"Wolverine" might have been a more satisfying superhero escapist adventure if the bar hadn't been raised in recent years by the Spidey franchise, "Iron Man," "The Dark Knight" and even the Edward Norton "Hulk" movie, among others.
Now, it just seems uninspired and predictable. The CGI effects are pretty cool, Hugh Jackman's a bona fide movie star and we get a couple of exciting fight scenes, but so what? This does not feel like a franchise film. The first two "X-Men" movies managed to give us more depth and character development even while painting on a much broader canvas. Now we're focusing mainly on just the one X-Man in the making, yet the story seems thinner. We don't know much more about Wolverine than we what already gleaned from the "X-Men" films.
Maybe the problem is Wolverine himself. Sure, he's built like he spends half his time guzzling protein shakes and working out, and he's got those slice 'em and dice 'em claws that shoot out of his forearms, but if he shows up at Superhero Convention and compares his powers to those of Superman or the Hulk or even most of the other X-Men (and X-Women), they're likely to say, "Oooh, nice effect. Can you open my can of beer with those?"
"Wolverine" starts with a back story that tells us NOTHING. We see little Wolfie and his mean-spirited big brother, and there's a murder, and then they run away, and we have no idea why this kid suddenly has these claws. Cut to an extended montage of the grown-up Wolverine and his brother (Liev Schreiber, beefed up like a hairier Jon Favreau), fighting in the Civil War, both World Wars and Vietnam. (Did they skip Korea?) Why? Are they soldiering to satisfy the need to kill and maim, or because they're super-patriots? Like most of the plot points in "Wolverine," we're left with no solid answers as director Gavin Hood and screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods focus on more action sequences. About every 25 minutes, Wolverine and his evil older brother face off in a dark alley or on a mountaintop, growling and snarling and then running at each other with full force.
Along the way, Wolverine has encounters with mutants played by Taylor Kitsch from "Friday Night Lights," Ryan Reynolds and Will.i.am. And of course there's a love interest, and if you've been paying attention to the romance factor in just about every superhero movie ever, you know the romance probably isn't going to end with the good guy and his loving gal playing in the backyard with the kids.
(Yet another issue the film never addresses: "Wolverine" is apparently pretty close to immortal. He's more than 100 years old, yet for some reason he stopped aging just when he started looking like Hugh Jackman. If that's the case, how can a romance with a mortal possibly work out? He's not exactly Benjamin Button, reverse aging, but he's kind of like Benjamin Gut 'Em. Never aging as he uses his claws to make his mark on the world, so to speak.)
Another setback for this film is the Pg-13 rating. A mutant sticks in swords in two foes, draws them out--and no blood. Dozens are slain in epic battles sequences, but there's none of the gritty, visceral feeling one gets from a film like "300."
No doubt this film will make hundreds of millions of dollars. But there is no need for a sequel. We've seen how "Wolverine" became Wolverine, and we now know he's a lot more interesting as part of the X-Men Band than as a solo act.