Without fail, the dullest installment in any superhero movie franchise is the origin story, during which audiences anxiously awaiting The Big Bad Guy have to suffer through, yaaaawn, scenes of childhood trauma, romantic tragedy, and other expository effluvia, by which point the closing credits are fast approaching. Alas, the X-Men franchise takes a giant leap backward and off a cliff with its fourth offering—yet again starring now-co-producer Hugh Jackman as the scissorhands from Canada—by collapsing 30 years’ worth of comic-book backstory into an altogether anticlimactic who-dat. Wow, so that’s how Jimmy Logan got those kick-ass razorblades in his knuckles. What else ya got? Not much: The filmmakers—among them Tsotsi director Gavin Hood and 25th Hour writer David Benioff, no joke—relegate the most interesting parts of Logan’s early story to an opening-credits sequence that dashes from his 1845 childhood to the Civil War to the Vietnam War in a span of seconds. Sooner or later, of course, Logan’s on the operating table and being injected with the unbreakable adamantium metal that gives his skeleton a sparkly shine. And sooner or later we meet the familiar rogues: the villainous Sabretooth (Wolverine’s brother, this time around played by Liev Schreiber with “the fingernails of a bag lady”), the treacherous William Stryker (the Brian Cox character in ’03, now recast with Danny Huston), even a certain Cyclops (a whiny teenager with bad eyes, in keeping with the franchise’s history of treating the X-Men’s longtime leader like a spindly punch line) and the inevitable cameo by a very familiar X-tra. Most of the action is a mere replay of a single sequence: Wolverine and Sabretooth galloping toward one another, two immortal bros locked in eternal combat. Certainly feels like it. And the filmmakers have further junked up the franchise with bit players from the comic books, among them the playing card-throwing Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) and assassin Deadpool (whose comic relief shuts off around the time the moviemakers unwisely sew together Ryan Reynolds’ lips, bad move among many). Odd thing is, 2003’s expeditious X2 more or less covered the same ground in a matter of seconds, as opposed to 107 minutes that feel like almost as many hours. A suggestion? Wait for the bootleg.
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