May 1, 2009 in Features

‘Wolverine’ falls short of great

Rick Bentley Fresno Bee
 

Director Gavin Hood did the best he could to bring the fourth movie in the comic book-inspired “X-Men” film series to the big screen.

The final result is good, not great.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” turns back the clock to show how the metal-clawed character – always played with power and charm by Hugh Jackman – became such an antihero.

The artistic obstacle for Hood was that the heart of the story had been revealed in the past “X-Men” movies. There’s no surprise when Wolverine gets dunked into what looks like a masochist’s bathtub and has Adamantium pumped into his body.

So, the big reveal is gone. That meant Hood had to pull together a load of small reveals to try to get the same cinematic impact.

Hood manages to keep the film from becoming summer’s biggest case of deja vu by starting with the young Logan, aka Wolverine, as he and his mutant brother Victor, aka Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber), grow up and apart.

Jackman and Schreiber, who both bulked up to play the super characters, have the skills to make an audience believe these guys love each other as much as they hate each other. Hood uses an extremely effective opening montage to establish how that mixed-message relationship developed.

The director also looked to his supporting cast to keep Wolverine’s cinematic claws sharp – an effort that was hit and miss.

Taylor Kitsch is so good as Gambit that the next origin movie should focus on his character. And Lynn Collins, who plays Logan’s love interest Kayla, doesn’t let the mostly male cast muscle her off the screen.

But Will.i.am’s turn as the mutant Wraith lacks energy. Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Deadpool is uneven. And Kevin Durand as The Blob ends up being too comical for the more serious tone of this movie.

Special effects are all over the board. Wolverine’s showdown with a helicopter and the street fight with Sabertooth are why we love summer movies so much. But that thrill gets dampened by cheesy scenes, especially when one of the characters has to climb up the side of a building.

Hood’s valiant effort to make this movie work includes a nice surprise: As has been the trend with recent movies based on Marvel characters, there is a special scene after the closing credit. In fact, Hood has created at least two different special scenes to be randomly added to the end of the movie.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” ends up being a relatively sharp way to start the summer movie season. The familiarity of the story just declaws it a bit.

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