I'm a big fan of the first couple of X-Men movies and of the comic in general. Maybe it's the ensemble cast full of cool mutant powers or the fact that the gang of superheroes includes lots of women, but I've always found this Marvel comic to be totally entertaining — not to mention great source material for movie adaptations.
Definitely one of the better parts of this franchise so far has been Hugh Jackman's take on the surly and brutishly funny Wolverine. This isn't sissy stuff — and the machismo action star gets even more extreme in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. With favorites like Storm and Rogue long gone, we zoom back in time (way back, actually: 1845) to learn how the hot-tempered Logan came to be a lot of things: a mutant with a skeletal system reinforced by adamantium, a very angry mutant, and, in the end, a hero. It's a lot of big, blockbuster fun, as long as you don't mind plot holes you could drive an 18-wheeler through. To see the rest of my thoughts, read more.
The movie starts us out somewhere in the far Northwest Territory in Canada, where a young James Howlett (later known as Wolverine) is very sick. In the first of many head-scratching moments, there's a strange paternal mixup that results in James killing a man with his mutant claws who turns out to be his father. James and his brother, Victor (later played as an adult by Liev Schreiber), then flee to the woods. Apparently the two boys, both afflicted with mutant powers (Victor sprouts catlike claws that one character later describes as "homeless lady" fingernails), grow into men who can live a long time and choose to fight in almost every American war up until Vietnam. You might have a nagging question at this point: but I thought they were Canadian? That's the voice you're going to have to turn off to enjoy this movie.
Eventually the boys become enemies — but it's revealed that all mutants in this pre-X-Men world are simply vulnerable pawns to William Stryker (played by the excellent Danny Huston), a military man who's the friend turned foe in this flick. While this is definitely Wolverine's show (we see him fall in love, lose love, seek revenge, undergo freaky scientific experiments, etc.), he assembles a crew of friends along the way, including Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), John Wraith (will.i.am), and a very funny Wade Wison (played by Ryan Reynolds, who should have had more screen time because he's so good).
Everyone turns in great performances, but Jackman, known these days for being extremely easy on the eyes — not to mention very talented at singing and dancing — slips into the role of moody lumberjack wolfman with a surprising ease. It's awesome and — not gonna lie — extremely hot. There's a lot of talk about "counterprogramming" right now, with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past offered up this weekend as an alternative for women who aren't in the mood for a superhero movie. But for the record, Jackman is shirtless and/or naked in many scenes, and that's all the counterprogramming I need.
The movie has plot holes and logic gaps to spare. It also suffers from a lack of imagination in the fight sequences, with actors tumbling through the film like some kind of poor man's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Yet, somehow, despite those glaring flaws, this movie isn't completely brain dead and succeeds at being totally entertaining popcorn cinema. When stuff didn't make sense, my audience snickered, but then Wolverine came screaming, adamantium claws out, charging the screen, and we were jolted back into enjoying this fun flick.
Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox