Sunday, May 10, 2009

Beastly, but bearable

If you're not a die-hard, purist fan of the X-men comic franchise, and if you manage to shut off your brain for the hour-and-47-minute run of the movie, X-men Origins: Wolverine isn't really that awful. Sure, the plot features some moments of sheer idiocy that had me either laughing or shaking my head (or laughing AND shaking my head), but as an action-packed, violence-filled, effects-riddled blockbuster flick, it's serviceable, and even entertaining. Highlights include dramatic opening credits, a cool sequence showcasing some badass mutant powers, and short but surprisingly satisfying appearances by Ryan Reynolds and Dominic Monaghan (the hobbit Merry from The Lord of the Rings films) as Wolverine's fellow mercenary mutants. Reynolds in particular provides some unexpected comic relief with his brief turn as Deadpool; it turns out Mr. Scarlett Johansson is underrated as his buxom spouse is overrated.

And then there's the introduction to the X-men movie franchise of Gambit, my favorite X-men character and one of my cartoon crushes. Relative unknown actor Taylor Kitsch was cast in the role of the Cajun kinetic energy-harnessing hottie, and I thought he was all right, even if his N'awlins accent wasn't heavy enough (if only Harry Connick Jr. were 20 years younger...).

But the star of the show was unquestionably Wolverine, and just as he did in the previous 3 X-men movies, Hugh Jackman inhabits the role with an animalistic energy both savage and intense. His Wolverine is perhaps the only believable thing in a movie riddled with as many plot loopholes and lame elements as objects that explode. As testament to his talent as a thespian, Jackman brings credibility to an otherwise ridiculous story, and succeeds in creating a cool, conflicted-yet-sticks-to-his-convictions hero... and looking damn good (almost) buck naked too.

I feel obliged to give props to Liev Schreiber too, for delivering a ferocious and feral, if a bit formulaic, performance as Wolverine's archnemesis Sabretooth, and standing as further proof that true acting talent can survive even a massive train wreck such as this movie.

I won't even go into detail about the liberties (sacrileges?) taken by the screenwriters, who changed so many "facts" about the characters' histories that being familiar with the X-men is actually a disadvantage in understanding the plot (because we're too busy scrunching our brows and going, "Wait, that's not right!"). And I'm too excited to get started on my review of Star Trek to waste any more time writing about this infinitely inferior prequel.


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