X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.
Length: 107 minutes
Grade: ACBB+=A-
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $413 million (179 U.S., 184 Intl., probably 50+ DVD)

Written by: David Benioff (Kite Runner, Troy) and Skip Woods (Hitman, Swordfish)
Directed by: Gavin Hood (Rendition, Tsotsi)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will i Am, Lynn Collins, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, and Ryan Reynolds.

This tells the origin story of Wolverine, easily the most famous and widely loved of all the X-Men characters. Wolverine (Logan) and Sabretooth (Victor Creed) are semi-immortal brothers, alive and fighting in wars together since the middle 1800s. They finally have a falling out, becoming enemies, and Victor kills Logan’s woman, sending Logan to Colonel Stryker to have his skeleton laced with adamantium in order to defeat his stronger, more bestial older brother. Their feud then involves a wide array of other mutants, most notably Cyclops, Gambit, and Deadpool.

Entertainment Value: A
I grew up reading the X-Men, and the only thing I found disappointing here was making Sabretooth Wolverine’s brother rather than his father. Otherwise, I was very impressed with this movie, both action and story. I could have sworn that several people had told me it was confusing, but I have no idea what they were talking about. Even my wife who has never read a comic book in her life said that there was nothing overly complicated about this. Wolverine is all out comic-style action, and it ends up giving a plausible back-story to the mysterious beginnings of the Logan psyche that help explain a lot about him. Also, I think we can all agree that Liev Schreiber’s Sabretooth is simultaneously more believable and more terrifying than Tyler Mane’s in the first movie. I loved this, all the way through to the end, particularly the portrayal of Team X. Lots of other people apparently found it mediocre, but they’re wrong, and I’m right…as always.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity C+, Violence C-, Language C+
There’s a fair amount of alcohol and bar scenes. Logan chews but doesn’t smoke a cigar. Two characters are implied to have had sex, there is an attempted rape, and a man is seen naked from behind. The language is relatively light for PG-13, which is normal for Marvel movies. Violence is the biggest concern here, with plenty of fight sequences, people getting killed, and explosions.

Significant Content: B
Loyalty and love are very important. If we yield to our most beastly nature, we become beasts. Violence corrupts us, and vengeance never really works out the way we plan. It’s very important to have rules to constrain our dangerous impulses. Evil people can manipulate good people by using their goodness against them through deception. Soldiers must always take care to make sure they are being used in the right fight for the right reasons the right way.

Artistic/Thought Value: B+
Again, as someone who loves the Wolverine character, I thought they did a remarkably plausible job rendering the backstory here. I didn’t love him being semi-immortal, but it’s not impossible given that this mutant power is healing. There isn’t a whole lot of thought value here, but that’s not so surprising, is it?

Discussion Questions:
~What do you think of Logan’s decision to abandon the military team when he doesn’t like what’s going on? Should he have stayed and tried to get it back on the right track? How do you decide whether to leave a troubled organization or to stay and work to reform it?
~Is Logan neglecting the gift he’s been given by trying to just live a quiet life of seclusion? Does he have an obligation to use his powers for a greater purpose? What about after having fought in all those wars?
~Does it seem like Logan and Victor fight in those wars because it’s the right thing to do or because they like violence and killing people? Why is it important for soldiers to wish they didn’t have to kill people?
~If Logan had been a Christian at any point in this movie, how might that have affected his decisions? What advice might you have given him at pivotal plot moments?
~If you had Wolverine’s abilities, how would you use them?
~Some of the key elements of this movie hinge on characters (and us) believing the very worst about certain people. Has hatred ever led you to do anything foolish?
~Do you think the ability to live a very long time would be something worth having or more trouble than it’s worth?
~Is revenge ever right? What if the people being punished are genuinely dangerous to others? How should we balance the need to stop evil with the Biblical idea that vengeance belongs to God?
Overall Grade: A-
Any movie that has Daniel Negreanu as an extra in a New Orleans poker game with Gambit has to score high in my opinion. I know I’m virtually alone among critics in loving this, but if my wife likes an action movie based on comic characters, I feel pretty safe saying it’s a good movie. Besides, don’t you sort of have to love a movie that sutures Ryan Reynolds’s mouth shut because he talks too much?

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