here, in the years before the mutant-ethics conflicts between the various X-Men. The battle for conscientious control in Origins is between Logan and Victor, who has even greater animalistic powers but lacks Logan’s rational humanism. Amid the standard-issue, special-powers special effects and Stryker’s mad-scientist machinations, it’s mostly up to Wolverine and Victor’s incarnation as Sabretooth to distinguish Origins from the recent deluge of superhero movies. And occasionally, they do.

It’s noticeable that Gavin Hood—director of the Oscar-nominated South African drama Tsotsi as well as the execrable CIA-torture thriller Rendition—was influenced by these movies more than the Marvel comics, as there’s barely an original flourish to be found. Wolverine’s trademark glower and deltoid- popping shoulder extensions get their close-ups several times; fortunately, Sabretooth’s fang-revealing sneer and Schreiber’s confidently throwaway acting add a mouthful to the proceedings. Among the original X-Men phalanx are Bolt (Dominic Monaghan), the human electrical outlet; Zero (Daniel Henney), a samurai gunslinger and Stryker’s henchman; and Dead Pool (Ryan Reynolds), whose powers are undefined but who utters the film’s most unintentionally memorable line: “OK, people are dead.” The mutant soldiers kill people dead in Africa, where they recover a meteor chunk that’s involved in the adamantium skeleton that turns Logan into Wolverine. But that happens after his idyllic escape into the Pacific Northwest with Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), who meets the usual fate of girlfriends of renegade superheroes, and before his encounter with Gambit (charismatic newcomer Taylor Kitsch) and his magical walking sticks. Out of all the X-Men cameos, including a glimpse of the young Cyclops, only Gambit makes enough of an impression to warrant an expanded role in a possible prequel sequel.

Despite its clichés, Origins picks up steam as it goes along, dispersing bits of personal information about Lo gan and sneaking in some twists that compensate for the inane dialogue. The climactic showdown occurs at Three Mile Island, a nifty nod to the nuclear fears that inspired the Marvel series.


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