DVD Release Date:  September 15, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  May 1, 2009
Rating:  PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence and some partial nudity)
Genre:  Action-Adventure, Adaptation, Sci-Fi
Run Time:  107 min.
Director:  Gavin Hood
Actors:  Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds

Thanks to the whole mutant factor, the X-Men have always been some of the more interesting comic book characters.

Unlike, say, Peter Parker/Spiderman or Bruce Wayne/Batman who have pretty sweet civilian lives while pulling double duty as the mysterious heroes who save those in peril and keeps evil nemeses at bay (Peter has brains and Mary Jane, who's clearly out of his league, while Bruce isn't exactly lacking for cash flow and has all those nifty gadgets—and the Batmobile—to boot), the X-Men never had it quite so good. Or easy.

After all, in a society where conformity is often king and uniqueness isn't always embraced, they're always the freaks—even if their "gifts" are pretty cool. But even if you're the clear rock star of the pack like Wolverine, those retractable claws, not to mention a particularly volatile temper, don't exactly allow you to blend in and have a quasi-normal existence.

And since those intriguing dynamics inevitably ended up playing out well in two really entertaining, big money-making flicks, (2006's X-Men: The Last Stand was far too lackluster and convoluted to make it a perfect trilogy), why not keep the momentum going, right? So in the grand tradition of oh-so-many movies these days, and just in time to kick off this year's summer at the multiplex, we've got an X-Men prequel of sorts: the story of how Wolverine became Wolverine.

Given the popularity of Wolverine's character, it's the logical choice and a great way of not having to pay several A-listers the big bucks it would require to do yet another full-blown X-Men outing. And with Tsotsi's Gavin Hood in the director's seat, the franchise's continued promise has never looked better.

Unfortunately, promise isn't nearly enough to ensure a top-notch superhero pic. Unlike last year's Iron Man, a perfect blend of larger-than-life popcorn movie with a coherent, intriguing storyline played to perfection by Robert Downey Jr., X-Men Origins: Wolverine is nothing more than a series of decently executed special effects eventually wasted on a predictable script. It's not that leading man Hugh Jackman doesn't fully invest himself in the role, mind you. His impressively bulky frame and latent anger always simmering beneath the surface, even when he's in love with a comely schoolteacher (Lynn Collins), still makes Jackman the perfect choice for Wolverine. But sadly, the screenplay that's riddled with cameos of characters that show up and disappear without warning or much consequence, doesn't really deliver.

The film's first third is serviceable enough, however, with a semi-intriguing set-up. Back in 1845, James Howlett (with a last name like that, he was destined to be Wolverine, right?) is a perpetually sick kid with a less-than-perfect family. In a drunken rage, his birth father assaults his mother and only seconds later, brutally kills his stepfather, while James, suffering with a fever, lays in his bed upstairs. Instead of being scared that his father might pursue him next, James is so overcome with rage that bony claws emerge from his forearms and instinctively, he plunges them into the killer's torso, becoming a killer (albeit one with more noble intentions) himself.