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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Roaring into the summer season with claws flashing and veins a-bulging, Hugh Jackman is looking to set the tone for a summer of reboots, sequels and explodymabobs—all while carrying the weight of a million greasy fanboys on his back. But slice and dice as he does, Wolverine just can't seem to hit the jugular. more

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the origin story we pretty much figured out from the far superior X2: Wolverine is a government-engineered killing machine with a chip on his meaty shoulder. He was duped into coating his skeleton with an indestructible metal courtesy of mutant-loathing Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston, filling in ably for the superb Brian Cox). The package pretty much tied its own bow.

In the prequel, we learn Wolverine was born in the mid 1800s and has spent the century going apeshit with his brother Victor "Sabertooth" Creed (Liev Schreiber) in major world conflicts. All well and good, especially during an adrenaline-pumping opening credit montage of the brothers hacking their way through the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and 'Nam. But like Watchmen before it, the credits are the best part. The film soon becomes a cheesily broody revenge flick wherein Wolverine seeks to avenge the woman he loved when he lived peacefully on a mountaintop and worked as a lumberjack.

The action-movie tropes pile on with increasing clumsiness: Watch Wolvie scream at the heavens in agony. Watch him walk in slow motion away from an exploding helicopter. Hell, Jackman could sit on his ass and eat sandwiches, so long as every now and again he killed a fuck-ton of people with those shiny claws, right? Unfortunately, the action scenes are merely a series of one-on-one fights with Schreiber and a host of other mutants from the Marvel universe, and that rage doesn't fell many bodies. Some of the set pieces are eye-popping, including a climactic fight with Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), a team-up with Gambit (Taylor Kitsch of Friday Night Lights), and a nifty motorcycle chase. Others, like a boxing match with the Blob and any number of Sabertooth throwdowns, are uninspiring where they should be jaw-dropping.

Maybe the problem here is that Wolverine's producers—rumored to have been heavily influenced by studios—don't really have a firm grasp of the actual backstory of Wolverine, and essentially discard the most interesting parts: It would have been much more satisfying to learn about the hero's involvement in Vietnam. Instead, it's an excruciatingly by-the-numbers actioner where elements of the Schwarzenegger canon are thrown into the mix with the hope that Wolverine's claws will make them into a fine chutney. Instead, it's a chunky mess littered with brief appearances by popular characters such as the wasted Gambit, Cyclops, childhood Storm and Toad, and Patrick Stewart (with decades shaved off his face through bad CGI). Some bits are tasty, most are too hard to swallow. It's better than X-Men: The Last Stand but, then again, so is a colon polyp.

As a quick diversion, Wolverine is satisfying enough. But it never hits the heights of berserker rage that makes the hero among the most popular characters of all time. By the end of the saga, the memories of the film are about as blank as its hero's recollection of the events of his life. But hey, with the bar set this low, summer can only get better. PG-13.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened today at Broadway Metro 4 Theatres, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, CineMagic Theatre, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 IMAX, Cinetopia, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lake Twin Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Lloyd Mall 8 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, St. Johns Twin Cinemas and Pub, Tigard 11 Cinemas and Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.