Tuesday, September 15, 2009

DVD review: "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was doomed before they even started filming.

Not because audiences didn't want to see a spin-off about most popular character from the "X-Men" movies. Comic book fans were hungry for a story on the further adventures of the wayward mutant hero with metal claws and a healing ability that makes him unkillable -- preferably one they're already familiar with from the character's long history. (Japan, anyone?)

Instead, director Gavin Hood and his team delve into the character's origin story, which turns out to be one long Cain and Abel saga in which Wolverine and his similarly clawed brother Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) play out their sibling rivalry in a seemingly endless series of stabby tussles.

Face it: Wolverine was more intriguing as a mystery man. The minute they tried to burden him with a past, he diminished as a character.

The DVD comes with a good set of extras, including two separate feature commentaries, one by Hood and the other by producers Brian Winter and Lauren Shuler Donner. Each are entertaining without covering much new ground.

Wolverine's comic book creators, Stan Lee and Len Wein, trade amusing banter in a 16-minute featurette in which Lee reveals that he considered the X-Men the runt of his litter of other comic titles such as "Thor" and "The Fantastic Four."

In "Wolverine Unleashed," a 12-minute making-of doc, star Hugh Jackman says his disturbingly veiny physique -- which he spent months sculpting with a special diet and training regimen -- was intended to make the character appear "freaky." "I wanted it to look animal," he says.

There are also four deleted/alternate scenes, including a variation on a critical scene leading up to the final showdown with Victor, in which Wolverine agrees to have his memories erased.

While straining credulity, this explanation for his memory loss is superior to the laughable moment in the final film, in which Wolverine is shot in the head with bullets made from the same indestructible metal in his skeleton. At least they weren't silver.

Movie: 2 stars
Extras: 3.5 stars

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