The story begins in 1845 with two brothers with some sort of "gift," who bond via patricide and roam through a montage of wars-Civil War, WWI & II and Vietnam. Never aging past 30 or so, it becomes apparent however that these brothers have very dissimilar attitudes. Logan aka "Wolverine" (Hugh Jackman) has a conscience whereas Victor aka "Sabretooth" (Liev Shreiber) regales in flaring tempers, death and destruction. Wolverine has bones that grow out between his knuckles like swords, uncanny superhuman strength and can ingest bullets into his system while his wounds heal. Ditto for Sabretooth, but he just grows fingernails. After surviving execution in 'Nam, Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston) helps them start a new life in a rag-tag mercenary band of thugs.
When their missions become too sadistic, Wolverine decides to quit the team. Turning his back on the bloodshed, he walks off into the woods. Of course, "no one leaves the team" and the evil Stryker has other plans. Thus begins phase two of the saga wherein the brothers are pitted against each other. Wolverine is then duped with a revenge motive into becoming a science project to be filled with "adamantium" (strongest alloy in the world) and "more pain than he'll ever endure" thus becoming an indestructible force to be reckoned with. Stryker melodramatically informs Logan, "First we destroy you, then make you indestructible." This backfires, of course, and they spend the rest of the movie trying to destroy him.
Director Gavin Hood (known for his South African drama Tsotsi) seems estranged from the action for this CGI punch-fest extravaganza. It seems like Hood just got to push buttons. It's a very disjointed flick with a similar feel of John Woo's helming of Mission Impossible 2: a great foreign director seemingly boxed in by influential American producers. Whereas Tsotsi was loaded with empathy and humanity, Wolverine creates a vacuum-there's an attempt at something deeper, but it's swallowed whole by the plot inconsistencies and special effects. Some of the more high-end action scenes seem to fall short or even slow down. Sure it's explosively loud, yet it seems empty, lacking imagination.
The actors clearly enjoyed embodying their mutant characters. Jackman does his brooding best to seethe, holler and flex and you can pretty much relate to his pain. After his Oscar stint I couldn't help but be amazed at the range of this guy and the weird roles he plays. Danny Huston is overused, spending too much time on the villainous scientist. The dichotomy of Huston's character just never pans out. With his one minute nice guy then evil the next, his portrayal just sort of lays in limbo. Shreiber is a big ham, reprising his evil wisecracking tone in Phantoms. Face it, constant rage and sarcasm gets old quick.
As the first of the X-Men Origins movies, Wolverine becomes an exercise in how many mutants can be introduced, yet never explained. The film remains too open ended even as it's shackled to sequels and predecessors. Judging by the sea of mutants, I have a feeling the X-Men Origins movies are going to be around for a long time. I don't know if I'm going to live long enough to see the end of this franchise, or if I'll care by the time I'm 90.
X-men Origins: Wolverine ★★✩✩✩
Starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Shriber, Danny Huston. Directed by: Gavin Hood