May 29, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009): D

Purporting an adrenaline-fueled, kick-ass showcase in which the drive and torment behind the most interesting character of Brian Singer’s X-Men films is revealed, Wolverine – the first in a planned series of prequels – instead feels like a hunk of pasteurized cheese left on a summer day’s asphalt road. Far from the best of the recent superhero films – all of which worked to create their own singular mythology – Wolverine cribs from already recycled clich├ęs and dictates meaning with an insufferable assurance bordering on pomposity. From the young Wolverine’s first bone-claw sprouting, oedipal-infused shout at the moon to the climax in which character motivations toggle like tools to the script, there’s nary a moment therein that doesn’t amount to a predigested void; watching it is like giving penance to a paint-by-numbers kit. Hugh Jackman, for all his impressive flair and brooding, is wasted on material so phoned-in; his iconic embodiment of the character is reduced to transparently badass drivel, while director Gavid Hood applies the same overly schematic storytelling and fakey visual textures that so permeated his prestige films Tsotsi and Rendition – both works of condescending moral inquisition aimed at highbrow guilt. Though his childish storytelling (not childlike; there’s a difference) is more at home in material with all the aspiration of a Happy Meal toy, it doesn’t make watching these barely-emotive action figures any more tolerable. For pure stupidity, nothing tops the scene in which a mutant falls at a descending rate so as to prolong the showing off of its long-since unimpressive superpower.

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