As far as origin stories go, Wolverine's is one of the longest and most elaborately evolving sagas in the Marvel Comics universe. The film version of this popular character from the X-men series of comics (and now movies) is an equally long, constant attempt at unraveling the tale with a minimum of exposition and with as many guest appearances by mostly irrelevant mutants as producers can fit in. Here is a film that wants to be true to this characters past as disclosed in the many graphic novels that have been written/drawn about him, but never respects that this is supposed to be his story alone.
The film is cluttered with an enormous amount of plot threads and unnecessary screen time devoted to the many mutants that Wolverine encounters, from the opening title sequence that showcases the wars that James (as he's known before he became Wolverine) and his half-brother Victor Creed (later known as Sabretooth, played fittingly well by Liev Schreiber) fight in, to their involvement with the Weapon X program, which transforms him into the 'adamantium' laced hero we saw (or read about) in X-men. The machinations of the plot work to move the story forward and bring us up to speed with the time before the X-men were created. This is the films primary objective, but it seems dissuaded in its path by being in some kind of rush to get to the end, never being patient enough to just let us watch Logan, as he is later known. The only time this doesn't' happen is during the films brief quite moments, set in the Canadian backwoods, where Logan seems to find some peace in the company of Kayla, the woman he marries.
When the film isn't introducing one too many heroes from the Marvel canon (including Deadpool, Gambit and a host of other lesser known characters), it assaults our senses with one big action piece after another. Many of these are well executed and will provide audiences with value for their money, but some of these remain raw and unpolished, even in the finished theatrical version I saw, relying too heavily on obvious CGI. This gives the impression of a film thought over more in the editing room than in the scripting process. This is vaguely reminiscent of the problems with George Lucas's Star Wars prequels, in particular Episode 3, which seemed equally rushed to get to an ending we already knew. Wolverine has the added weight of living up to both enormous hype and the expectations set by the more superior X2, which is tries to constantly one-up, culminating in a climactic battle that is so over the top it defies believability.
Unlike X2's exemplary showcase of superhero action with a relevant, contemporary social context, the script for Wolverine, credited to Skip Woods and David Benioff, has none of the observations about human inequality, which could be applied universally to racism, intolerance or even sexual orientation. This is surprising given the fact that the director Gavin Hood is best known for his Oscar winner, Tsotsi, a film about a thief, who as a character has many similarities to Logan's perennial outsider syndrome. While some may argue that's its not entirely important for a film, especially one dealing with fictional superheroes to have such a strong thematic drive, it certainly helps in aiding with both the believability factor and realism, and Wolverine lacks in this area. Like last years Iron Man, it provides the casual moviegoer a good explosive time on the big screen but falls short of the promise of being more memorable, though it does a remarkable job of erasing from memory the bitter after taste of the dismal X-men 3. As far as spin-off titles go, Wolverine the film is to X-men (at least the first two) what Joey the TV series is to Friends, something we're happy to see but might just as well soon forget. - Faizan Rashid