X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Blu-ray)
Directed by Gavin Hood
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 107 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish, Portuguese, others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: September 15, 2009
Review Date: September 15, 2009
Arguably the most popular breakout star from the three film X-Men franchise, Wolverine aka Logan now gets his own film in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Though certainly not lacking in intense action or superhero exploits, Wolverine suffers from logic loopholes in the screenplay and a certain wastefulness with characters that discards many interesting potential relationships to keep the focus narrow and somewhat confining. True, star Hugh Jackman’s undeniable charisma adds much to whatever entertainment value the film has, and there’s a solid cast of actors playing some intriguing mutants that we’d love to have seen more of. Wolverine is no prize winner for sure, but it’s a marginally entertaining entry in the superhero sweepstakes.
Stepbrothers Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) find their claw and sabretooth immortality especially valuable as they cut and slash their way through a series of battles from the Civil War to Vietnam while aging nary a day. In the 1970s, they become involved with Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston) who has assembled a team of mutants to serve as mercenaries for whom no mission seems beyond their abilities: John Wraith (Will.i.am), Fred Dukes (Kevin Durand), Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), and Bradley (Dominic Monaghan). But Logan wants no part of missions that involve the loss of innocent lives, and he eventually quits the team in disgust. Six years later, he learns the team has pretty much disbanded but is being picked off one by one by Victor, bitter over losing the only family he’s ever known. When Logan’s Canadian girl friend Kayla (Lynn Collins) is seemingly slain by his stepbrother, Logan agrees to a painful experiment by Stryker to insert adamantium into his skeletal system making him nearly invulnerable and definitely a more powerful force. Little does he know, however, that he’s merely a pawn being manipulated by Stryker for a far more diabolical purpose.
The script by David Benioff and Skip Woods doesn’t always ring true and is sometimes a bit insulting to one’s intelligence: why, for instance, do the brothers age from youths to young men and then stop aging afterwards? How is Logan so easily fooled by the “death” of his beloved? How do clothes caught up in intense fires and explosions emerge without even being singed? These aren’t matters patrons of a popcorn entertainment are supposed to be concerned with, but in light of such silly time fillers as a sparring match between Logan and a grossly overweight Fred Dukes aka The Blob or the muddle that’s made of keeping straight where various characters’ loyalties lie, one can’t help but think about something until the next action set piece begins to unfold. Director Gavin Hood has done some effective work with the various battles. The credit sequence which takes the brothers through the major wars fought in by Americans is slick and involving. A showdown between Wolverine and tanks and a helicopter chasing him is well sustained and exciting while the climactic battle between Wolverine, Sabretooth, and “Weapon XI” is smoothly if perhaps too hastily handled. A late scene helps bring the story full circle with a surprise cameo and the emergence of the mutant Cyclops as a high schooler, a nice touch.
Hugh Jackman simply is Logan/Wolverine. It would seem unthinkable that any other actor would take on this role after Jackman has contributed four memorable performances showing the mutant at different stages of his life. No less effective is Liev Schreiber who imbues his Victor/Sabretooth with the psychotic wildness that keeps the character a plausible and dangerous threat. Danny Huston might be a tad too laid back and not quite intense enough as the driven Stryker, but Ryan Reynolds makes a vivid if too quick impression as the talkative killing machine Wade Wilson. Taylor Kitsch’s twinkly Remy LeBeau has only a few scenes in this outing, but he’s another character who might break out into his own film one day. It’s sad to see the talented Dominic Monaghan wasted as the energy-filled Bradley, but Will.i.am as the teleporting John Wraith needs much more seasoning before his acting takes on more naturalistic qualities.
The film’s Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is superb in this transfer, and color saturation is always strong and sure. If the image has a fault, it may be in a slightly less than optimum black level though shadow detail is quite good. A thin edge halo or two may be occasionally glimpsed, but otherwise, the image is very appealing. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix certainly keeps the available channels well supplied with Harry Gregson-Williams’ rather routine music and plenty of ambient effects to reflect the very active sound design of this action film. I found the volume level of the track to be a trifle undercranked, but your mileage may vary.
The disc includes two audio commentaries. In the first, director Gavin Hood contributes a rather rudimentary track pretty much describing what we’re seeing on screen as we’re watching. More interesting (as it has been in previous X-Men releases) is the commentary by producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter who give a more personal and technical slant to their comments (though there are some silent patches).
Unless otherwise noted, the featurettes are presented in 1080i.
“The Roots of Wolverine” is a conversation between X-Men originator Stan Lee and later X-Men comic executive Len Wein talking about the comic, the evolution of characters (especially Wolverine), and the difficulty of maintaining quality over a long period of time. It runs for 16 ¼ minutes.
“Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins Featurette” features the film’s director, producers, stars, stunt coordinator, makeup supervisor, and special effects supervisor discussing their work on the film and the challenges they faced focusing on one specific character from the franchise. It lasts for 12 minutes.
“Weapon X Mutant Files” is a collection of ten featurettes on the major supporting characters in the film with the actors portraying them talking about their powers and philosophy in character and then showing behind-the-scenes work with each actor and various members of the crew. These may be viewed separately or in one 54-minute grouping.
“The Thrill of the Chase: The Helicopter Sequence” is pretty self-explanatory showing the behind-the-scenes work on the 8-week shoot that resulted in one of the film’s best action set pieces. Primary among those interviewed is second unit director Peter Macdonald in this 6-minute vignette.
“Ultimate X-Mode” is a group of four possible U-Control PiP windows which can be opened up featuring comments from cast and crew, storyboards, film clips from previous X-Men films, and pop-up facts about the world of the X-Men comics and previous movies. The controls are labeled “X Connect,” “The Director’s Chair,” “Pre-visualizing Wolverine,” and “X Facts.”
There are four deleted/alternate scenes which can be played separately or in one 9 ½-minute grouping and which can be played with or without commentary from director Gavid Hood. These are presented in 1080p.
“Fox Movie Channel Presents a World Premiere” is a 6 ½-minute featurette covering the world premiere of the movie in Tempe, Arizona. FMC’s Tava Smiley interviews Hugh Jackman and others at the special event. It’s in 480i.
BD-Live on this disc activates a Live Lookup template in which any actors in any scene can be chosen with an instant reference to the IMDb giving credits and personal information. When loading the disc, the viewer is asked to update the database (takes only a few seconds), and thereafter the look up process works seamlessly.
The first disc in the set features 1080p trailers for The Marine II, Family Guiy, and Sons of Anarchy.
The second disc in the set is a digital copy of the movie with an enclosed card with instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
3/5 (not an average)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine does provide fans of the popular character a somewhat complete backstory to where we found the character in the first X-Men film. Though logic sometimes is sacrificed for inane action and impressive stunt work and special effects, there is still enough entertainment value here to satisfy those looking for an innocuous popcorn flick. The quality of the Blu-ray’s video and audio also works in the film’s favor.