Hugh Jackman Returns As Wolverine

One of the surest signs of spring is the appearance of comic book movies in theaters everywhere. Hugh Jackman is back as the edgy Logan, aka Wolverine, in a fast, loud origin-myth of a movie designed to cash in on the fanboy fervor that greeted the three X-Men films.

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Whether run by wind, solar, or plain old fossil fuel, movie theaters are plugged into the electric grid and cranking up the latest comic book movie, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN: Whatever you do, you don't want to make Wolverine mad. First comes that God-awful Earth-shattering scream.

(Soundbite of scream)

TURAN: Then those indestructible claws pop out of his hands, all leading to a display of what the fans call berserker rage.

Believe me, it's not a pretty picture. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" explains how Hugh Jackman came to be the intensely masculine poster boy for Marvel comics' favorite band of mutants.

(Soundbite of movie, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine")

Mr. DANNY HUSTON (Actor): (As Colonel William Stryker) We're going to make you indestructible, but first we're going to have to destroy you.

TURAN: That's the nefarious Colonel Stryker talking up his plan to make Wolverine invulnerable.

(Soundbite of movie, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine")

Mr. HUSTON: (As Stryker) You will be able to withstand virtually anything. It's called adamantium. You're going to have to embrace the other side, become the animal.

Mr. HUGH JACKMAN (Actor): (As Logan) Let's do this.

TURAN: This is not the urbane debonair Hugh Jackman who hosted the Oscars and did a soft shoe routine with Beyonce. Or is it?

For as fans know, Wolverine is one conflicted dude. Yes, he gets mad. Hey, don't we all? But then he feels bad about it afterwards and worries that trying to take someone's head off is a bad thing to do.

"X-Men Origins" is a solid, efficient comic book movie that is content to provide action-heavy comic book satisfactions. If it doesn't rise to the heights of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, it doesn't stray into super-lame Daredevil territory either.

Liev Schreiber plays Wolverine's even angrier half-brother Sabretooth. Don't ask. And he and Jackman are both fine actors who throw themselves into whatever they take on, whether it be Chekhov or comic books.

Director Gavin Hood, best known for his Oscar-winning South African film "Tsoti," came to this job without Hollywood blockbuster experience. Even so, all the explosions manage to go off on time, which in a film like this is all that really matters.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times, and there are many more movie reviews at our Web site, including the new film from Jim Jarmusch, "Limits of Control."

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'Wolverine': Look Out, It's The Beastly Boys

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine i i

hide captionRighteous rage: For Logan (Hugh Jackman), the higher the hair, the closer to payback.

20th Century Fox
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

Righteous rage: For Logan (Hugh Jackman), the higher the hair, the closer to payback.

20th Century Fox

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

  • Director: Gavin Hood
  • Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy/Adventure
  • Running time: 107 minutes

Rated PG-13: Sharp talons, dull wits, a glimpse or two of superhero skin

Liev Schreiber and Hugh Jackman in 'Wolverine' i i

hide captionOnce were warriors: Formerly best buddies, Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) and Wolverine grow apart once they grow up.

20th Century Fox
Liev Schreiber and Hugh Jackman in 'Wolverine'

Once were warriors: Formerly best buddies, Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) and Wolverine grow apart once they grow up.

20th Century Fox
Taylor Kitsch in 'Wolverine' i i

hide captionSharp cookie: Remy LeBeau, aka Gambit (Taylor Kitsch of TV's Friday Night Lights), is a supernaturally gifted card sharp who teams up with Logan as the latter seeks to set things right.

20th Century Fox
Taylor Kitsch in 'Wolverine'

Sharp cookie: Remy LeBeau, aka Gambit (Taylor Kitsch of TV's Friday Night Lights), is a supernaturally gifted card sharp who teams up with Logan as the latter seeks to set things right.

20th Century Fox

We meet Wolverine when he's still just a cub — a few years back, in 1845.

Of course he's not Wolverine yet. He's a sickly kid named James, who inadvertently discovers a way to get better when his dad is killed in a scuffle with a neighbor: James hears a gunshot, leaps from bed to find his dad lying in a pool of blood, and suddenly he's seething — and not at all sickly anymore.

Huge, bony claws sprout from his knuckles, much to the apparent surprise of everyone but his brother, Victor — who helps him run away after James kills the guy who killed their father.

"We're brothers," says Victor, helpfully. "We stick together no matter what. Now keep running, and don't look back."

And run they do, right out of childhood and into matching sideburns, into the bodies of Liev Schreiber and Hugh Jackman and into a big war montage. The Civil War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam — both of them stay perpetually angry for a century and a half, though you would think they'd be delighted to have stopped aging in their mid-30s.

Sometime after Vietnam, a government tool named Stryker (Danny Huston) gets involved, and while Victor adopts the name Sabretooth and goes on a killing spree, James proves he is really Mr. Mild by moving to Canada, becoming a lumberjack and hitching up with a beautiful girlfriend (Lynn Collins) who tells him stories about wolverines baying at the moon. Naturally, that can't last.

And after some thoroughly unmotivated carnage, James says "Yes" to an adamantium transfusion. You'd think this would turn him into British rock star Adam Ant; instead, Stryker tells him, it will bond metal to his bones and make him the ultimate fighting machine — indestructible.

Naturally, it's only after he's become indestructible that it occurs to anyone that Wolvie is not the most manageable guy. And the rest of the movie is an attempt to neutralize him while citing every comic-book-origin cliche in the Marvel playbook.

When he escapes Stryker's adamantium lab, for instance, he holes up with farmers who are such dead ringers for Spider-Man's Aunt May and Uncle Ben, you half expect a radioactive spider to bite our hero in their hayloft.

And when his friends die, as friends of superheroes are wont to do in origin stories, he does that head-back, howling thing with the camera ascending above him, as ... well, as grieving superheroes are wont to do.

Wolverine also has to deal with a lot of what I started thinking of as mutationally challenged mutants — one is, um ... well, really he's just rather fat, while another does card tricks — before being isolated with his various antagonists in a spot where no one will interfere as they hurl special effects at one another.

You know all those movies where people get sent to an island somewhere, and then discover that everybody is a clone, or a nuclear reactor is melting down, or crazed killers are on the loose? Well, imagine all of that happening at once, only everybody is indestructible because they all have to make more movies, and you have X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The most terrifying thing about the movie, really, is that plural: Originsssss. So many mutants, so much time. Thank God we can leave that for another summer.



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