It was the most satisfying of sighs. Within minutes of Hugh Jackman appearing on screen as Wolverine in the first 'X-Men' movie back in 2000, you knew that all those years waiting and worrying had been worth it: here was an actor who could do justice to this most cherished of comic characters. In all three movies Jackman was the best thing on the screen, and after each of them you hoped he'd go solo sooner rather than later. Now he has, and it's a different kind of sigh.
The story begins by showing us the troubled childhood of Logan/Wolverine, his rivalry with brother Victor (Schreiber) and how they became members of an army black ops outfit led by Colonel Stryker (Huston). Always the saner of the two, Logan leaves the team when Victor runs amok during a mission. He moves to Canada, finds love with a teacher (Collins) and a job as a logger. But when old members of the team start dying, the past catches up with him.
When it was announced that Gavin Hood, director of the Oscar-winning South African film 'Tsotsi', would be behind the lens for '...Wolverine', some had - rightly or wrongly - the expectation of a different kind of blockbuster. Hood had shown himself to be a filmmaker who could really focus on characters and their emotions and who could move you from hope to despair from scene to scene. The Hollywood machine, however, isn't too adaptable and '...Wolverine' has come out the other end with less to get excited about.
Part of the problem is that because it's a prequel, a large amount of suspense is removed from the story: no matter how full-on the fights you know that certain things have to happen and certain characters are going to survive. The way to combat that was to feature more dramatic scenes and develop the characters and their relationships, but '...Wolverine' is chock full of set pieces and none of them improve on what we've seen in the three 'X-Men' films already. We know what the claws can do; it's the man flexing them who's more intriguing.
As Wolverine, Jackman is, as ever, in superb shape and coolness personified. But while he has two great actors in Schreiber and Huston to spark off, the power triangle involving their three characters had more to offer in terms of mind games and memorable exchanges - hopefully we'll get both in a sequel.
This isn't a bad movie; just a predictable one.