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WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Rather than going to the well for another X-Men sequel, Hugh Jackman’s mutant Wolverine has been spun off into an uneven prequel that tries to explain the character’s origins but somehow misses what we liked about him in the first place. X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens with a flashback to 150 years ago which unveils the relationship between Logan and Victor, mutant half-brothers who are forced to run away from home after Logan murders their biological father. After several scenes depicting the brothers’ service in various wars, the story settles in around the 1970s, where both Victor and Logan are recruited by the devious William Stryker to serve in a mutant army. But Logan spurns Stryker after taking part in a massacre in East Africa, and chooses instead to settle down with his girlfriend, Kayla Silverfox, in the Canadian Rockies. Six years later, Victor, now Sabretooth, shows up and kills her. Logan, now Wolverine, seeks revenge, reluctantly making a deal with Stryker in order to become indestructible. Unfortunately, he is double-crossed and uncovers a Stryker/Sabretooth plot to kidnap mutants and use them for no good. He escapes, and the chase is on as he tries to stop them — and anyone else in his way — before his memory is erased.
WHO’S IN IT?
It’s the buffed-up Jackman’s show all the way as Wolverine graduates to star status — and that’s exactly the problem. It turns out a little of this guy goes a long way, especially when he’s presented in as humorless and unimaginative a manner as the deadly serious approach taken by Hugh (who also co-produced). Jackman acquits himself nicely in the numerous action scenes, but fails to make a lasting human connection for Wolverine and the audience. Liev Schreiber is good as Sabretooth but plays it mostly on one note. His three fight scenes opposite Jackman are well-choreographed but become tiring. Danny Huston makes a fine heavy as the evil Stryker while Lynn Collins is lovely as Silverfox, adding a nice touch of emotion to this mostly stoic CGI-fest. A promising new group of mutants are also introduced but unfortunately aren't given much to do. Standouts are Ryan Reynolds as the smart-talking Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool; rapper will.i.am as John Wraith; and Kevin Durand as the humungous Fred J. Dukes, aka The Blob. Durand is especially impressive in a boxing gym scene. Conversely, Lost’s Dominic Monaghan receives too little screen time in the role of Bradley.
Wolverine’s CGI effects are predictably top-notch and a couple of big action set pieces are visually arresting, including a motorcycle/helicopter chase that may lack credibility but is at least fun to watch.
Lighten up, Wolvie. Jackman and everyone else seem to be taking this stuff way too seriously. The humanity that was a hallmark of the previous X-Men films also is largely AWOL, and the picture takes a long time to get going. We’re at the 40-minute mark before the claws really start to come out and the psychological mumbo-jumbo stops.
In the lab, Stryker promises to make a revenge-seeking Wolverine indestructible, but his double-crossing antics only serve to unleash severe rage, inspiring great balls of mutant fury as the furious mutant makes his great escape — sans clothing.
WHY YOU SHOULD SIT THROUGH SEVEN MINUTES OF END CREDITS?
For those who think the movie effectively ends when the credits roll, here is a “heads up” to hang around.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Since reportedly about 100,000 people downloaded a rough cut when Wolverine was illegally pirated a few weeks ago, why not help out poor 20th Century Fox and see it the legal way on the big screen? It’s a big improvement over your iMac.
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