After the fiasco that was X-3 it’s nice to report that Wolverine is a relatively inoffensive addition to the X-Men franchise, although well below the standard of X-Men never mind X-2.
The film opens brilliantly with a startling credits sequence in which Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and his brother Victor (Liev Schreiber) fight in the American army from the Civil War right up to Vietnam, taking full advantage of their healing abilities and animalistic claws and strength. However as Victor becomes psychotic Logan becomes disillusioned with their military mutant unit led by Major William Stryker (Danny Huston). Retreating to the wilds of Canada the film begins a heroic use of cliché above and beyond the call of duty as Logan becomes a lumberjack and settles down with his girlfriend Kayla. This will never do, we need to get our reluctant hero into the second act for action set-pieces, so insert the relevant names and events into this universally applicable Hollywood scene:
‘The Man’ arrives and urges ‘Our Hero’ to come back and do ‘That Thing’.
“No, I’ll never do ‘That Thing’. I’ve built ‘A New Life’ for myself here”
“This isn’t you, ‘Hero’, ‘That Thing’ is the real you. Forget our quarrel and think about the ‘Others in Peril’”.
“It’s your fault they’re in peril, ‘You fix it’”.
Exit ‘The Man’.
Then ‘Something Awful Happens’ and ‘Our Hero’ realises it was because he was being ‘Selfish’ so he joins ‘The Man’ to do…‘That Thing’.
It’s surprising that Gavin Hood, director of acclaimed South African drama Tsotsi, sacrifices depth for such clichés. There are times when this film resembles a bad episode of Smallville, especially a bizarre sequence that begins when Wolverine streaks in front of a truck driven by what appears to be Jonathan and Martha Kent. We’re introduced to a rake of characters who are killed off almost at random, but we don’t care about their deaths because the unwieldy cast is so badly under-used. Only Danny Huston, who delivers another charismatic turn as Stryker, manages to make an impression. Liev Schreiber is mis-cast as Victor, relying on a trench-coat to create menace when co-star Kevin Durand is the one with the appropriately intimidating physique, while Gambit’s long awaited appearance is tragically underwritten.
Wolverine has a number of amusing moments and clever references to the comics, and, of the two plot twists, the second is actually quite clever, but it’s too little too late and in any case is ruined by the ever audible creaking of the plot mechanics. Above all the film suffers from prequelitis. We know the characters that survive into the X-Men films which removes any tension from scenes involving them in peril. One lengthy and allegedly tense sequence already appeared in X-2 and as Logan and Victor are equally matched and can’t die anyway their various clashes are pointless. Unveiling Deadpool with minutes to go smacks of desperation (and is even more of a waste than Venom in Spider-Man 3) and his horrific appearance is dwarfed by a cameo which is either CGI enhanced make-up or total CGI but terrifyingly it’s hard to tell which…
Hugh Jackman whoops it up as Wolverine but truthfully comics great Mark Millar has written more interesting Wolverine stories than this in his sleep. A missed opportunity.