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Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Disc review by Jeff Kleist of The Digital Bits

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Blu-ray Disc)

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine
2009 (2009) - 20th Century Fox Home Video
Released on Blu-ray Disc on September 15th, 2009
Also available on DVD


Film Rating: B-
Video (1-20): 18
Audio (1-20): 18
Extras: B

Faced with the daunting specter of nearly a dozen expensive cast members for a fourth X-Men movie, Fox decided to instead move the series in a different direction, by exploring the backstory of some of the more colorful, individual X-Men, starting with the #1 fan favorite character, Wolverine.

Of course, the character's origins have been told, contradicted, retold and adjusted many times in print over the last two decades, but Wolverine tries really hard to deliver a movie that contains the best parts of them all, without becoming too convoluted in the process. In this case, it seems that the man who would be an X-Man was born over 150 years ago, his mutant healing factor slowing or even halting his aging process. But a long life doesn't necessarily mean a happy one, and a profound tragedy sets James Howlett, also known as Logan, on the path to became the adamantium-enhanced Wolverine.

Fox has delivered an excellent HD transfer on Blu-ray, maintaining the slightly contrasty look of the theatrical prints, while retaining a similar visual appearance to the previous X-Men films, though a bit warmer looking overall. There's a lot of great detail here, especially in the beautiful Canadian Rockies. However, with great resolution comes great responsibility, and that's where Wolverine falters a bit. There's a bunch of CG shots in this film that were obviously pulled away from the artists before they were ready. From cheesy claws to some poor stand-in that got Patrick Stewart's CG de-aging mask from X3 surgically grafted over his noggin like a bad Halloween mask, these shockingly bad shots that sneak in about every 10-15 minutes, breaking the mood with a hammer. So how can the video still keep high marks? Like it or not, it's still an extremely accurate representation of the theatrical product, warts and all... and that's what really counts. Lossless audio and the summer blockbuster are like chocolate and peanut butter - they go together perfectly. This DTS-HA mix offers plenty of directionality ping-ponging around your surround setup. Chest-rattling bass, coupled with a nice tight high end, should ensure that you audiophiles leave your home theaters happy.

As for the extras, they're quite a mixed bag. First, the lack of a Hugh Jackman commentary is disappointing. The available commentary with director Gavin Hood is more narration of on-screen action than anything informative, while producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winters have what's more accurately described as a "goof-off" track - one that's more of the "We're great friends that had a great time making a movie" type than an educational experience. Fortunately, Stan Lee and Wolverine co-creator Len Wein have a little better time of it in their featurette. It's always nice to see the classic Merry Men of Marvel get some screen time, and get the props they so richly deserve for bringing these characters to life. The deleted and alternate scenes are mostly the teasers that were attached randomly to prints of Wolverine as a bonus incentive to get people to go to the theater, after the film's workprint leaked to the Net. As such, their quality is greatly variable. Storm's appearance is totally throwaway, but longtime fans of Wolverine do get to see the introduction to the classic Japan arc in another scene. (Supposedly, this will be the subject of a sequel.) The main meat of the bonus material is the Weapon X Mutant Files. Each mutant in the movie gets a chunk of the 54-minute runtime to play around and vamp in front of the camera. When this is good, it's a blast. When it's forced, you'll want to dig out your eyes rather than go on. So keep that "chapter skip" button handy, as mileage definitely varies here. Aside from a few short breakdowns of various scenes and throwaway promotional pieces, the other somewhat unique feature is the Ultimate X-Mode. This is an Internet-tied outgrowth of the indexes found on ID4 and I, Robot. The X-Mode combines picture-in-picture commentary with Universal-style clickable topic boxes and pop-up trivia. It's a nice start to what will surely evolve into some great technology, but you've seen enough of this before that it's not going to blow your mind. The disc's BD-Live integration with the Internet Movie Database will eventually help with the "I know I've seen him somewhere before" syndrome, but it's not expansive enough here to cover more than the featured players you probably already know anyway. In the end, Fox's BD extras are an uneven package, but the effort put into trying to do something new and different is appreciated.

Much like the extras, in the final analysis Wolverine tries really really hard. While the film is certainly accessible to newcomers to the franchise, the mix and match of stories will likely frustrate savvy comic fans. That, combined with the huge cast, will probably leave those who only know the X-Men through the movies feeling a bit dizzy. While no one can fault the enthusiasm of the cast and crew here, this film was hampered by too many masters, concepts and characters, which drag it down to far less than it could have been. All that aside, Fox has delivered a good quality Blu-ray, with extras that (if not great) are a cut above the usual. Those of you who choose to go for it should be mostly happy with your purchase.

Jeff Kleist
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