'X-Men' prequel falls flat, joined by a rancid rom-com
The summer movie season is off to a disappointing start with the clawless and toothless pre-quel X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Considering the strength of the characters in the previous films, the biggest disappointment has to be a story line that isn't emotionally involving. The events unfold and you sit back and watch action sequences that for the most part aren't that exciting, presented within a story that's full of potholes. Who knew how much we would miss Dr. Charles Xavier and Magneto, Storm and Rogue?
Part of the problem is that the story is rehashing information presented in a much more dynamic fashion in director Bryan Singer's X2: X-Men United. It probably also doesn't help that the TV series Heroes has confiscated the mutant-hunting template and presented a weekly dose if it for sci-fi buffs to enjoy (or not enjoy all that much in the Heroes' bland Season Three that just ended with a whimper). Unfortunately, bland mutants seem to be the rule, not the exception.
Director Gavin Hood's X-Men Origins: Wolverine does start off with an exciting sequence that reveals that Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is a bit older than we might imagine, and that his claws were originally made of bone. Of even more interest is that his older brother Victor (Liev Schreiber) is the mutant we know in the future as Sabretooth.
After this terrific start, the movie leaps forward into a montage of images showing the brothers using their skills at the front lines in conflicts from the Civil War to Vietnam. Hiding mutants in the blood-drenched trenches where they will blend in is an interesting concept, but it's hard to believe it takes more than a century before a military man, the evil Col. William Stryker (Danny Huston) figures out that these boys have a special gift for mayhem.
Stryker finds a few more mutant freaks (played by Daniel Monahan, will.i.am and Ryan Reynolds among them) and turns them into his own personal death squad. Why these mutants would fall in line and be bossed around by a plain old human is never adequately explained. When Stryker goes on a quest to find a special metal (yep, it's adamantium), Logan walks away from the murder of innocent villagers.
Logan becomes a lumberjack (I'm not kidding and the scenery is beautiful), but of course he will eventually be pulled back into a showdown with his brother, whose motivations for siding with Stryker are again, never explained. Except, of course that the plot needs for him at some point to switch sides again and join forces with his brother in the big showdown at the abandoned Three Mile Island where Stryker is housing his Weapon X program.
Hood (Rendition, Tsotsi) is not an action director and it shows. The acting is adequate but hampered by a badly flawed screenplay.
In conclusion, Wolverine is absolutely forgettable.
Matthew McConaughey's career continues in freefall with the silly, awkward and immediately forgettable rom-com Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Ripping off Dickens' A Christmas Carol, McC plays an oversexed jerk who is trying to talk his younger brother (Breckin Meyer) into breaking off his wedding. Love is an illusion says the cynical Connor Meade, who still pines for the girl who got away, Jenny (played by Jennifer Garner). While his mentor Uncle Wayne (played by an almost funny Michael Douglas) is really a ghost, the girlfriends aren't dead, so the whole ghost angle is stupid. Not to mention that lousy title. A more appropriate title would have been "Screwed," in reference to the character's predicament, and the audience's response to wasting money on this clunker.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Directed by Gavin Hood; rated PG-13
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Directed by Mark Waters; rated PG-13
To read more about movies and other topics covered by movie critic Lori Hoffman under her blog alias Moviejunkie, visit http://blogs.atlanticcityweekly.com/.