Sometimes the mystery is better than the solution. This is one of those times.
Marvel Comics’ X-Men movie trilogy was about a group of mostly young people with special “mutant” powers who were either victimized by or exploited by “regular” humans. These powers were first presented in most cases when the unsuspecting mutants became teenagers. It was effective as fantasy and more effective as metaphor for the changes of adolescence. One of the few grown-up characters is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a cigar-chomping tough guy with indestructible claws that slide out from between his knuckles and the power to heal all wounds almost instantly — and large pieces of his memory missing, which is the source of some intrigue.
Now Wolverine gets his own spin-off and it is an “origin” story, which anthropologists and comic fans know is a prequel, an up close and personal look at the superhero’s backstory to give us some insights into what made Logan into his Wolverine-y bad self and a chance to feel knowledgeable when we see the experiences that led to the characteristics and events we already know. Aha, so that’s where the name comes from! And who was behind that operation? And when do we get to see that always indispensable origin moment — Wolverine primal screaming up into the indifferent sky?
The movie’s version of adamantium, that super-strong metal alloy that gives Wolverine the super-powerful skeletal structure and shooting claws, is its three leads, all superb actors as well as action heroes. Liev Schreiber plays Victor, Logan’s similarly-powered brother, and Ryan Reynolds is a motor-mouthed swordsman named Wade Wilson. The evil military man who presides over the hideous medical experiments is Danny Houston and Logan’s romantic interest is the criminally underused Lynn Collins. There are some striking fight scenes, I love the way Wolverine races toward battle, and it has the usual intriguing murkiness about who is on which side that energizes the X-Men stories. But it never taps into the deeper themes of mutantcy as metaphor and the reveals are not especially revelatory.