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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

A superficial but watchable comic book action film, X-Men Origins Wolverine, a summer of 2009 blockbuster hopeful that came up a hair or two short because of that superficiality, has been released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Since such films go down easier on home video, it probably won’t seem so bad and it really isn’t, it’s just that there isn’t that much too it. Hugh Jackman reprises his role from the other X-Men movies as the titular hero, who is unkillable and can extend very sharp blades from the spaces between his knuckles. The film starts off auspiciously with the title card, “Canada, Northwest Territories, 1845,” since, as any Canadian school child can quickly tell you, the Northwest Territories were not created until 1870 and doubtfully did not have such a nice house sitting in the middle of the woods until much later than that. In any case, although the character is immortal, he apparently had a childhood before growing into an adult and then conveniently stopped growing when he got to Jackman’s age and figure. He has a brother, played by Liev Schreiber, who sports a less compelled conscience and has similar, but not exactly the same, powers. A government agency, or one particularly obsessed military man, wants to catch Jackman’s character to take his ‘DNA’ or whatever in order to build better soldiers. This set of circumstances leads to plenty of energetic action scenes, and a couple of decent plot twists, and at least some token emotional interactions among the characters. There is no compelling metaphorical representation of adolescent alienation as there was in the first couple of films, but that idea had pretty much run its course anyway. There is nothing new to what Jackman is doing, either. He was more interesting, in fact, in the earlier movies, where his character is more burnt out and angst-ridden, and seeing how he got that way just isn’t as sexy. But the filmmakers did spend lots and lots of money on the special effects, and the story is not so flawed that you can’t roll with it in order to appreciate and even enjoy their efforts.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The color transfer looks fine, with bright, sharp hues. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound has a few scattered separation effects and a reasonable amount of power, but no real showy moments. There are alternate French and Spanish tracks in 5.1 Dolby, optional English and Spanish subtitles, and a 12-minute promotional featurette.

Fox has also issued a 2-Disc Special Edition, with a second platter that contains a copy of the film that can be downloaded onto handheld viewing devices. In addition to the featurette on the first platter, there is a good 16-minute conversation between comic book creator Stan Lee and one of the comic book writers who inherited the character, Len Wein; and 10 minutes of deleted scenes that enhance the viewer’s understanding of the characters (and also include a future X-Men character seen as a child). Director Gavin Hood supplies one commentary track, and producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter. Hood also speaks over the deleted scenes. The two talks complement one another quite well. It is Donner and Winter who go into the details of the day-to-day shoot. While Hood does describe what went into some of the bigger production sequences, he spends a lot of time talking about the characters and the story.

The Blu-ray also comes with a second platter containing a digital copy of the film. The improvements in the BD’s picture don’t contribute much to the entertainment except during some of the outdoor vistas when Jackman’s character is hiding from the world and working as a lumberjack. The sub-woofer has an added boost on the DTS audio track, and other sounds are crisper, but it is the movie’s sound mix itself that is blandly designed, and the BD really can’t fix that. The French track is also upgraded to DTS and there is a Portuguese track in 5.1 Dolby, with additional Portuguese, Mandarin and Cantonese subtitles.

In addition to the special features from the DVD, there are 54 minutes of featurettes about every significant character (and a few insignificant ones) in the film, a 6-minute segment on a major stunt and effect sequence, and a cute 6-minute segment on the film’s premiere, with girls squealing left and right when Jackman shows up. There are also four new options that playback as the movie unfolds. One is just a trivia track, but it is quite good, relying heavily on the comic book histories of the characters to explain various details. Another contains clips from other featurettes and from behind-the-scenes footage that match up to what is happening on the screen, and another inserts storyboards and more elaborately animated ‘pre-visualization’ sequences in tandem with the finished segments as they show up. Finally, Hood sits in the corner of the screen for another commentary, intercut with more behind-the-scenes shots of him at work.

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at www.DVDLaser.com

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