While not having gotten a fair chance in theaters due to a "workprint" leaked online prior to its release, "X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE" isn't as good as the first two films of the series, but is still much better than Ratner's horrid entry, "X-MEN 3."
The character of Wolverine, is one of the most interesting of the superheroes depicted in the series, and "X-2" laid the groundwork for what could've been an outstanding look at this character, if given his own arena. Unfortunately, under the helm of Gavin Hood, there's little depth mined here. The best part of the film takes place in the powerful montage opening the film, wherein the title character and his half-brother are shown in famous historical scenarios spanning generations, including the landing at Normandy. However, nothing that follows is more than superficial. Budgeting seems to have been given only half-heartedly, and when finding the role of Major William Stryker, originally played by Brian Cox in X-2, has been assumed by Danny Huston, a red flag is being waved. Stryker enlists James Howlett and his half-brother, Victor, to join Team X, a military unit comprised of Mutants. Under Stryker's leadership, the team carries on various missions, and it doesn't take the audience or James long to figure out these assignments are only focused on increasing the power and greed of Stryker. Parting ways with the team, James settles down with a pretty girl, Kayla, assuming the life of a logger in Canada. When Victor kills Kayla with the goal of creating James with a thirst for vengeance, resulting in his willingness to join up with Stryker again, it works, and after some experimentation, "Wolverine" is born!
The rest that follows unfolds like a semi-amusing comic book. Plenty of action and plenty of "less than impressive" effects. The studio warned those violators watching illegal workprints of the film, that being unfinished, the lack of final effects would undermine any entertainment. However, after viewing the finished product, some scenes feel like this is still the workprint! Effects are less than impressive, and often shoddy. In fact, there are moments, wherein the expensive effects have about as much realism and awe-factor as an airing of the '70s "ISIS" on Saturday morning kid's programming. No kidding!
Under Hood's direction, the 107 minute running time feels much longer, and it makes his extremely over-praised effort, "TSOTSI" feel that much better! Weak direction, a production design that's far inferior to any of the previous films of the series and a ridiculous script, result in an extremely disappointing vehicle to debut this character's beginnings.
FOX has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray release. As cheesy as the effects are, the image is far better! Colors are rich and vibrant in virtually every scene. Detail is generally outstanding, especially in exterior scenes. However, the multitude of green screen background imagery creates occasionally flat-looking scenes. Contrast is also impressive with deep, although not "inky" blacks. An extremely good, short of "great" transfer!
FOX has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. WOW! Fox has done as good a job as possible in making up for this film's other flaws. If only the visual effects and narrative could've lived up to the dynamics suggested by the effects!!! From the opening through the end credits, surrounds engulf the audience, creating a whirlwind of exciting effects, whether these discrete effects are subtle or of a more industrial origin! Helicopters with blazing machine guns firing from a side-door at "Wolverine" buzzing across the landscape on a fast motorcycle, and plenty of similar moments hit at the kind of powerhouse action film this could've and should've been! Bass is deep and the dialogue is perfectly intelligible, despite layers of music and effects. A reference quality MIX!!!
Plenty of extras for this release, including a commentary with the director. Hood offers some interesting tidbits at times, but not enough to recommend sitting through an often dull track.
Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winters provide another commentary, far more interesting than Hood's but ultimately too dry, in the end.
Other extras are presented in either standard resolution, 1080i or 1080p. These include:
An extended conversation about the "X-MEN" origins, with Stan Lee and Len Wein. Entertaining throughout, it's worth sitting through the 16 minute running time.
"WOLVERINE UNLEASHED" offers plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and info about the regimen Jackman undertook in order to achieve the physical appearance necessary for this character.
"WEAPON X MUTANT FILES" runs almost an hour, and each main character is given full exploration in a variety of individual segments made up of cast and crew interviews.
"DELETED AND ALTERNATE SCENES" offers slightly under 10 minutes of deleted scenes, and a sort of alternate ending, with or without director's commentary.
"THE THRILL OF THE CHASE" examines the planning and execution of the one great action scene in the film, involving a helicopter pursuit of Wolverine on his motorcycle.
There's still plenty more and that doesn't included the extras offered on street date via BD-LIVE. A "Definite" for fans of the film and a rental recommendation for fans of the series.