Blu-ray Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) -- Ultimate 2-Disc Edition

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According to the refreshingly humble and self-deprecating interview with Stan Lee included on Fox's Blu-ray release of Wolverine, he passes off his creation of Marvel Universe favorites the X-Men as taking a "lazy way out" by offering zero explanation as to how the characters developed their "crazy powers" other than noting they were simply "born that way."

Instead of the radioactive spider that turned an average boy into Spiderman or any number of scientific or biological experiments gone wrong, Lee decided he didn't want an elaborate concoction and shrugs it off by saying that he has "never been as dull" in his entire life.

Yet due to the development of the X-Men book and the way it evolved as it changed hands three major times when "new blood" took over as Lee admits that the series wasn't as important to him as Hulk or Thor, the comic became endlessly creative as it continued over the years. In doing so it used allegory to deal with certain social and civil rights issues and current events in the book, popular animated television series, and resulting trilogy of motion pictures.

While Lee gives much of the credit for the success of the book to Jack Kirby, whom he felt was an unappreciated storyteller as well as a talented artist, X-Men really hit its stride when Lee Wein created the character of Wolverine, originally as a battling partner for Hulk (which you can witness in the terrific Lionsgate release Hulk vs.).

Long a fan favorite with his rebellious nature and mysterious air that was strengthened both in the animated version as well as in the films when actor Hugh Jackman took on the role, it was only natural when Marvel announced they were going to release an X-Men Origins title that it would focus on the series' most popular character.

And to support the release and franchise in general, it's important to note that series creator Lee is the only one on the Blu-ray who admonishes his series creation as "dull" which may strike fans of Bryan Singer's first two films-- and Brett Ratner's crazily uneven but necessary third closing work-- as an odd acknowledgment. However, after seeing the coolly detached, largely illogical, and thinly plotted X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we realize that it was the talented filmmakers who this time were guilty of taking the dull and easy way out.

Yet although I grant that it is strange to imagine that we'd really need the origin tale of a man who would lose his memory prior to the start of the recent trilogy, I for one was really looking forward to another take on a character and series I'd previously enjoyed especially in its '90s surge in popularity.

Humorously Roger Ebert attacked the historical inaccuracies of the film which are glaring and kick off right from the start as the precise location and time of Canada's Northwest Territories in 1840 technically wouldn't have been dubbed such for 27 more years for the country and 30 for the territories.

And while that's certainly amusing,
it was frustrating to open with an emotionally potent yet structurally blank and unsupported introduction to Logan/Wolverine and his half-brother Victor/Sabretooth as boys. Other than a silly "time and place" card that reveals more than poor talented screenwriter David Benioff is ever allowed to contribute, we're barely given any explanation for their mutant features as they're apparently just born with claws nor do we fully grasp the impact of the rushed opening sequence that results in the unintentional murder of their father.

Likewise, e
ven more vague was the audience's understanding of just how the faux "Canadians" ended up fighting on our side in countless American wars via a bravura CGI heavy opening sequence as Logan (Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) somehow cease aging while getting their violent kicks.

Thus, we're further shortchanged in the Origins department by having the action flash forward over roughly a hundred and forty years as the two grown men are recruited into the shady off-the-books Black Ops force headed up by Danny Huston's General Stryker after surviving a firing squad attack. Despite the fact that the two half-brothers have already begun to change as Schreiber's Sabretooth has an unquenchable thirst for violence and is the first one in line to be "bad to the bone" of the claws that pop out of his knuckles whereas Logan wants to live as normal of a life as he can, he finally walks out on the group when a situation in Nigeria goes horribly wrong.

So the fighter becomes a lover and his transformation continues mostly because he appears to be slightly happy (Wolverine was never much for emotional outbursts) and he devotes his time as a musclebound lumberjack
while sweet on a lovely schoolteacher played by Lynn Collins whose character is about as generic as one of the wife-beater t-shirts worn by Jackman.

Basically making him a lumberjack is a plot device designed to give
Jackman one of endless chances to strut his stuff as a wife-beater wearing stud which was achieved via a strenuous exercise program and protein diet. Alas, his life as Logan is short-lived when once again he's prompted to get back into action as Wolverine by undergoing Stryker's Weapon X Program.

And although the film is essentially a Hugh Jackman vehicle tailored for and produced by the star, unfortunately he's the least interesting character in the movie as he's given a weak plot that at one point borrows heavily from Superman. Additionally, he's constantly upstaged by far too many supporting players including Taylor Kitsch's delightful turn as Gambit which is worthy enough to have built a movie around whereas some walk-ons by the Blob (Kevin Durand) find you wishing the editor would've had more freedom to cut since as a film, it doesn't make all that much sense anyway.

However, the showdown portion of the film is fun for popcorn flick fans. Still, it suffers from the lack of a compelling screenplay which fails to draw on decades of endlessly thrilling Wolverine comic material. Likewise because Tsotsi and Rendition director Gavin Hood somehow forgot the important storytelling aspect in his transition from dramatic to action filmmaker, Wolverine is ultimately a big snooze. Overall, it's a film that doesn't manage to deliver on its title and additionally suffers from the fact that we all know Wolverine won't remember it anyway in the conclusion.

Including footage of the film's world premiere held nearby in Tempe, Arizona from Fox Movie Channel, I still must admit that despite the film's shortcomings, it's
another absolute dazzler in the Blu-ray format. The release from Fox boasts a digital copy of the movie (compatible with Mac and PC) and endless featurettes on the making of the movie, including the great discussion with the series and character creators, various tracks to watch the film with trivia, commentary, and more.

As Fox has proven in the past by improving on lackluster movies with terrific transfers that constantly rival Walt Disney as the two most routinely outstanding studios that excel in High Definition, Fox goes one better with Wolverine's Blu-ray by adding a trick even Gambit would've Marveled at by including the first ever "Live Lookup" feature in the history of the studio's BD releases. The technique uses the Blu-ray Live technology to connect disc owners to IMDb so that the information will never seem dated considering the film, its stars, and more as it will constantly change and update with time.

While overall, I can't recommend Wolverine as a movie, the Blu-ray is another dynamite achievement from Fox even though it pales in comparison to Singer's first two films in the X-Men series as well as the animated titles releasing from Marvel's new partner-- Walt Disney-- via Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

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