Hugh Jackman returns to the screen for a fourth turn as one of the most popular superheroes from the world of Marvel comic books. This time he gets his own movie to tell how the fierce fighter with menacing metal claws came to be. Here's a look at X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Fans of the venerable X-Men comic books (and there are millions around the world) know Wolverine as the most charismatic and enigmatic of the 'mutants' who each have unusual powers. He himself is fuzzy on the details of where he came from: how John Logan became Wolverine with amazing strength and a skeleton of the indestructible metal 'adamantium.' This new film goes back to fill in that origin story.
Like the three previous X-Men movies, "…Wolverine" is bursting with explosions, chases, fights and slam-bang action scenes. It's an introduction to the blockbuster genre for South Africa-born director Gavin Hood, whose previous films, like the Oscar-winning urban drama Tsotsi, have been more intimate character studies.
"There is a tremendous danger when you step into a movie of this size that you will be overwhelmed and feel that you have to deliver this action and special effects world and that you might lose sight of what I think still is most important to an audience: to connect to a character," notes Hood. "This movie, I hope, does two things …and it should do two things. It needs to deliver the expected spectacle and action and excitement and high-octane pace that a summer blockbuster movie needs; but we have also done a rather complicated character story. So when you are in the close-up with Hugh Jackman and it's not a special effect or action, just an emotional moment …just a beat …it's still the most exciting and, I think, the most dangerous moment of filmmaking."
Australian screen star Hugh Jackman, also a producer on this film, flexes more muscles than ever before as he revisits and, in some ways, reinvents the Logan/Wolverine character.
"Everything felt new and fresh and it was important to me that the movie was going off on a new avenue in a fresh direction," Jackman says. "Let's face it, I was filling in 100 years of this guy's life so, in a way, it was acting the wrong way around. Normally that's where you start [but] I played a character who didn't really know anything about his past and in this movie I was kind of evolving that character so it felt brand-new."
Brand-new in this film is the bloodthirsty character of Sabertooth, Logan's half-brother Victor, played by Liev Schreiber, who says sibling rivalry can make great drama.
"It's one of those classical things. It's [the Bible's] 'Cain and Abel' and - I know this is a little Shakespearean - Edgar and Edmond from 'King Lear.' It's one of those stories that, for me, is fun to play," Schreiber says.
Director Hood is hesitant to compare the comic book superhero genre with Shakespeare. The analogy he draws is with the gods of ancient Greek mythology.
"Zeus and Poseidon and Apollo. These were the first superheroes and what made them so great, I think, was that they had super powers - Zeus threw lightning bolts, Poseidon conjured up storms - but they were so fueled by their human emotional responses," Hood says. "They were jealous about who had slept with their lover; they were demented by the betrayal of another. This is exactly what we have here. You have a story driven by profoundly human emotions. I'm almost nervous talking about this because what you're supposed to do when you sell these movies is say 'guys, this is a really cool movie with really cool visual effects and lots of action and Wolverine is really bad and come see him kick some butt!' Of course, he does all that so if that's what you want it's right there; but if you want to get into a sort of socio-political-pop cultural analysis, it's there for you too."
X-Men Origins: Wolverine also features Danny Huston as the duplicitous Colonel Stryker; and the X-Men mutants include Ryan Reynolds as Wolverine's nemesis Deadpool, Taylor Kitsch plays Gambit, rapper Will I. Am is Wraith and Lynn Collins is Wolverine's lover Kayla Silverfox. The film was shot at locations in Australia, New Zealand and Canada and features an action-packed soundtrack score by Harry Gregson-Williams.