X-Men Origins: Wolverine -- 2 stars

Directed by Gavin Hood. May 2009, USA. Rated PG-13: 107 min.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 5/7/2009)

After the slew of quality superhero films in 2008, this year is sure to disappoint. Sure, March saw the long-awaited release of Watchmen, but other than that, all comics fans get in ’09 is director Gavin Hood’s mediocre prequel to the X-Men trilogy: Wolverine. Poor writing and lifeless action sequences plague Hugh Jackman’s return as the bestial title character with a colossal chip on his shoulder.

Little time is wasted taking us from 1845 to the near present, with mutant brothers James Logan and Victor Creed (eventually Wolverine and Sabretooth) running away from their home in the Northwest Territories to become soldiers in most American military endeavors from the Civil War to Vietnam. William Stryker, a U.S. special agent, discovers their uncanny talents, and they enlist in Weapon X, an elite squadron of men with superhuman powers. Years pass, and a schism forms between Logan and Victor when the former abandons the group to seek a life of peace and normalcy. Enraged, Victor stalks his brother, committing a heinous act Logan counters by allowing Stryker to bond adamantium to his bones — making him nearly indestructible — and plotting revenge. Gambit and Deadpool’s cameos — major points of anticipation for comics devotees — are too short to be of real substance (Gambit doesn’t even speak with a Creole accent), and Professor X’s quick appearance toward the end is laughable for its obvious use of CGI to make Patrick Stewart look young. Wolverine’s claws look totally fake, and his personality is just as poorly drawn. Though his character was a lovable highlight of the X-Men films and certainly the comics, this Wolverine lacks any kind of wit or charisma. He mainly just broods, howls and kills.

Further adding to the film’s detriment were blatant rip-offs of famous scenes from Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix and 300. In many ways, Wolverine didn’t seem to be a cohesive film but instead a series of betrayals and explosions that we should care about but don’t. Let’s hope next year’s Iron Man II makes up for this film’s sad lack of creativity.