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Considering the disappointing nature of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, I truly believed that this particular superhero franchise was so far painted into a corner that it was truly dead. Of course, in Hollywood, there are several ways to un-paint yourself out of a corner. You can reboot the franchise, make yourself a prequel, or when really desperate have, Patrick Duffy emerge from a shower and reassure you it was all a bad dream. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE ($40) takes the middle option and goes for prequel; offering an origin story for the movie franchise’s most popular, breakout character. Fortunately, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE is a much better film than its cinematic predecessor, but still not quite up to the standards of the first two films in the series. Another plus is actor Hugh Jackman, who is always interesting to watch, despite any weaknesses in the material.

Opening in 1845 in Canada, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE introduces us to young James Howlett and his half brother Victor Creed. After a tragic incident, in which the boys’ mutant powers are revealed, they flee off into the night… and then grow into men, who spend the next century as soldiers involved in every skirmish and battle from the American Civil War through Vietnam. Ultimately, James (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) have their true natures revealed when they face a firing squad… and don’t die. Major William Stryker (Danny Huston) then recruits the brothers into in Team X, which is made up of other mutants, who perform black ops missions for the government that require their particular skill set.

Eventually, James grows disillusioned with Team X and their methods and just walks away. Six years pass… James, who now goes by the name Logan, is working as a lumberjack in Canada and living with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), when his past comes looking for him. As it turns out, someone has begun killing members of Team X- and that someone turns out to be Victor, who wastes no time in killing Kayla. At this point, Stryker offers Logan a way to defeat his brother, which he accepts. Logan becomes the subject of an experiment, which infuses his skeleton with a nearly indestructible metal known as adamantium. However, after the successful procedure, Logan discovers that he has been the victim of a huge deception, which was orchestrated by Stryker to guarantee his willing participation in the experiment. What follows is the expected superhero/action movie mayhem as all of Stryker’s plans are revealed, and Logan becomes the hero, who must set it all right. The cast of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE also features Will i Am, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, Ryan Reynolds, Tim Pocock, Julia Blake, Max Cullen, Troye Sivan, Michael-James Olsen, Peter O'Brien, Aaron Jeffery and Alice Parkinson. Look for an uncredited cameo from a digitally enhanced Patrick Stewart as a younger Charles Xavier.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE comes with a fairly impressive 1080p presentation that serves up the slightly stylized visuals quite well. The image is quite sharp and highly dimensional, in addition to offering up excellent texturing and fine detail. Colors are rich, vibrant, fully saturated and reproduced without flaws. Additionally, the flesh tones come across in an exceedingly pleasing manner. Blacks are generally accurate and the whites appear stable. Contrast has been given a bit of a stylized push, which looks good. Can’t say I are any complaints about the strong level of shadow detail. The elements from which X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE has been mastered demonstrate virtually no imperfections. Grain is ever present, but not excessive- so it adds a desirable amount of grittiness to the image, without being overstated.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The soundtrack really delivers and earns itself a place on the demo pile. This being an action movie, there are plenty of showy moments that bring all of the outlying channels to explosive life. Additionally, the quieter moments also impress with the nuances that create authentic sounding sonic environments that have a genuine sense of life. Panning between channels is effortless and the overall sound design is highly engaging. The lossless encode boosts the musical component, as well as the convincing sound effects. There is plenty of percussive force and rumble coming from the bass channel. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. English, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Portuguese.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries included on the Blu-ray Disc; the first is with director Gavin Hood, while the second features producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter. Featurettes and other programs include the following: A Conversation With Stan Lee & Len Wein (16 minutes), Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins Featurette (12 minutes), Weapon X Mutant Files (54 minutes), The Thrill Of The Chase (6 minutes) and Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere (6 minutes). A series of four Bonus View (requires a Profile 1.1 player) viewing options are provided and are listed under the following titles: X-Connect, Director's Chair, Pre-Visualizing Wolverine, X-Facts. Four Deleted/Alternate Scenes and Bonus Trailers close out the standard supplements. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player) and provides Live Lookup access to the Internet Movie Database (a very cool feature for the die hard movie fan who likes to be in the know). A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE is a much better film than X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (which might have been more aptly subtitled the last nail in the coffin), but still falls short of the first two installments. The Blu-ray presentation is pretty terrific on both the video and audio fronts, so you can’t go wrong with the disc.



X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Two-Disc Edition + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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