X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.
This came out in 2009. I think shortly before that I watched the third X-Men movie on DVD, thinking I should see that before this. Not that there's really any immediate connection, since this is a prequel. But of course, I never got around to catching this in the theater. But in 2011, I finally watched it on DVD... because there's a fifth X-Men movie coming out soon. I'd like to see it in the theater, but I doubt I'll get the chance. Anyway... what to say? My knowledge of Wolverine's past is pretty sketchy, and I'm not sure how closely the movie adheres to the comics, but it's entirely possible that it's closer than I think. Certainly there were some things that surprised me, but whether it's because of my own insufficient knowledge or because the writers took liberties with the character's established history, I couldn't say.
One thing I do know is that Wolverine is older than he looks. The film starts in 1845, with a boy named James and a slightly older boy named Victor. The two of them turn out to be brothers, which they hadn't known. Or half brothers, whatever. Anyway, they're both mutants with regenerative powers as well as bone claws that can come out of their hands at will. (I always thought Wolverine's claws were something he obtained at the same time as... something else I'll get to later, but I could be wrong.) Anyway, there's an incident that causes the two boys to go on the run together. Then the opening credits start, and we see scenes of them taking part in several wars throughout history, from the Civil War to Vietnam. (By this point if not sooner, James is going by the surname Logan.) And then there's a incident which leads to them being executed by firing squad, or at least their execution is attempted, but they survive, because they pretty much can't be killed. That's when they're approached by an officer named William Stryker, who gets them to join a team of mutants he's assembled, to carry out special ops missions. (I think aside from Logan there's only one member of the team I was previously familiar with, and he's someone I really think should be younger and should not have been a member of the team at all, but of course I could be wrong. Actually, I also vaguely knew Victor before this movie, by another name, though it took me awhile to realize that.)
And eventually, there's yet another incident, which this time leads Logan to leave the team, no longer willing to take part in the kind of morally questionable things they're required to do. Then the film flashes forward six years, which is when most of the movie takes place (though I'm not sure exactly when this is supposed to be; it's still clearly prior to the first X-Men movie, but probably not by that many years). Anyway, Logan is living in Canada with a woman named Kayla, and working as a lumberjack. But then he's again approached by Stryker, who tells him members of the former team are being killed off, though he says he doesn't know by who. It turns out it's Victor, who... does something that forces Logan to get involved in things he thought he'd left behind him. Something that makes Logan want revenge. But he loses a fight with Victor, and that leads him to agree to surgery proposed by Stryker, which bonds an indestructible metal called adamantium to his skeleton. Stryker then orders his medical team to erase Logan's memory, but Logan overhears this and escapes.
Well, I don't want to say too much about what happens after this point. Just that Stryker's team hunts Logan, who wants revenge against Victor as well as Stryker. His effort to find them involves a couple of his old teammates. Also it involves another mutant called Gambit, with whom I am slightly familiar, though I never thought of him as having encountered Wolverine this early (again, I could be wrong). Well, eventually Wolverine gets to the island where Stryker is holding various mutants his team has abducted, in order to replicate their powers in a mutant called "Weapon XI" (Logan himself was "Weapon X"). One of the mutants being held on the island was a teenaged Scott Summers, which provides a vague timeframe for the movie, I guess, though I'm not sure exactly how old he was supposed to be in the other movies (late 20s/early 30s). As usual, I feel like I've said both too much and too little. Naturally, I don't want to give away how it all ends. Though it's not a spoiler to say Logan's memory is erased, in the end. We already knew that from the previous movies, since he didn't remember his past.
Anyway... one of these days I must rewatch the earlier movies to make sure nothing in this movie is contradictory. I do think an effort was made to make sure everything fits, even if there are some close calls. I also should say I didn't like the movie as much as the other X-Men movies, but it was decent. The most important thing to me was getting to see how Wolverine got his adamantium skeleton, and that was done well enough. (We also get to see how Logan came by the name "Wolverine"; once again, I don't know if this is consistent with the comics, but it wasn't bad. I guess.) And while I felt the first half of the movie was mostly a bit underwhelming, the latter half was pretty good, particularly... well, everything that happened from the time Wolverine met Gambit onward. And there were plenty of good bits throughout the entire movie. And of course, there are plenty of decent fights...