If you were going to choose an X-Man to frame an origin story around, there is no one better than Wolverine. He's always been the most interesting character in X-Men. Perhaps because while all the others in the team use their mutant powers for the betterment of mankind, Logan's bad attitude makes him something of a wild card. One never to be entirely trusted.
I thought the idea of Wolverine getting his own movie was immensely exciting. Especially when Hugh Jackman agreed to reprise the role. And I'm pleased to say it was worth the wait. Quite a few have been quick to poke holes in the film's script, but I didn't feel disappointed with it at all. I felt it did Wolverine justice. Its a worthy addition to the series.
To side with a few nitpickers, 20th Century Fox and director Gavin Hood have taken a few liberties. Not just with the backstory, but also by breaking continuity with the other films in the series. For one, Logan's metal skeleton has always been the result of an experiment done to him against his will. But in Wolverine, here he willingly goes through with it, to get revenge on Sabretooth for killing his lover.
Also we get to meet a young Cyclops who runs into Logan. But no mention is made of that in the first film. They act like they've never met. Still, in spite of rewriting some of what we already know, Wolverine does a quite excellent job of bringing a lot of Logan's past into focus. All through a combination of Gavin Hood's involving, kinetic direction, David Benioff and Skip Woods' screenplay, and another excellent performance from the great Hugh Jackman.
The opening credit sequence stayed with me more than anything else in the film. We watch as Logan and Sabretooth (half-brothers in this version) grow up and go to war. The Civil War. Both World Wars. Vietnam. And then finally they go to war on each other. They're both recruited by William Stryker (who you may remember from X2) to work in a special covert operations team. But while Logan and Sabretooth may seem similar, they are quite different.
They may be part animal, but Sabretooth likes it a lot more than Logan does. Nor does Logan share Sabretooth's love of killing. So when he strikes out on his own, how much are you willing to bet that it isn't long before Logan's past comes back to haunt him?
It didn't take me long at all to become enthralled in Wolverine's life history. Some people have criticised the idea of Logan and Sabretooth becoming brothers, but I felt it added an additional level of gravitas. It made Sabretooth's betrayal that much more potent. And I quite liked the way David Benioff and Skip Woods attempt to humanise Wolverine.
Some of the best scenes in the film have nothing to do with large scale action sequences or revved up pyrotechnics. Some of the most touching and most moving moments is watching Wolverine trying to fit into a normal life. Away from wars and mortal enemies. And ultimately failing. His relationship with Kayla (nicely played by Lynn Collins), a seemingly ordinary human woman is quite affecting. Watching her take on the near impossible task of taming Logan's primal side is involving. Both Jackman and Collins shine in these scenes. Or the scene when Logan befriends an elderly couple. Who pay a terrible price for taking him in.
But Hood doesn't disappoint on the action front either. Wolverine has some breathtaking action scenes. Logan being chased by helicopter while on a bike is a real adrenaline pumper. And as it moves towards its climax, in a thrilling fight on top of a cooling tower, the film becomes something that makes you want to cry out for joy. This film really needs to be seen on a cinema screen. The photography of the Canadian Rockies provides a dazzling backdrop for the final fight. One suspects the film will lose a lot in the transfer when it goes to DVD.
The acting is all superb. Hugh Jackman is expectedly excellent. He dives into Logan's animal nature with pure, undiluted relish. But more importantly, he always knows the need to dial it down too, giving us that even more crucial chance to see inside the soul of Wolverine. I was a little wary to begin with when I learned Liev Schrieber would play Sabretooth. I just couldn't envision him in the role but he's a revelation. He brings a real meanness to the part. Something Tyler Mane never had in X-Men. You can see in his performance why it is that Logan hates him so much. The two have marvellous sparkage whenever they're paired together.
There are times when the film lapses perhaps too much into the realm of the comic book (I'm thinking of The Blob as I write this), but for the most part, Gavin Hood treats the material with the utmost respect. It ends on a shocking downer that also manages to tie in neatly with the first X-Men film. The script has many surprises that leaves you as jolted and embittered as poor Logan. A highly enjoyable film that exceeds all expectations, and the best X-Men adventure since X2.