DVD Tuesday: ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ & ‘Army of Darkness’

by W. Andrew Powell

Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Out this week on home video, the great Hugh Jackman puts on the shiny metal claws again for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Army of Darkness, with b-movie legend Bruce Campbell, arrives on Blu-ray.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Ever since he took on the role of Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, Hugh Jackman has made this character a perfect second skin. As a long-time comic book fan myself, I was blown away that someone could actually bring this dark hero’s machismo to life in a way that didn’t seem like a bad joke.

Now, with Rendition director Gavin Hood leading the origin story, Jackman is back for a fourth outing as the razor-clawed dynamo, but the results are less than super.

Looking back at the character’s roots, from his youth in the 1800s, and skipping all the way up to the 1970s, X-Men Origins: Wolverine shows us how this bone-clawed mutant came to become Weapon X, complete with the Adamantium skeleton.

Back then, Wolverine still used his real name, James Howlett, and he was also fighting beside his half-brother, Victor Creed – otherwise known as Sabretooth. Joining William Stryker’s group of mutants, the duo begin to understand their differences when James walks away from a mission that involves hurting innocent people as Stryker pushes a hidden agenda.

Years later, living in Northern Canada, Wolverine will again meet up with Victor, which will finally force him into an unfriendly alliance with Stryker and his government program. A program that turns James into the perfect killing machine, capable of taking care of Victor and his blood-thirsty nature.

Liev Schreiber plays the menacing, sometimes over-the-top role of Victor well, although much like the rest of the film he can be more than a little cheesy. Danny Huston as the young Stryker also chews his fair share of scenery.

Otherwise though, the acting isn’t bad. Jackman once again makes Wolverine a tough, man’s-man type of hero, with just enough humour and lots of brooding anger to make the character seem believable. Ryan Reynolds and Taylor Kitsch, who play Deadpool and Gambit respectively, are short-changed in the film though, only getting a few scenes, but they perform admirably in these roles.

The problem is that Wolverine makes a ham-fisted attempt to capture years and years of back-story, and then mangles the details for American consumption.

Let me just set this straight, in the source comic books, Wolverine was Canadian, and Weapon X was a Canadian project. Apparently the film studio was afraid of that idea though, and it all gets whitewashed as another lame American super-soldier project.

I was also very disappointed with the majority of the film’s special effects, which for the most part are unbelievably bad, looking like something out of the late 80s effects vaults. You can practically see the green screen.

That isn’t even the worst problem with the film though. The real trouble is that Hood and his crew don’t live up to Bryan Singer’s fantastic vision in the first two X-Men films. As it stands, especially after the awful X-Men 3, the franchise is devolving before my eyes, and this film is merely another cartoonish stab at a story that could have been much, much better.

And yet, you can tell that they want to make another movie. If you’re willing to wait through the credits there’s a definite little tease at the end that could place Wolverine on the road to meeting Mariko Yashida. I can only hope that, if they make that film, they find a competent team, and the studio backs off long enough for them to make a good film. Perhaps if they’re allowed to move away from the beloved, but cringe-inducing, PG-13 rating, it might be worth watching Wolverine do his thing, but as it stands this bloodless film is not worth your time.

Included in the standard DVD package are two commentaries, one from director Gavin Hood and a second one by the producers. I can’t quite fathom why there’s a commentary from the producers, but they’re not bad, you just really have to want to dig deeper into the production.

Gavin, on the other hand, gives an interesting analysis of the psychology, and the comic origins, right off the top. What I love about his commentary too is that Hood obviously loves the material. For many, the material may be a bit dry, but as a fan it was pretty entertaining – maybe more entertaining than the film.

The best feature though is the chat between co-creators Len Wein and Stan Lee as they talk about Wolverine’s creation. The banter can be a bit silly at times, but there is a lot to learn; some fans might even learn a thing or two.

Other extras include a simple making-of featurette, deleted scenes, and, yes, an anti-smoking PSA.

Army of Darkness [Blu-ray]
“Alright, you primitive screwheads, listen up!” That’s as good an introduction as Bruce Campbell probably needs for one of his most iconic, fun-loving films, which makes its way onto Blu-ray today.

Directed by Sam Raimi, and following the events of the two Evil Dead films, Army of Darkness is easily in my top ten list of genre films, and I really can’t recommend it more. If you haven’t seen it, maybe try it out as a rental first, but for the fans, even if this is the umpteenth version of the film, it’s going to be worth seeing in high definition.

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