The thing about Hugh Jackman and this movie is that he’s rightly People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” as he jumps off a waterfall naked. From a woman’s standpoint, it is almost worth the 12-dollar ticket and popcorn just seeing his untanned tushy running across a farmyard.
But from a man’s standpoint, director Gavin Hood (“Rendition”) packs a one-two punch into “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the prequel to the previous three X-Men movies. Brimming with action scene after action scene and special effects to keep your eyes entertained from an otherwise holey plot line, Hood presents a well-made, well-packaged (though not as greatly written) film to jump-start summer movies.
The film begins on a cliché dark and stormy night in 1845 in the Northwest Territories of Canada, with James Howlett (Troye Sivan), the boy who would be Logan/Wolverine (Jackman), severely ill. A family conflict forces young Logan’s bone-claws to take blood and run away with his half-brother, Victor Creed, or the future Sabretooth.
Within about 20 minutes, we run into Logan and Victor (Liev Schreiber) combating side-by-side through the Civil War, World War I, World War II and eventually the Vietnam War. Why two Canadians choose to do such a thing is uncertain — perhaps it was just to incorporate some good old fashioned, masculine fun.
Victor’s actions send the two to face the firing squad only to alert the government that they are indestructible, and they are recruited onto a brotherhood band of mutants masterminded by a young William Stryker (Danny Huston). Sensing that something bad was brewing, Logan abandons his half-brother and the team.
Six years later, Logan finds himself often a shirtless logger living in the Canadian wilderness with his sinewy girlfriend, Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). His refusal to cooperate when Stryker reappears results in personal tragedy for Logan, who in his agony flexes his muscles and grunts up at the sky. He follows Stryker’s devious plan to the tee, and voila! No more bone-claws for Wolverine.
However, there is more trouble ahead as Stryker has been readily collecting mutants for their traits in order to make a super-mutant. Weapon XI, also known as Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), including those of Cyclops, whose laser eyes can shoot through anything but your standard red, Elton-John-esque sunglasses. Then follows a series of long-winded fights that will surely tickle the action bone of the male population. It almost becomes a game of how many times you can stage a conflict involving Logan and Victor. And the answer is many times.
While this franchise builds on one of Marvel Comics’ favorite characters, Logan’s character itself isn’t very fleshed out. Sure, we follow him through this journey that ultimately connects us to the first three films, with the ever amazing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) rescuing Stryker’s hostage mutants via helicopter, but Logan himself is essentially a bunch of one-liners, a handful of animal noises and a lot of bulging muscles. It’s also difficult to really understand where the sympathy for his character or any vulnerability can arise when it comes to someone who can never really get hurt and who virtually can never die.
Also, for the nit-picky critics, a lot of questions arise — how is it that Logan can age only to Hugh Jackman’s exact age? Why was Deadpool, with all his powers, actually kind of lame?
But really, this film is meant to entertain, via impressive special effects and action sequences featuring mutants never seen on screen before. While he certainly doesn’t match the level of summer smash comic book superheroes such as Batman or Superman, Jackman as Wolverine does the deed. And in comparison to the last two movies in the X-Men series, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” though a tad too much show and not enough tell, is a gem.
And if you’re a die-hard fan, or if this movie hits you in the right spot, don’t forget to stick around after the credits to see which secret ending your theater has.