Hugh Jackman busts out his fulsome sideys for a fourth time, as the X-Men creative team attempt to discover if three films in a series really is the cut-off point before the rot sets in. Focusing on the pedicure-phobic firebrand, XMO:W delves into Logan’s pre-trilogy past to explain how he became the much-loved cigar-chomping berzerker Wolverine.
It turns out that not only is he nigh-on indestructible, Father Time also has a hard time landing one on him, as it all kicks off back in the mid-1800s with a young Logan inadvertently killing his father with the aid of his trademark claws. Fleeing the crime scene with his equally mutanty brother Victor, the genetically gifted pair drift into military service, fighting for over a century thanks to their invulnerability.
Victor’s increasingly unruly nature eventually lands the pair in front of a firing squad - and when that fails to hit the spot, they’re enlisted by a General Stryker into a covert black ops team of fellow mutants. After one mission to locate a crashed meteorite in Africa leaves a bad taste in his mouth, Logan walks away, leaving Victor behind in favour of an idyllic life as a Canadian lumberjack with girlfriend Kyla.
Of course, there’s no place for an idyll in an action film, and Stryker tracks Logan down, claiming that Victor is killing off his former team-mates. After he refuses to help, Victor’s actions soon force his hand.
Stryker offers Logan assistance in his quest to get revenge on Victor by reinforcing his skeleton with the metal from the meteorite, but Stryker’s attempt to wipe his memory at the same time causes the newly pimped Wolverine to do a runner. After an attempt to take Wolverine down fails, the spiky-knuckled hero realises he needs to deal with Victor and Stryker – plus any other surprise packages the general has up his sleeve.
Less operatic than the X-Men trilogy, this outing feels more conventional action fare and a perfect jump-on point for newcomers. Hugh Jackman is reliably spot-on as the reluctant ass-kicker, capturing the more human, renegade anti-hero vibe that makes Wolverine closer to cinematic icons like Dirty Harry than spandex-packers like Spider-Man.
Packed with gorgeous Canadian scenery, it has a less intense, densely packed quality than the trilogy, which is both a good and bad thing. That sense of airiness reinforces the fact that for all its merits, this film is merely a sub-plot blown to feature length.
The origin story is an import from comics, usually used as either a filler between storylines or as a major exercise in character exploration – we’re unsure how much a fan will have got from this, so we feel inclined to the more exploitative former.
Enjoyable as it is, we can’t help but be distracted by the efforts to rinse the franchise – especially by the proliferation of new characters, who feel more like markers for future films (a trend Marvel films has been working recently, with small guest spots setting up future films like The Avengers).
With the casting of these roles also favouring newbie actors over the experienced heads that populated the trilogy, the films LAO SADLY lack the weight of presence that the likes of Ian McKellen, Halle Berry and Patrick Stewart gave (oh, and Vinnie Jones).
It’s a dynamic, entertaining and solid piece of cinema that won’t disappoint fans of the series – yet it won’t wow them either.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dominic Monagahan, Ryan Reynolds.
Directed by: Gavin Hoods
Extras: Commentaries, interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes