X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) - Ultimate 2-Disc Edition [Blu-ray]
|Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Science Fiction|
|Fox || PG13 - 107 minutes - $39.99 || September 15, 2009|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-09-17|
Writer(s): David Benioff and Ski Woods (screenplay)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Reynolds
Theatrical Release Date: May 1, 2009
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The X-Men franchise has had its ups and downs. The first movie was decent enough for an origins story but it was X2: X-Men United that took it to a new, emotionally deep and highly entertaining level before crashing down to the earth’s core with X-Men: The Last Stand, a ploddingly stupid sci-fi action flick that was a thin veil of its predecessors. Now with Fox taking an origins angle with the franchise (also serves as a way to keep the rights as now Disney owns Marvel characters, as well as a way to help the box office), X-Men Origins: Wolverine doesn’t exactly hit on all cylinders but is still a decent enough film.
However, I am not a Marvel aficionado... at all, so I didn’t carry any of the baggage of massive expectations with the introduction of Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) or the Weapon X storyline. I looked at this as a prequel, a glimpse at how Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) became the wandering gruff we meet in the first movie. Unfortunately, while Wolverine is a visually stimulating flick, you don’t really learn that much about the man.
Probably to present a faster paced movie, the director and/or studio just quickly jumped through his childhood involving his father’s death and then through each war up to Vietnam when things come to a head with his sociopathic brother, Victor Creed a.k.a. Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). While defending Victor from members of his platoon (after Victor attempted to rape a Vietnamese woman), they are sentenced to die. Of course, neither one can die that easily so when Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston) asks them to be a part of a new team he has put together, they accept.
This group, “Team X”, comprised of people with special abilities from a smart-ass but skillful mercenary in Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a brute force of nature (Kevin Durand), an electrokinetic (Dominic Monaghan) and a teleporter (Will.i.am), amongst others. Stryker takes them to their first assignment, in Nigeria, to find information of a precious rock, but Team X’s questionable morals and ethics, which includes killing innocent men, women and children, leads Logan to leave the group and thus his own brother.
Years later, we find him living the good life in the Canadian mountains working as a logger and living with the beautiful Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). After Stryker tracks down Logan and warns him that somebody, revealed to be Creed earlier in the film, is killing old members of Team X, Logan realizes that Creed is going after Silverfox but is too late. Wanting revenge, Logan accepts a deal from Stryker to undergo a highly painful and very new experiment to reinforce his skeleton with the indestructible metal, adamantium. Logan’s search for Creed leads him to former members of Team X as well as Gambit on his quest for revenge and a showdown with Weapon XI – a super-soldier with the capabilities to kill even the most highly skilled mutants (since he has the same powers).
All in all, Wolverine isn’t too bad of a movie. Although it is easy and maybe a given to say it is better than The Last Stand, I found this X-Men entry to be fairly entertaining probably because I’m not a fan of the comic book. However and maybe this is in the comic book, but how Logan loses his memory was kind of strange. It wasn’t the how really, but the fact Stryker could just explain and it was so, just didn’t make sense. What if it didn’t work? What then?
Now, you’re not really going to get anything new from this movie. The action sequences are cool, but nothing overly special or memorable. The visual effects are iffy... at best especially a key scene after Logan gets his metal claws and he’s closely examining them; real obvious (and cheap) CGI and looked poor especially comparing it to the previous films. Given its reported $150 million budget and smaller action sequences (compared to the other X-Men movies), not to mention a cheaper cast, I don’t know why some of the CGI wasn’t better. But since the most obvious example was short, I am able to overlook it. On the plus side, Raith’s teleportation looked pretty good so I guess the budget wasn’t completely wasted.
The cast look good but in regards to Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine, he kind of, and I hate using this term, phones it in. Outside of his scene where he discovers Kayla’s lifeless body, everything else seemed to be cruise control for a man who has now played the character for nine years. No doubt, Jackman is still great, but sadly doesn’t make much of an impression as the central central character (vs. the others where he was central around 25 others).
Much has been made about Ryan Reynolds but it was clearly meant just as a spin-off for his own feature film, Deadpool. Although his role was apparently expanded, it’s still merely a cameo as he disappears early on and with only 10-minutes of screen time (at best). But as a fan of Reynolds, I might be interested to see what he’d do with an R-rated spin-off movie.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was directed by Gavin Hood, an interesting choice for sure previously helming smaller movies, the last being the 2007 political-thriller bomb, Rendition. The film’s screenplay was written by David Benioff (Troy and the underrated Stay) and Skip Woods (Swordfish, Hitman and the upcoming A-Team adaptation). The writing isn’t anything profound as it’s a nicely condensed though not all too deep story.
The Blu-ray has two feature commentaries:
The first, with Director Gavin Hood, is low-key as he just gives bits of trivia about the story and production. I’ve said this before and will say it again: I always prefer having more than one commentator in the room versus someone going solo. Hood is OK but does a little too much telestrating what is going on the screen.
The second is with Producers Lauren Schuler-Donner and Ralph Winter. While Hood tended to give us a blow by blow of the screen action, this is a technical commentary talking about the sets, costumes and whatnot. Because there are two of them, they do bounce thoughts off of each other.
The Roots of Wolverine: A Conversation with Stan Lee and Len Wein (16:18; HD) – Wein, co-creator of Wolverine, chats it up with legend Stan Lee about various topics like how he and Jack Kirby created the X-Men, the popularity of the comic book segwaying into how the Wolverine character was created, I might not be a Marvel guy, but I would love for Lee to do a commentary, he is just so damn fascinating.
Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins (12:05; HD) – This featurette takes a look at how Wolverine was adapted for this feature film with cast and crew talking about various aspects from his claws to the set design comparing it to what was seen in X2.
Weapon X Mutant Files (53:57; HD) are several featurettes on some of the characters: Victor Creed/Sabretooth, William Stryker, John Wraith, Kayla Silverfox, Fred Dukes/Blob, Bradley, Remy LeBeau/Gambit, Agent Zero, Wade Wilson/Deadpool and Emma (Kayla’s Sister). They each have comments from cast and crew about why they were included in the film and how they were adapted. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
The Thrill of the Chase: The Helicopter Sequence (5:53; HD) takes a closer examination of the film’s marquee action sequence looking at the practical effects and what they did with visual effects.
Ultimate X-Mode BONUSVIEW (** Blu-ray Exclusive **) contains several PiP segments:
- “X Connect” features director Gavin Hood and producer Lauren Schuler-Donner talking about certain scenes and shows footage/pictures for comparison from the previous X-Men movies. Unfortunately it’s not utilized that much so you will get plenty of dead space. It would’ve been nice if they had an index where you can go directly to those scenes instead of re-watching the movie again hoping to get to one.
- “The Director’s Chair” is a little better PiP track which provides comments from the director along with behind-the-scenes footage/production stills as he, along with crew members, talk about the source material and providing a proper origin story. There is still too much dead space where you are just watching the movie. I’m not sure why they didn’t just combine this with “X Connect”, together they would’ve probably run across the entire film.
- “X Facts” is an old school pop-up trivia track that runs throughout. You get to know some factoids such as 70% of Americans have seen at least one of the X-Men movies or how certain scenes were filmed.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (9:32; HD) – Four scenes with an optional commentary by Gavin Hood including one showing a young Storm which he decided to cut since in the other movies she doesn’t recognize Wolverine (it is the scene where Logan leaves Team X). Another scene has Logan voluntarily allowing Stryker to erase his memory (I actually prefer this version to what they did in the final cut). One of these scenes is a ** Blu-ray Exclusive **.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere (6:22; SD) is the typical type press featurette showing us the world premiere event in... Tempe, Arizona which won the “X Marks the Spot” contest. It then goes into what the movie is about and makes its best pitch to why you should see the movie. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Live Lookup is a new feature where you can, while watching the movie, check out an actor’s filmography via IMDb. It’s kind of cool especially if you ever wondered where you’ve seen so-or-so actor. You can check out the actor by who is the scene or for every actor in the movie. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Disc two contains the digital copy.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
Wolverine is presented in its original 2.35 aspect ratio (AVC encoded) and overall, looks pretty good. It’s not squeaky clean with some just a little noise that gives it that cinematic quality I love to watch. Now, since this is the almighty 1080p high-definition, it also exposes the crappy CGI – the aforementioned claw inspection scene – but I find it hard to blame it on the transfer, just cheap visual effects. Overall, it is a sharp and detailed transfer that I was fairly impressed with.
The DTS-HD 5.1 lossless audio track, in a word, sounds incredible. You not only get crisp and clear dialogue (for what that’s worth), but a well rounded audio experience where not only do the front speakers get a nice little workout, but the rear channels get some nice usage as well especially with bullets zooming. The subwoofer also gets some good use with every crash or explosion.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine may not be a great movie and should have been better, but I felt it was a step up from the The Last Stand. Thankfully, Fox did not pull back with the features including some nice Blu-ray exclusives. The video looks nice and the audio is boomtastic. If you’re a fan of these characters or can forgive the film of its many flaws, the least of which some cheap-ass visual effects, this is one that may well be worth picking up.