The X-Men franchise has been so successful, and it has made Hugh Jackman a superstar, that it's just a matter of time before Jackman tries to capitalize on it. Fans of Wolverine and his mythology may welcome the arrival of this film.
James Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schrieber) are two brothers from the late 19th century. The brothers are mutants with special power to heal themselves, thus they're immortal. They live through over a hundred years of wars as soldiers, until they're recruited by General William Stryker (Danny Huston) who knows about their abilities.
Stryker has organized a special force made of mutants including John Wraith (Will i Am), The Blob (Kevin Durand), Bolt (Dominic Monaghan), Zero (Daniel Henney), and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds). The special unit is a military secret and that suits the brothers well. But soon Logan realizes the true mercenary nature of the team, and he walks out.
Six years later, Victor (now known as Sabretooth) tracks down the former team and kills them. Eventually, he finds Logan and destroys his quiet life. Seeking revenge, Logan teams up with Stryker, who is heading a secret project. Stryker convinces Logan that the treatment would make Logan indestructible, and he shall have his revenge. Thus, Logan successful becomes Weapon X, and the X-Men are born...
The character Wolverine made Hugh Jackman (Australia) a star, and he doesn't disappoint by reprising this role. Jackman is a versatile actor -- he can sing and dance as one of Hollywood's most dashing leading men, or he can be rough and gruff as an outcast. As Wolverine, Jackman has both the physicality and intensity to pull it off. However, something is lacking in his portrayal this time around. The humor is gone. The role is way too serious and we just want to say, "Hey, pal, relax, or you're going to bust a gut."
Liev Schreiber (Defiance) is rather one-note as Victor/Sabretooth. Sure, he's menacing and arrogant and ruthless, but that's about it. He and Jackman are supposed to share a great brotherly bond but I just don't feel it. To me, they may as well be complete strangers, instead of two men who have spent over a hundred years together. On the other hand, Danny Huston (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) is very good as Stryker. However, once again, his character is underwritten and one-dimensional.
The remaining cast doesn't really have much to do. Rapper Will i Am is fine as John Wraith but his role is simply too peripheral. Lynn Collins (The Lake House) is also fine as Logan's girlfriend Kayla. Kevin Durand (Winged Creatures) has some fun donning a fat suit as Blob. Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings) seems out of place in the testosterone-fueled action flick. Taylor Kitsch (The Covenant) has a better chance to show his stuff as Gambit. Korean actor Daniel Henney (Ma-i pa-deo) is sharp as Agent Zero. Ryan Reynolds' (Definitely, Maybe) talent is wasted in a small, one-dimensional role as Wade/Deadpool.
Written by David Benioff (The Kite Runner) and Skip Woods (Hitman), the screenplay is the weakest link in the production. The story starts strong with a brief prologue and back stories, but as the plot develops, it becomes more and more convoluted and implausible. Often, the characters' motivation is murky and unconvincing -- it seems they're only acting as pawns to move the plot along. Certain plot elements and twists are outrageous, cliched or illogical. The dialogue is typical and exposition-heavy. The ending is anticlimactic: yes, we know they have to set up the sequel and the rest of the X-Men mythology, but the denouement just goes on for too long.
The biggest issue I have with the film is the lack of real character development. The focus is on Logan/Wolverine -- and that's fine. But we need to know more about him. He's supposed to be a tragic hero, but all we see is just angst and naiveté. As for the other characters, especially Victor/Sabretooth, there is almost no character development. And no real relationships between these characters either. Logan and Victor are supposed to be brothers in arm, but the relationship is unconvincing.
Technically speaking, Wolverine is adequate but not at all spectacular. Under Gavin Hood's (Rendition) skillful direction, the movie moves along with good pace, and there are enough action to keep the fans happy. The special effects seem cheesy and cheap at times, however. The action is good, however, and should please the fans.
Over all, I think Wolverine is disappointing. Granted, it probably delivers what the fans are looking for: great stunts, action, adventure, intrigue. But it lacks what really makes the X-Men series fun: character development, sharp dialogue, coherent plot. We also realize that as great as Wolverine is, he is not enough. We miss the other X-Men, sorely.
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will i Am, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, Ryan Reynolds, Scott Adkins
Director: Gavin Hood
Writers: David Benioff, Skip Woods
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, partial nudity
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 5.8 out of 10