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X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

SYNOPSIS:
A tragic incident in his childhood reveals his superhuman capability as a mutant to an unsuspecting Jim Logan (Troye Sivan); when he grows up (Hugh Jackman) he and his half brother Victor Creed - later known as Sabretooth - (Liev Schreiber) become soldiers in conflicts around the world, from the Civil War, WWI and WWII to Vietnam. But when the brothers team up with a band of mercenaries under General William Stryker (Danny Huston), an atrocity turns Logan from the group, in what is seen as an act of betrayal. Stryker continues his quest to develop a super-mutant, with all the powers but none of weaknesses of mutants. But Logan has retired to a normal, lumberjack life with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), through whom he later chooses the name Wolverine. But then Victor finds Logan and kills Kayla, all part of Stryker's plan, to get Logan and use his powers to catch and kill other mutants. Logan sets out to kill Victor in revenge, but Stryker manages to persuade him to undergo an experiment to make him virtually an indestructible weapon for Stryker's Team X. Nothing quite goes according to plan for any of them.

Review by Louise Keller:
Exploding with as much entertainment value as Hugh Jackman has muscles, Wolverine is a dazzling comic book fantasy in which the characters, storytelling, action and special effects are perfectly balanced. That is no mean feat - when you are talking about the complexity of plot involving the evolution of mutants with supernatural powers and their susceptible emotional state - but Gavin Hood is the right man for the job. It is as though Jackman has elevated his skills to new heights and his ability to couple brute force with vulnerability is the key. The film is a fast-paced spectacle filled with action, drama, romance, wry humour and technical wizardry, catering for a sophisticated audience. At the risk of sounding trite, it's simply Marvel-lous.

The story of Logan, aka Wolverine, was never going to be simple. The opening sequence in which tragedy prompts a young boy to discover what happens when overwhelmed by a rampant rage, springboards us into a series of extraordinary adventures through wars that last a couple of centuries. Liev Schreiber is better than ever as Victor / Sabretooth, and makes a superb adversary. 'We're brothers, and brothers look out for each other,' Victor tells Jackman's Logan, but unlike his blood-thirsty sibling and despite their similar powers, Logan wants a peaceful life. There's a catalyst that prompts Logan's decision to 'become the animal', which leads us to the key Frankensteinian scene in which the new indestructible Wolverine is created ('What I do best is not very nice').

Every member of the cast seems perfect and Danny Huston is a great choice for the important role of William Stryker (played by Brian Cox in X2). Lynn Collins is enticing as the girl with the powers of persuasion gift and who tells a soulful story about why the moon is lonely, while Ryan Reynolds is unrecognisable when his jabbering swordplay expert Wade turns into the deadly Deadpool. Like the pack of cards that Taylor Kitsch's Gambit shuffles, there's colour in every character: from Dominic Monaghan's Bolt who controls electricity to Will i Am's teleporter. Aussies Max Cullen ('We all have a choice') and Julia Blake make a lasting impression as kindly farmers who help Logan.

The film looks great (through Don McAlpine's lens), as do New Zealand's beautiful locations and the striking sets at Sydney's Cockatoo Island. Gavin Hood has packed such density into these 103 minutes which escalate into a tense and thrilling crescendo of a conclusion. Full credit goes to screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods for a coherent, excellent screenplay that elegantly and credibly morphs into the X-Men storylines.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Comic books feed on the imagination of their readers, delivering large doses of escapism, wish fulfilment and gee-whizzery to (usually) young adults who are old enough to read but also like to look at pictures. (That sounds a bit like the Playboy group ...) Awash as the cinema screens are with the still images of comics morphing into moving pictures, it's like a series of mutations from one form to another, with several elements remaining intact. That's exactly what X-Men movies do, of course, and the mutation of the creative platform matches the extraordinary mutations of its characters.

We have gone so far along the shelves that filmmakers are being squeezed for old comics to revive, old comic book stories to retell. What better than to go back to the origins of them, one by one, character by character. This could go on for decades, feeding Hollywood with pre-created ideas to an existing fan base, all in the right demographic.

Hugh Jackman's instincts are spot on to get in early and make the most of his screen capital, created with the Wolverine character almost a decade ago. As producer as well as star, Jackman is able to steer the project to his liking and the result is a superbly cast film with attention to detail, concern for character - and the odd touch of dry humour. By definition, a story about mutants wielding superhuman powers is not going to satisfy the rules of naturalism, and the only point of most of the fighting between equally indestructible foes is to give audiences a spectacle.

But there is also the underlying quest for who we really are, and whether in our multi-layered personalities and natures, we can find the right one to live by. Wolverine has to sublimate his animalistic tendencies for his sense of decency - a word we hear only once in the film, but to good effect.

In cinematic terms, the film is a great success, an audio visual feast with seamless effects and some terrific location footage (thanks to the work of Aussie DoP Don McAlpine), from the landscapes to the industrial grunt of Sydney's Cockatoo Island, doubling as Stryker's secret location for his experimental lab.

Jackman, Schreiber, Huston and the whole of the mutant team - Wade Wilson, later to be known as Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), a high-tech mercenary skilled at swordplay; Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), an expert tracker and lethal marksman; Wraith (Will I Am), a teleporter; Fred J. Dukes, also known as The Blob (Kevin Durand), a morbidly obese and super-strong behemoth; and Bradley (Dominic Monaghan), who can manipulate electricity - all invest greatly in their characters, lifting them out of the 1D world of comics into the even more visceral 2D world of the movies.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (M)
(Aust/US/Canada, 2009)

CAST: Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Liev Schreiber, Dominic Monaghan, Lynn Collins, Danny Huston, Daniel Henney, Taylor Kitsch, Kevin Durand, Will i Am, Scott Adkins, Tim Pocock, Julia Blake, Max Cullen

PRODUCER: Hugh Jackman, Kevin Feige, John Palermo, Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter

DIRECTOR: Gavin Hood

SCRIPT: David Benioff, Skip Woods

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald McAlpine

EDITOR: Nicolas De Toth, Megan Gill

MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barry Robison

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Centruy Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 30, 2009







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