X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

(In theaters, May 2009) “Wolverine is cool! He’s got claws!” seems to have been the operative memo that launched this film, because there really isn’t more to this film than claws without consistency: The historical details are hysterically wrong, the logic of the film is cribbed with holes and even simple physics takes a beating whenever Wolverine takes out his oh-so-cool claws. (So cool that they bend space and time to allow our hero to slice a rolling vehicle without having his arm snap back at a hundred klicks per hour). Yet science neepery doesn’t do justice to the failings of the movie even as popcorn entertainment: The script lurches from one useless battle to another, laboriously sets up obvious plot twists and dismisses its characters with trite dialogue. For another entry in the generally superior X-Men series, it’s a shocking reminder that most comic-book movies are pretty bad: this one has none of the thematic heft or sheer sense of fun that sustained the three first films in the series. The various contortions that the film goes through in order to justify its “prequel” status are more painful than enlightening, and the result is seriously underwhelming. It doesn’t help than Ryan Reynold is criminally under-used (he was the best thing about Blade III, and his speaking moments are once again a good chunk of what’s good with this film), and that none of the film’s screenwriters know what to do with Logan’s Canadian citizenship. It’s one of the film’s minor fault that it, being shot in New Zealand, is never convincing at portraying the Canadian wilderness, but it’s far more important that, shot as a superhero film, it’s never convincing as anything more than a routine entry in an overcrowded field. From Watchmen to this is a brutal return to the reality of Hollywood.

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