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Sunday, May 3, 2009

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

By D.E.Levine

Director: Gavin Hood
Producer: Lauren Shuler Donner
Executive Producer: Richard Donner
Screenplay: David Benoff and Skip Woods
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will I Am, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kittsch, Daniel Henney, Ryan Reynolds, Scott Adkins, Tim Pocock, Julia Blake, Max Cullen, Troye Sivan
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Thriller
Country of Origin: USAaction
Language: English
Running Time: 107 Minutes

2009 is turning out to be the year of the prequel. With a huge cast, many stunning special effects, and a cast of already established characters played by recognizable actors, X-Men Origins: Wolverine sets out to explain the earlier films about X-Men and how they got their start fighting evil.

Starting in the mid-1850s, we follow James Logan and his brother Victor Creed run away from home after James kills their biological father. James and Victor fight and live through the great wars (the Civil War to the present) in some large and spectacular action scenes.

Recruited by William Stryker to serve in a special unit composed of mutants, Logan becomes disgusted by Stryker's greed and inhumanity. Logan quits the unit and goes to live in the Canadian Rockies with his girlfriend (Silver Fox), working as a lumberjack and severing all contact with his brother and other members of the unit.

After six years Stryker shows up and tries to lure Logan back into a special Weapon XI project. Logan wants no part of it until his brother Creed arrives and murders his girlfriend. Overcome with grief and anger, Logan agrees to work with Stryker and be infused experimentally with the adamantium metal, which is intended to make him indestructible and allow him to avenge his girlfriend's murder.

However, there is evidently no honor among murderers and Logan is double crossed by Stryker after the process is a success and he assumes the identity of Wolverine. While still underwater in the process tank he hears Strykers plans, breaks out and hides at a nearby farm.

Befriended by the elderly couple who own the farm, the writers quickly build Wolverine's background, explaining his motivation, state of mind and even the clothes that become associated with him.

Logan and a few members of the old team reunite and learn that Stryker and Creed are actually working together to kidnap and imprison mutants. Teaming with John Wraith, Logan and Wraith set out for New Orleans to find Remy LeBeau, aka Gambit, the only mutant to ever escape from Stryker's prison.

After a well choreographed fight, Logan gets Gambit to agree to take him to Three Mile Island, where Stryker is imprisoning mutant children with the help of the US government. Logan confronts Styker and learns that Silver Fox is still alive and that she too is a mutant who Stryker used to manipulate Logan into complacency.

Shattered by the truth, Logan decides to leave them all behind but returns to rescue Silver Fox when he hears her screams after Creed promises to really kill her this time after she tries to get Stryker to free her sister, another mutant imprisoned on the Island.

The battle between Weapon XI, Creed and Logan is violent and impressive. During this battle we see, the mutant children flee to safety and the two brothers fight each other and Weapon XI from the inside of the prison to the top of a nuclear reactor.

By the end of this film, we are finally at the beginning of the story of the other X-Men films. It's obvious that Jackman worked hard on his body so that his transformation to Wolverine would be startling and impressive. Schreiber is pure evil, murderous toward his brother and everyone else and actually quite terrifying.

The story has unexpected twists and turns and the special effects are remarkable. The writers have cleverly woven together characters and incidents to explain the other X-Men characters and how they became who they are.

The script isn't great but the audience isn't looking for great drama. Jackman looks great but regardless of how buff and stunning he is in certain scenes, Jackman is many years older than the character he initially portrayed in the earlier films which are meant to be chronologically later.

Undoubtedly fans will overlook these flaws since X-Men is a huge franchise with a worldwide following and it has consistently topped the box office in the U.S. and abroad since opening. This prequel opens the door for additional films in the series and broadens the character base while retaining some of the well known favorite characters.