Thanks to the fact that we are awesome, Chesapeake Family now can get into advance screenings of some movies! Not everything, but it seems like we’ll be able to publish most of our reviews the day the movie comes out. If we can’t get into an advance screening, you’ll still see the review posted the Tuesday after the release date.
Angry Young Man
X-Men Origins explores the troubled beginnings of one very cranky superman
By Jared Peterson
Like many superhuman characters, the mutant hero known as Wolverine started out as regular kid. We meet him as young James Howlett (Troye Sivan), a plain, rather sickly adolescent in 1840s Canada. A family trauma coaxes out the first of several mutant features, a fearsome set of bony claws that emerge from his clenched fists. He also has heightened senses, superhuman strength and a healing ability that makes him invulnerable to wounds. This healing factor is what eventually allows him to hover in the perpetual prime of life embodied by the vim and vigor of action-beefcake-slash-song-and-dance-man Hugh Jackman [Kristen: Yaaaaaaay!]. He takes the name Logan—a new moniker for a strange new life—and along with his brother and fellow mutant Victor (Liev Schrieber), spends the next century and a half fighting and not dying in some of the history’s greatest conflicts.
Sometime during the Vietnam years, an army colonel named Stryker (Danny Huston) recruits the two into a team of mutant soldiers who do covert dirty work in flashpoints of the world. Logan is good at his job, but has the courtesy to feel bad about it. Victor, on the other hand, is clearly a bad seed, playfully callous and casually murderous. When the team’s objectives get too shady and Victor’s methods too cruel and unusual, Logan opts out of the mercenary life and retreats back to Canada to work as a lumberjack. (Why let all those sleeveless tees go to waste?) He takes up with Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), a raven-haired beauty with infinite patience and a calming manner, a fine counterpoint to his borderline temper. Naturally, she’s marked for death, and soon Victor finds his way back north and kills her. Seething and vengeful, Logan falls back in with the military, agreeing to become part of their “Weapon X” program and have his entire skeleton coated with a diamond-hard metal to make him all but indestructible. Thus is Wolverine born. When the inevitable double crosses are revealed, he bolts once again to rally a menagerie of mutants to his cause.
The previous X-Men films concerned themselves with some rather weighty subject matter, exploring the social ramifications of superhumanity and staging clashes of understanding with the general populace alongside the familiar pyrotechnics of heroes vs. villains. In focusing on one very angry superman, X-Men Origins takes a step backwards, setting aside the social commentary and amping up the action. This is a somewhat ironic turn for director Gavin Hood, whose last project was Rendition, a study of a contemporary political quagmire. This is really more of a backstory than a character study or rationale. We learn where Logan comes from, and what drives him, but what might have been a more layered journey into a heart of darkness instead has the tinny flavor of a righteous rampage. That said, it’s one cool-looking swath of destruction, and there’s certainly no shame in taking some delicious, elemental pleasure in watching good-looking people who can control minds, slice flying bullets in half with a samurai sword or fling playing cards with deadly accuracy.
Rated PG-13, X-Men Origins is a straight-up actioner. It has half a dozen gun battles, with many soldiers taken out by bullets and explosions; beyond the battlefield, a couple of innocent, mild-mannered strangers are shockingly and suddenly felled by a sniper. Wolverine uses his claws to slash at and impale several unlucky assailants—all of whom were asking for it, of course. The procedure for applying the metal to his skeleton is made wince-worthy thanks to dozens of large-bore needles and several shots of x-ray images of them delving deep into his tissue [Kristen: *decides not to see movie*]. Victor, as mentioned, is a ruthless killer with a taste for bloody fun and he revels in finding interesting ways to take out his fellow mutants; he also likes beheading bears, and we catch sight of one on the forest floor in his wake. One of the products of the military mutant weapons program is a grotesque, mouthless (always creepy—can’t say why) Frankenstein’s monster of cobbled-together abilities.
Our buff hero appears nude from rear and side angles in a couple of scenes [Kristen: *decides to get over fear of needles and see movie*], either thrashing about in pain or sprinting for his life across the Canadian wilderness. Some dialogue makes vague but complimentary reference to his lower business. There are a few run-of-the-mill expletives, and adult characters occasionally drown their sorrows with hard liquor.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn’t a tonic for the today’s deeper issues, but it’ll make a heck of a chaser. Enjoy responsibly.
Jared Peterson, in case you were wondering, chooses flight for his superpower. He last reviewed Earth.
Because this movie was reviewed at an advance screening, we’re unable to tell you what previews were shown with the film.