The summer movie season takes off with a bang in this exciting, suspenseful and entertaining prequel based on the superhero character from Marvel Comics.
Despite the highly publicized leak of a pirated work print on the Internet and some bad advance buzz, fans of the "X-Men" trilogy will not be disappointed and will find that the finished product exceeds all expectations.
Director Gavin Hood ("Tsotsi") and screenwriters David Benioff ("The Kite Runner") and Skip Woods ("Hitman") deserve hearty congratulations for accomplishing the goal of coming full circle and bringing you back to the first "X-Men" film with even some wiggle room for a sequel.
Hugh Jackman, with an intense determination and movie star good looks, gains your trust, support and rooting interest early on in the title role. The opening scene takes place in 1845 somewhere within the Northwest Territories of Canada. A family tragedy prompts a sickly James Logan to discover his mutant powers when overwhelmed by rage. He and his older half brother Victor Creed (later known as Sabretooth) run away from home and never look back.
A war montage displayed over the opening credits shows the siblings serving together in the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War.
Logan (Jackman from "Australia" and "The Prestige") and Creed (Liev Schreiber from "Defiance" and "The Manchurian Candidate") are recruited by William Stryker (Danny Huston from "The Kingdom," "The Constant Gardener" and "The Aviator") to serve in a special mercenary unit of mutants.
After witnessing the slaughter of innocent civilians in Lagos, Nigeria, Logan has had enough and quits the elite squad. The story picks up six years later. Logan is living the peaceful life as a lumberjack in the Canadian Rockies with his enticing school teacher girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins from "The Merchant of Venice"). She possesses the power of persuasion and tells him a story about why the moon is so lonely. This leads to her giving him the nickname of Wolverine. Her apparent death at the hands of Creed is the catalyst for Wolverine seeking bloodthirsty revenge and reuniting with Stryker.
Wolverine undergoes a remarkable medical procedure that involves the metal alloy adamantium bonding with his skeletal structure. This brings out his animal side and turns him into Weapon X. His extraordinary lifespan bordering on immortality is attributable to an innate recuperative healing power that allows him to quickly recover from virtually any wound, disease or toxin.
This fantasy adventure is action-packed with thrilling stunt work, dazzling special effects, airtight storytelling and memorable characters. The movie is tightly edited with a running time under two hours.
The beautiful shooting locations throughout New Zealand and Australia make this an audio-visual feast for the senses. Composer Harry Gregson-Williams brings a wonderful orchestral score of original music to the table. The cinematography, lighting and set designs are all first class.
The movie has the requisite fights, chases and pyrotechnic explosions that audiences crave while munching popcorn. This drama will have the ladies swooning with the romantic angle and Jackman's muscular physique. The acting of Huston stands out as the evil nemesis that makes you want to boo and hiss every time he appears on screen. There are a few funny lines of dialogue that will elicit chuckles.
Wolverine delivers his famous catchphrase "what I do best is not very nice."
The trend continues in major blockbusters to add extra scenes during the end credits. You will want to take Yogi Berra's advice of "It ain't over till it's over" and stay in your seats for two final scenes before exiting the theater. This satisfying cinematic experience will fill in the blanks on the legend behind the indestructible amnesiac with the retractable steel claws.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"