X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, in an origin story we’ve heard before and often.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Without fail, the dullest installment in any superhero movie franchise is the first film—the, yawn, origin story during which audiences anxiously awaiting The Big Bad Guy have to suffer through, yaaaawn, scenes of childhood traumas and other expository effluvia, by which point the closing credits are fast approaching. Which makes this fourth X-Men film—yet again starring now-co-producer Hugh Jackman as the snikty-snikt scissorhands from Canada—altogether unfathomable, if not unbearable: If nothing else, it feels well after-the-fact, especially since 2003's expeditious X2 more or less covered the same ground in a matter of seconds, as opposed to 107 minutes that feel like almost as many hours. The filmmakers—among them, inexplicably, Tsotsi director Gavin Hood and 25th Hour writer David Benioff—aren't even all that interested in the origin story, which has been well-covered in 30 years' worth of comic books condensed to an opening-credits sequence that dashes from an 1845 childhood to the Civil War to Vietnam War in a span of seconds till, at last, the movie begins with Jimmy Logan on the operating table being injected with the unbreakable adamantium metal that gives his skeleton a sparkly shine. Add to that humdrum ramp-up a familiar rogues' list: the villainous Sabretooth (Wolverine's brother, this time around played by Liev Schreiber with "the fingernails of a bag lady"), the treacherous William Stryker (the Brian Cox character in '03, now recast with Danny Huston), even a certain Cyclops (a whiny teenager with bad eyes, in keeping with the franchise's history of treating the X-Men's leader like a punch line) and the inevitable cameo by a very familiar X-tra. Most of the action sequences are mere replays of a single sequence: Wolverine and Sabretooth galloping toward one another, two immortal bros locked in eternal combat since, apparently, they age to a point but can't be killed unless someone cuts off their heads, like that'll happen. (Ohpleaseprettyplease...) And the filmmakers have junked up the franchise with bit players from the comic books, among them the playing card-throwing Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) and assassin Deadpool (whose comic relief shuts off around the time the moviemakers unwisely sew together Ryan Reynolds' lips, bad move among many). A suggestion? Wait for the bootleg. —Robert Wilonsky

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