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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

*PROBABLY CONTAINS SPOILERS*

The title of this movie leaves little to theimagination when it comes to the movie’s premise. This is Wolverine’s backstory. This is where the audience discover what made Wolverine Wolverine. And for the fnaboys, this is the opportunity to assess how well the writers have managed to tell a story they will presumably know intimately. I say “intimately” quitely deliberately as there is no way that the story of Wolverine’s developement is unrelated to the puberty most readers will have been encountering while enjoying the original comics. It is probably best, if perhaps a little too much protest, that I point out now that I discount myself from the fanboydom that I imagine will have it’s claws ready to pierce holes in the narrative.

The movie covers a period of about 150 years; from James Logan’s sickly childhood and sibling bullying, to the memory loss and wilderness years after which we find him in the first X-Men movie. The narrative the movie follows is clearly not true to the comic book history. Cinema demands a tighter structure with a finer weave. But most of the significant events and moments of his life are present, if not quite the way Marvel originally structured them.

Following a question-raising preamble, we are luckily, from a viewer perspective, granted permission to rush through the first 140 years in an epic and suitable opening credits. As if flicking through a comic, we witness Logan’s evolution as both a fighter and a brother. We get to see his humanity while witnessing his brother’s incremental self-destruction. This developmental disparity triggers the first events that later prove to be Wolverine’s motivation.

It will probably come as no surprise to anyone, least of all the fanboys, that there is family conflict, a love story, morality issues and a man struggling to discover and embrace his own identity sewn into the resultant story.

For the sake of personal safety, I shall end my retelling there and move on to my more judgemental interpretation.

The single most impressive aspect of this movie for me (the non-fanboy) is the casting. I think it is generally accepted that Hugh Jackman makes an acceptable Woverine. But much of the other casting has fueled internet debates for the last year or so. Liev Schreiber is perfectly cast. He is an actor who is consistently unrecognised in movies and he here finally gains the opportunity to let rip with a performance saved from hamminess by his astonishing physicality.

Underused, but almost suspiciously so, is Taylor Kitsch’s Gambit. Clearly a charismatic character initially embued an alluring danger, he suffers a little because of the script in later scenes. But it is hard not to see that a franchise like X-Men would never waste the opportunity to develope such a sexy and dangerous character.

The most significant of the other roles is probably Stryker. Established by Brian Cox in X2, it was always a role that I thought suffered by it’s proximity to the similar character in the Bourne trilogy. Taken on in this movie by the visually more believable Danny Huston, the character’s history and hand in creation of Wolverine are far better explored.

It’s worth noting some of the other supporting cast’s contribution, as people like first timer, and prepostorously named, Will.I.Am are actually a pleasant surprise. Will, specifically, is stunningly understated. A far cry from his usual stage persona. Ryan Renolds, a personal favourite of mine, is massively underused. But is luckily left with enough ambiguity to his narrative end that there is plausible reason for return.

It would be unrealistic to expect a flawless summer blockbuster, especially this early on in the season. So it is with pleasure that I intend to wave a pointer at the few flaws. There are narrative failings (why does Wolverine suddenly stop aging at about 38? for example), it is over-edited during some of the fight sequences (the bumph I was handed upon entering the cinema suggests that many of the actors went to great lengths to develope their skills which are ultimately massively underused), there is a little repetition and it occassionally verges on the trite when it comes to certain narrative explanations. But these really are small criticisms of a movie which consistently surprises.

This is a big budget, big expectation, little boy’s summer blockbuster. It delivers what it promises and a little bit more. Not enough to stake a claim in motion picture history, but enough to ensure some DVD sales and a sequel (or further Origins movie). There are enough in-jokes and nods of the head to please most dilligent fans, but there will inevitably be some that frown upon it, just because they can. This is a great fun movie that will only endear you to the eponymous character that little bit more.

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