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‘Wolverine’ slices open the summer

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SO-ANGSTY: Hugh Jackman stars in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."
  • SO-ANGSTY: Hugh Jackman stars in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."

It's that time again, folks. Summertime. Fire up the grill, turn on the sprinkler and get out the citronella candle. Oh, and don't forget to see a big, loud, dumb movie or three.

First out of the gate for the big/dumb flicks this year is “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” As summer blockbusters go, it's not half bad: plenty of explosions, lots of mayhem and a plot that doesn't keel over like a heat-exhausted tourist around a third of the way through. Sure, that plot is about as thick as your average comic book, but if you're looking for a popcorn-munching good time, this ain't a terrible way to start the summer movie season.

As you might deduce from the title, this is the story of Wolverine (portrayed by Hugh Jackman), one of Marvel Comics' biggest draws, one of the leaders of the X-Men, a band of mutants who go around saving humans from peril, even though the majority of those humans would probably prefer to put them on a rocket and launch them into the sun.

Before Wolverine was Wolverine, however, he was just little Jimmy Logan, a boy living in the wilds of Canada in the 1830s. Even then, young Logan was a mutant, able to heal his injuries within seconds, and extend and retract a set of bone claws from his fists. After a family spat leads to murder, Jimmy and his brother Victor (later played by Liev Schreiber) light out for the territories. Victor is a mutant, too, able to make his super-strong, claw-like fingernails grow and recede at will. Both he and Jimmy are blessed with immortality and cursed with an animal-like temper, and in the first scenes of the film, we see them fighting in pretty much every American conflict since the Civil War. They get shot? No big deal. By the time they get to Vietnam, however, all that killing has apparently scrambled Victor's brain a bit, and he's something of a homicidal maniac. After killing a senior officer, Victor winds up in the brig (the firing squad didn't take, you see) with his brother beside him. There, they are paid a visit by Gen. William Striker (Danny Houston), who recruits them for a team of super-mercenaries. There's some derring-do, some business about a meteorite, then Jimmy Logan walks away after Striker orders a massacre of unarmed civilians. Six years later, he's living in the wilds of the Rockies, working as a lumberjack and living a quiet life with his wife, Lynn (Kayla Silverfox). After someone starts killing off the old team, however, he goes on a rampage of revenge, eventually hooking back up with Striker, who injects him with a super-strong alloy called adamantium that gives Wolverine his trademark — and bitchin' — metal claws.

Like a lot of big/dumb summer movies, “Wolverine” only has two speeds: “blowing stuff up,” and “about to blow stuff up.” That's not necessarily a bad thing. Given that we've found ourselves laughing out loud at the plot twists of some summer blockbusters of yore – witness “Hancock,” which was a fair to middlin' flick until the screenwriters decided Will Smith and Charlize Theron weren't just superheroes, but angels/gods — we were happy to see that “Wolverine” never got up to anything too stupid. Pushed along by a classic revenge plot and Wolverine's interactions with other mutants (who have some seriously cool powers), “Wolverine” manages to take you on a real thrill ride.

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