Hints and glimpses aside, the movie version of Wolverine has been a mystery, a man with no past devoted to good but constantly wrestling between his animal instincts and his humanity. Now, thanks to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he has an origin, and he’s no longer mysterious. Every comic-book fan knows that origins in movies are the most boring parts, and that’s why the second entries in superhero series are always the best: X2, Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, etc. But here are nearly two full hours of origin, with all the dull exposition and half-baked dialogue that implies.
Essentially, Wolverine (Jackman) grows up—barely aging—and fights alongside his brother Victor, aka Sabretooth (Schreiber), in various wars. Eventually they part ways when Victor becomes too reckless and murderous. Wolvie retires to his home country of Canada with the beautiful Kayla Silverfox (Collins), but launches back into action when Victor brutally murders her. His former boss, Col. Stryker (Huston), offers to help by lacing Wolvie’s skeleton (and his retractable bone claws) with “adamantium,” an indestructible alloy. However, there’s a sinister plan behind it all.
This Wolverine no longer wrestles between his two opposing sides, since he’s beholden to the unwritten Hollywood moral codes that state the hero must never kill anyone in cold blood. Oh, he gets to yell and scream from time to time, but he always pulls back at the last second. Victor never does any wrestling, either; he’s one of those one-dimensional, purely evil Hollywood villains who sneers and snickers and says things like “Well, well, well.”
The director of this dud is Gavin Hood, who won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2006 for the awful Tsotsi, from South Africa. He further establishes his utter disinterest in art or personality in movies by succumbing to Hollywood’s siren song and sequel lust. He directs with a kind of detached soullessness, with less-than-seamless visual effects, perhaps with one eye on his paycheck. Bryan Singer came to the first two X-Men films with a love for the characters and a liberal feel for their story of intolerance. His vision is all but gone now, exchanged for a committee-approved, machine-stamped product.