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X-Men Origins: Wolverine(2009)
'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' tells the story of Wolverine's epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed, and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe.
For more about X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray release, see the X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray Review
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand
Director: Gavin Hood
» See full cast & crew
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray Review
“I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do isn’t very nice.”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 16, 2009
No matter how great Wolverine could've/should've been, it would've inevitably come as a disappointment to both the blockbuster-loving public and the veritable legion of more discerning comic book connoisseurs. Why? Because 2008 was something of a banner year for superheroes. Batman seethed and growled though the epic arc of The Dark Knight—the Godfather: Part II of comic book movies—and Heath Ledger's tragic presence, not to mention his brilliant A Clockwork Orange-inspired performance, gave the film a gravity not usually associated with the crowded capes 'n underoos genre. Then there was Iron Man, which upped the intelligence quotient of big, dumb fun with an injection of snarky smart-juice, courtesy of Robert Downey, Jr, whose resurrected career was skyrocketing just as high as his metal-clad character. Toss Watchmen into the mix in early '09, and you can see how Wolverine simply couldn't compete. I was one of those guys who totally avoided the film in theaters—too many friends and critics told me not to bother—so I was anxious to review Wolverine once it hit Blu-ray. And while I found that the film is not quite as bad as I had expected it to be, it offers little new to both the character of Wolverine and the comic book film genre in general.
As Marvel's first in a planned line of "origin" stories, Wolverine appropriately starts back in 1845, when our hero is but a sickly pup in the wilds of Canada. Young James Howlett—get it, Howlett—unexpectedly sprouts spiny, bone-like claws in rage when the man he thinks is his father is killed by the man who actually is his father. It makes sense on screen, I promise. After murdering his real dad with a fist-first bum-rush, James runs off with his similarly mutated half-brother Victor Creed. The credit sequence shows the two taking part in one hundred years of conflict, from the regimented lines of the Civil War, all the way through to the horrors of Vietnam. The purpose of this is two-fold; we realize that the brothers have stuck together for over a century, but we also see them subtly growing apart. Played by Hugh Jackman for the fourth time now, James—now known as Logan—tries to rein in his animal nature, while his bro Victor (Liev Schreiber) lets loose with his primal instincts. The story begins in earnest when the two face the firing squad and, not unexpectedly, live to tell the tale.
In hindsight, there's more character development in this opening sequence than there is in the rest of the film, and I found myself wanting a movie that was solely about Wolverine facing down Confederates at Gettysburg, slogging through the trenches of WWI, or storming the beaches of Normandy. Instead, what follows is a fairly bland storyline that hits all the expected plot points. After being recruited by Major William Stryker (Danny Huston, taking over for X2's Brian Cox), Logan and Victor join Team X, a mutant paramilitary unit that includes sharpshooter Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), "Merc with a Mouth" Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), teleporter John Wraith (will.i.am), hefty brawler Fred Dukes (Kevin Duran), and technopath Chris Bradley (Dominic Monaghan). When things get a little too heavy in a Nigerian village, Logan splits for Canada, where he takes up with Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins) and begins a stress-free life as a lumberjack. The peace is short-lived, of course, and when Victor murders Kayla to get his brother's attention, Logan agrees to become a test subject for now-Colonel Stryker's experimental weapon's program. Infused with indestructible adamantium, Logan is reborn as Wolverine and goes questing for his half-brother's blood. Naturally, loyalties flip flop like newly caught fish on a dock, and after some help from fan-favorite Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), a betrayal or two, and a stand-off with mutant-killer Deadpool, we arrive at a somewhat clumsily executed segue into the first X-Men movie.
While a marketing blitz hyped up Wolverine as the first big blockbuster of the summer, rumors simultaneously circulated about conflicts between director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) and Fox execs. The word is that Hood wanted to explore Logan's post-traumatic stress disorder—an understandable side-effect of a century at war—but the suits upstairs thought broad audiences might be bored. Hence, a story that is about, well, nothing really. The character offers so many thematic possibilities, but the film's cluttered narrative never allows Jackman the opportunity to really explore the beast within. Aside from a thinly developed thread about sibling loyalty and rivalry, there's really nothing holding the film together on a conceptual level. All we get are big explosions and little character development, tangles of mutants slicing and dicing one another over the 107-minute span of a strait-shot plot. Yet, even the action is uninspired. Aside from a thrilling helicopter showdown—the film's carefully crafted centerpiece—the action sequences are empty displays of wire-fu wizardry and overly choreographed claw-blocking. Certainly nothing we haven't seen before.
The performances are much better, but with a more focused script these characters could have had a lot more dramatic heft. Though it would be tempting to slip lazily back into the role like a comfy old shoe, Hugh Jackman keeps his ferocity up as Wolverine, putting more growl into it than ever. Having bulked up significantly from 2006's The Last Stand, Jackman is a staggering physical presence here, and it's impressive to see him go from the song 'n dance showmanship of a night at the Oscars to a burly, barroom brawler who isn't afraid to fight dirty. The man definitely has versatility. Liev Schreiber is the perfect foil as the nascent Sabretooth, and the two men have a genuine brotherly chemistry. As an older brother myself, I totally empathized when Sabretooth pulls Deadpool off of Wolverine and says, "No one kills you but me." And, of course, I'm interested in seeing what Ryan Reynolds does with the in-development Deadpool spin-off. I hesitate to give Wolverine too brutal a thrashing—it's entertaining, if never inventive—but not even a hulking Hugh Jackman can heave the film out of the shadow of the previous year's cinematic comic book accomplishments.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray, Video Quality
Wolverine goes into berserker rage on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. I'm not going to lie—the issues that so many people mentioned during the theatrical release are still here, clearly defined in high definition. Of course, I'm talking about the occasionally all-too-obvious CGI. There are a handful of phony-baloney CG inserts—most involving Wolverine's claws—and some of the green screen work is painfully obvious. That said, this is a review of the film's transfer, not the special effects, and as such, I just have to say that the film looks great on Blu-ray. The color palette is rich and vibrant, with a good sense of contrast overall and skin tones that are pleasingly warm. The picture can also be exceptionally sharp at times. Just check out Jackman's face as he sits in military prison—each pore, crease, and drop of sweat is rendered clearly. There are a few soft moments, specifically some of the long landscapes and the occasional medium shot, but most of the film is crisp and detailed, with fine textures apparent throughout. The title doesn't really exhibit the sense of depth that the best Blu-ray discs can offer, though, as the CGI can make the image look flat at times. But really, I have few complaints here. Black levels are well tuned throughout the film, and though there's no overt crush or grey soupiness, a few shots could stand to be tweaked darker or lighter. The opening scene did seem a little dim to me, but hey, it's lit mostly by candlelight. I also noticed a strange scratch on the left side of the screen at about the 18:40 mark, but it disappears in a blink. I'm giving the film a solid 8/10—I do feel I have to take the CGI into account for the overall visual experience—but feel free to mentally slide the score up to 9 if need be, as Wolverine's quite a looker.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray, Audio Quality
No question about it, Wolverine deserves high marks for its hefty and engaging DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Expect your home theater set-up to be put through the paces with plenty of subwoofer engagement and surround use. Helicopters swoop through the rear channels with precision tracking, glass shatters and skitters across the floor with convincing directionality, and gunshots rip holes through the soundfield with pinpoint accuracy. There's some great sound design during the big helicopter chase sequence, and you'll also be drawn in by the audio during the adamantium injection scene. Of course, none of this would mean anything if the track had a tinny, tiny dynamic range, but that's fortunately not the case here. Wolverine's claws provide plenty of shimmer and metal-on-metal schwing, and the track is filled with high-end detail. Likewise, the LFE channel puts out some serious ambient throb and adds extra kick to blasts of all kinds. Dialogue is mostly clean, full-bodied, and intelligible throughout, but I did miss a few lines during the sonic chaos of battle. It's not like you're watching Wolverine for the dialogue though, right?
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director Gavin Hood
Hood is full of insight and information, but this is one of those somewhat dry tracks that would benefit from the presence of an actor or two. Hugh Jackman has such a vocal passion about his character, so it's too bad they couldn't have recruited him for two hours of conversation.
Commentary by Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winters
This track's a bit more engaging, if only because the two producers are foils for one another and are more frequent in their comments. Still, not exactly the most exciting or informative track I've ever heard. Seriously, where's Hugh?
The Roots of Wolverine: A Conversation with Stan Lee & Len Wein (1080i, 16:18)
Marvel legend Stan Lee and Wolverine co-creator Len Wein sit down for a little chat about the origins of the X-Men and, more specifically, Wolverine. The two basically take turns interviewing one another, patting each other on the back, and having a few laughs. I enjoy any chance to listen to Stan Lee talk about his creations, but hardcore X-men fans may be surprised by how little the indomitable Mr. Lee knows about Wolverine.
Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins (1080i, 12:05)
Producer Lauren Schuler Donner starts this behind-the-scenes featurette off by discussing how they initially wanted to tell Wolverine's Japan arc, but how the studio insisted that they give audiences an origins story first. What follows is a short, Hugh Jackman-centric look at the film's production, focusing on the character of Wolverine. The film's stunt coordinator discusses Jackman's commitment to bulking up—drinking a dozen egg whites a day and going on an intense fitness regime—and director Gavin Hood explains Wolverine's degree of self-loathing about his own nature. We also see some of the design work that went into the film, including the sculpting of young Logan's bone claws and the re-invention of the adamantium tank. Jackman comes off personable as always, and it's clear that he really loves this role.
Weapon X Mutant Files (1080i, 53:57 total)
The nine main mutants in the film—plus William Stryker—are each given the behind-the-scenes treatment in Mutant Files. Each segment starts with a character giving a straight-up cheesy monologue before we're treated to plenty of on-set footage and interviews with the actors, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, director Gavin Hood, stunt coordinator JJ Perry, and visual effects supervisors Patrick McClung and Craig Lyn. Highlights include Kevin Duran's makeup-intensive transformation into Blob, and Jackman talking about how he and Liev Schreiber egged each other on to do their own stunts. You can watch each segment individually, but I'd suggest grabbing a choice beverage, hitting "play all," and settling in for an hour of on-set exploration.
The Thrill of the Chase: The Helicopter Sequence (1080i, 5:53)
Apparently it took eight or nine weeks to film the massive helicopter chase scene, which included the explosion of an actual, full-sized barn, a Humvee flipping end over end, and the inevitable crash of the helicopter. Definitely worth watching, as this is probably the film's best action sequence.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (1080p, 9:32)
Included are four deleted scenes: an excised segment that includes a young Storm, Victor at Wraith's boxing ring, an alternate memory erase sequence, and the alternate ending that features Logan drinking "to remember" at a bar in Japan. All are available with optional commentary by director Gavin Hood.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere (SD, 6:22)
Tempe, Arizona won a contest to host the world premiere of Wolverine, and here we see the local fans go wild as Hugh Jackman and company do interviews on the red carpet.
Ultimate X-Mode BONUSVIEW
Ultimate X-Mode offers three different picture-in-picture options and one trivia track to encourage multiple viewings of Wolverine. With "X-Connect" turned on, director Gavin Hood and producer Lauren Shuler Donner chime in periodically in the lower right corner of the screen to reveal connections between the three previous X-Men movies and this origin story. "The Director's Chair" is hosted by Gavin Hood, and shows many of the collaborative, behind-the- scenes processes that go into making a film of this scale come to life, along with some thematic discussion about character and story. "Pre-Visualization" includes storyboards and rough CGI animations of select scenes, and "X-Facts" provides a steady steam of pop-up style trivia. "Pre- Visualization" is a bit dull, but the other offerings are entertaining, even if they don't hold a candle to the innovative features on, say, Warner's stellar Watchmen release.
This BD-Live feature allows you to access up-to-date actor filmographies and information related to X-Men Origins: Wolverine via IMDB, the Internet Movie Database. For each chapter in the film, you'll see photo avatars of every actor that appears in the sequence, and you can click on them individually to get some rudimentary biography material and a complete filmography. I wasn't over-wowed by this feature—it just gives a list of credits, after all—but it is implemented well and intuitive to use.
Fox on Blu-Ray (1080p, 3:23)
Includes HD trailers for the X-Men trilogy and Night at the Museum. Where are the trailers for Wolverine?
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I'll be the first to admit that Wolverine got a tough break. Between studio interventions and a not-quite-finished work print being leaked online a month before release, the film got a thorough critical lambasting before it even arrived in theaters. Hopefully, the inevitable sequel—reportedly set during Logan's time in Japan—will learn from the movie's mistakes, and maybe even take a few lessons from The Dark Knight and Iron Man about how to tell a riveting comic book story. Until then, Wolverine is a flawed but occasionally fun watch that looks fantastic in high definition, sounds great with lossless audio, and fills out a 50-GB Blu-ray disc with enough special features to keep fans occupied for several hours, at least. The overall quality of the total package definitely warrants a recommendation.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2 bundles)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Deal Alert: Wolverine Blu-ray for $9.99 - December 1, 2009
At the beginning of Black Friday week, one of the lightning deals announced at Amazon offered the Blu-ray of 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' for the special price of $9.99. It sold out within five minutes. Those who missed out on that deal now have a second chance to ...
• Wolverine Sells Over 20% on Blu-ray - September 25, 2009
20th Century Fox has revealed that for their recent home video release of 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine', over 20% of all units sold were on the Blu-ray format, with some retailers reporting up to 25%. This not only beats the industry standard average of 12.5%, but ...
• Today on Blu-ray - September 15th - September 15, 2009
After the conclusion of the ‘X-Men Trilogy', 20th Century Fox looked for a new way to capitalize on the extremely popular superhero property. Eventually word leaked that they would pursue a series of “origins” films which would detail the lives of the X-Men before ...
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