It was, perhaps, a risky venture making an origin story for Wolverine. It could have proved to be nothing more than a cash cow, and/or an excuse to show off Hugh Jackman’s torso. But it’s to Jackman’s credit that this movie works. Opening with childhood scenes of Wolverine and Sabretooth, it follows the character’s transition from terrified young boy to angry man to Adamantium-clad Wolverine, via four wars, a brief idyllic period of domestic bliss – and a memory-busting bullet to the brain. Which is convenient.
We also get to see how the vicious struggle between Wolverine and Sabretooth developed. Logan and brother Victor (Liev Schreiber) are recruited to a top-secret Black Ops squad, made up of mutants, but Wolverine quits – and Victor, who’s gone rogue and become Sabretooth, can’t forgive him. It seems that abandoning your brother in the midst of an awkward moral situation is apparently more reprehensible than murdering his girlfriend in retaliation.
The likes of Gambit, Deadpool and Three Mile Island make an appearance, so the fan box is ticked, albeit to token levels only, while Dominic Monaghan makes a brief appearance as Bolt. There’s eye-popping action as well as some stunts that are just gloriously silly, including a naked Jackman taking a tumble down a waterfall. But it’s the emotional story that makes this movie: from James to Logan to Wolverine, he’s desperate to live a normal life but the only things he treasures are taken away. It’s not quite essential viewing, but this is an enjoyable prequel that adds depth to one of strongest characters in the series.
SECOND OPINION | Stuart O'Connor ★★★½ I can already hear the hardcore comic-book fanboys bitching and moaning, complaining about such-and-such character being underused and not given enough screen time. Well, you know what? Boo-fucking-hoo. See the name of the film at the top of this page? That's right, it's Wolverine. This is a film all about him. He's the main character; all the rest are pretty much incidental (except for Sabretooth and Stryker). And if you geeks don't like it, well, you can just sit there in your mother's basement and cry yourself to sleep while cuddling your collection of funny-books. For the rest of us (ie, those who have actually kissed a girl) X-Men Origins: Wolverine lives up to its title by giving us a pretty decent origin story. It's not perfect – there are a few places where the CGI is a bit dodgy, which had me wondering if I was watching the finished film or the pirate version that was leaked online – but it's an enjoyable romp that proves, once more, what a watchable big-screen star Jackman really is.