X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Much like Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine provided the vital tough-guy ingredient in the popular X-Men movies. Laconic and individualistic, the appealing Wolverine stood head and shoulders above the rest of his spandex-clad superhero team, with comic-book creators Marvel inevitably providing him with this spin-off vehicle to further stretch his claws.
Proficiently directed by Gavin Hood, an Oscar-winner with his South African drama Tsotsi, X-Men Origins: Wolverine explores a politically correct back-story for Jackman’s mutant, who sports a concealed exo-skeleton which provides him with not only a formidable physique, but also a pair of retractable and highly lethal metal claws. After a prologue set in the 1850s, Hood’s credit sequence features Logan (Jackman) and his brother Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) blazing a Highlander-style trail through several generations of conventional warfare, including the American Civil War, the Normandy landings and Vietnam, only to part company in disgust after a bloody massacre in an African village.
This elaborate sequence sympathetically explains our hirsute hero’s reluctance to fight by positioning Logan/Wolverine as the bleeding-heart conscience of America at war, putting him at odds not only with his headstrong brother, but also with US army honcho William Stryker (Danny Huston) and the Mutant X special-ops programme that seeks to harness their powers. David Benioff’s script cannily engineers the deaths of Logan’s allies at regular intervals, ensuring our hero is motivated less by patriotism than by old-fashioned revenge, dished out through helicopter action in the Canadian Rockies, a Bourbon Street fight, and a final face-off among the irradiating ruins of Three Mile Island.
Devotees of the mythology featured in the X-Men comic strip and film may well take issue with the piecemeal treatment Hood and Benioff offer to minor characters such as Gambit (Taylor Kitch) and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), but the focus here is firmly on Wolverine, with Jackman playing down his usual camp charms in favour of a cigar-chomping sneer that wouldn’t disgrace Clint Eastwood. Despite its unwieldy title, transcends its origins to provide the kind of confidently handled action-blockbuster that gives mindless Hollywood entertainment a good name.
General release, Wed 29 Apr.