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It’s entertaining enough, but it could have been soooo much better.

Blu-ray Review: X-Men Origins – Wolverine

As its title suggests, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the backstory for Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, reprising the role from the three previous X-Men films), everyone’s favorite stubborn mutant. Beginning with his days as a prepubescent lad in 1845, X-Men Origins: Wolverine then follows the ageless Logan as he and his stepbrother Victor, a.k.a. Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), enlist in one war after another, hiding their mutant backgrounds behind the flag.

In the not-too-distant days of Vietnam, however, the two mutants come under the command of Major Stryker (Danny Huston), who has assembled a ragtag crew of mutants to execute the most daring and deadly of orders. But, as anyone who has seen X2 knows, Stryker has his own objective in mind.

Years later (the late ‘70s), following Logan’s "resignation" from Stryker’s group, Logan is working as a lumberjack in Canada. But, before he can sing Monty Python’s well-known “I’m A Lumberjack” (or the far catchier but not as famous “Shake Hands With Danger” from the educational short of the same name), Logan learns Victor is running amok, killing off the former members of the platoon. Victor’s violent nature soon hits too close to home, and Logan takes Stryker up on a deal to undergo a top secret military experiment. All too late, Logan learns he is but a pawn in Stryker’s game — but fortunately, he’s an obstinately angry enough individual that he won’t take it lying down.

I was kind of disappointed with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It had so much potential. I mean, honestly, how can you screw up a story about a big angry guy with pork chop sideburns and metal claws? Not possible, by ordinary calculations. At first, I was most excited to hear the movie was being made, and I figured it couldn’t be all that bad. Yes, even after the whole “leaked online” incident and some subsequent negative reviews from critics, I still had hope for Wolverine. But, then, shortly after sitting down to watch it, a name caught my attention in the opening credits.

There are very few names that will cause me to run away screaming when I’m about to watch a film. One such name is Akiva Goldsman, who is arguably one of Hollywood‘s worst writers. Another is Michael Bay, who is arguably one of Hollywood‘s worst directors. But either of those names would have been preferred to seeing “Ryan Reynolds” as part of Wolverine’s cast. If you are unfamiliar with Ryan Reynolds, then allow me to elucidate: he is arguably one of Hollywood’s worst comedians (second only to Dane Cook).

Fortunately, the Ryan Reynolds factor is rather short-lived in this film — but that doesn’t change the fact that he bogs the project down some. However, I cannot attribute the film’s shortcomings to Ryan and Ryan alone. There is also the sad execution of the movie itself.

First off, allow me to state I am not particularly fond of the use of CGI in live-action films. I loathe the process, in fact. Especially crappy CGI. Now, I know it might tend to save some money for filmmakers (or does it?), but, for me, it really erases any impact to be had whatsoever — particularly in action sequences, but more so when they use crappy CGI.

Remember how cool it was when Luke Skywalker confronted Darth Vader on Cloud City? That’s because there were actual sets involved. Now compare that moment to the time Obi-Wan Kenobi fought Darth Maul in front a giant green screen. Sure, there was an aesthetic “comic book” effect to it all, but deep down, you knew it was fake. And, even though X-Men Origins: Wolverine is derived from comic books, the aesthetic feeling is completely missing here.

While the really beefed-up Jackman (who also produced) and co-star Schreiber are perfect (as you’d expect them to be), X-Men Origins: Wolverine ultimately suffers from some weak performances on behalf of its supporting cast. Recording artist will.i.am (from The Black-Eyed Peas) just seems to be there to get the “hipper” crowd in; the cult favorite character Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) comes off as the gay white version of Prince; and Ryan Reynolds’ miscasting as Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, is an insult to anyone with even a single-digit IQ.

An equally weak script does not help any. There are moments that seem to have just been put in to look “cool” (e.g. Wolverine struts away from an exploding helicopter as if he’s in a music video). A decidedly George and Martha Kent-esque couple look as if they were borrowed straight from the D.C. Superman universe. But most annoying of all was Wade Wilson: when he was introduced at the beginning of the film, I remarked, “Ah, he’s the Darth Maul character!” — words that would come back to haunt me when Deadpool meets his “demise” at the end of the film (fear not: he’s getting his own spinoff film).

On Blu-ray, our friends at Fox Home Entertainment have done a wonderful job. X-Men Origins: Wolverine comes to us in a 1080p/AVC transfer, which preserves the film (and all of its crappy CGI glory) in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation. The bad CGI effects are much more noticeable in high definition, standing out like a giraffe in a chicken coop the whole way through. Removing the whole “CGI” thing from the presentation, the remaining picture looks superb: there are rich colors (especially with the color blue, which the movie is practically built on), keen contrast levels, and solid blacks throughout.

Accompanying the film is a super-rich and super-loud DTS-HD MA 5.1 English audio track. It rocks, plain and simple. How do I know? Because my significant other asked me to turn the volume down, that’s how I know — it’s always good when she asks me to turn it down. But seriously, the main soundtrack is very well designed, giving your system a great workout the whole way through, and hitting you (and yours) like a brick. Spanish and French DD 5.1 soundtracks are also included with this release, and subtitles are available in English (SDH), Spanish, and French.

Some releases of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on Blu-ray include a digital copy for you computer (or iThingy), while others also boast an additional SD-DVD release. But of all of the releases, consistent special features include two audio commentaries (one with director Gavin Hood, the other with the producers), several featurettes (“The Roots Of Wolverine: A Conversation With Stan Lee & Len Wein,” “Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins,” and “The Thrill Of The Chase: The Helicopter Sequence”), ten “Weapon X Mutant Files” — live character biographies that border on embarrassing at times, several deleted scenes (including a post-end-credit stinger that was seen in some theaters and is much better than the one featured in the final print of the film).

All special features are presented in either 1080p or 1080i HD, with the exception of “Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere,” which was originally broadcast on TV and is presented here in standard definition. The disc also has several picture-in-picture features, wherein you can watch the movie and check out some of the special features at the same time. Rounding out the disc are a few trailers and a BD-Live option.

In the end, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a bit of a flop. That isn’t to say it’s a turkey, though; it’s still an enjoyable film, albeit a very silly one with a ton of crappy CGI effects. One could compare and contrast this with X3: The Last Stand in order to determine which is the better of the two and never get anywhere (at least X3: The Last Stand didn’t cast Ryan Reynolds). But, with the prequel film’s follow-up sequel already in the works, X-Men Origins: Wolverine makes for worthwhile (if perhaps, required) viewing.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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