Jun 20, 2009 at 01:01am IST

Masand's Verdict: X-Men Origins enjoyable

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Shreiber, Danny Huston

Director: Gavin Hood

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a pretty enjoyable action film. It's what you could safely call big, dumb entertainment - and I mean that in the best possible way.

A prequel to the enormously successful X-Men trilogy, this film focuses on Wolverine, the wild-haired savage with superhuman self-healing abilities, a nasty set of retractable claws and a murky past. The film's really a series of adrenalin-pumping action scenes - the usual mix of explosions, chases and fights - held together by a poor excuse for a plot.

In 1845 Canada, young Jimmy and his brother Victor discover they are mutants; the film's opening credits then proceed to play over a montage of the siblings fighting in a series of important wars. This helps establish the back-story of both men, and also the origin of the conflict between the siblings.

On tracking him again years later, we discover Jimmy has become Logan now (played by Hugh Jackman), he's turned his back on his military past and he's opted for a quiet life as a lumberjack with a pretty schoolteacher for company. When Victor (played by Liev Shreiber) tracks him down and kills his lover, Logan swears revenge and submits to having his skeleton bonded with indestructible adamantium by his former boss, Major Stryker (played by Danny Huston). While on a mission to hunt down his bloodthirsty brother, Logan uncovers a larger, sinister plot to wipe out all mutants.

At less than two hours in running time, this film is light on its feet and packs in enough by way of exciting, jaw-dropping set pieces including a chase involving a vintage motorbike and a swooping helicopter, and the climatic duel between the sparring siblings and another powerful mutant on Three-Mile Island.

Judged as a companion piece to the earlier trilogy, X-Men Origins: Wolverine falls substantially short. Those films - particularly the first two - had emotional depth and layered characters, but in comparison this one is just a spectacle with overblown special effects. Not that there's anything wrong with that. As a stand-alone film, Wolverine is engaging because so much is going on all at once, and because Hugh Jackman has that undeniable star quality that makes it hard to take your eyes off him when he's on screen. The one who surprises you this time though, is Leiv Shreiber with his menacing presence and his crooked smile.

Directed by Gavin Hood, the South African filmmaker behind the excellent Oscar-winning film Tsotsi, this movie has a surprisingly uneven tone, but makes no bones about the fact that it's going for the excited child in you. So if you enjoy watching trucks being blown up and grown men stabbing each other with their claws, this film can be pretty good fun.

I'm going with a generous three out of five for X-Men Origins: Wolverine; you can be sure more X-Men spin-offs are on their way.

Rating: 3 / 5 (Good)

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