Catty claws are already extended for this prequel, leaked online and troubled by another kind of animal malaise that might have audiences avoiding theaters altogether. Is Hugh charming enough to overcome the toxic antihype? We’ll never know, because X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a schlocky, dispiriting affair that kicks off the summer season in exhausted fashion, relies less on its overqualified cast (or even the outsider mythos of the comics) and more on fake-feeling computerized stunts. Big, dumb fun? Certainly big—and dumb.
After shredding through a portentous, Watchmen-like historical montage of ageless mutant brothers Logan (Jackman) and befanged Victor (Schreiber) serving in multiple U.S. armed conflicts, we find ourselves in woodsy Canada, where our hero wants only the simple life of a lumberjack and an occasional bad dream. “Was it the wars?” a girlfriend asks ridiculously, after another night of bedsheets sliced to ribbons.
Revenge soon grips Logan when his love is taken away, but Tsotsi director Gavin Hood seems bored by the sibling rivalry; even the Frankensteinian weaponizing of a human body feels rushed. Instead, we get several WrestleMania-type smackdowns, one of them even taking place in a boxing ring with a grossly overweight villain straight out of an Austin Powers flick. Comics geeks may twitter over buried nods, but missing is the sad, thematic elegance Bryan Singer teased out of the first two X-Men films. We mutants deserve better.—Joshua Rothkopf