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WOLVERINE IS X-CELLENT!

Apr. 30 2009, Updated 5:31 a.m. ET

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Hugh Jackman is a stud. The guy can sing show tunes as much as he wants, as long as every few years he puts on those adamantium claws. Much has been made about Hugh’s rippling muscles for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s not hype. Logan looks like an animal — both in the hot way and in the way that can rip the bad guys’ friggin’ heads off. It’s awesome.

Wolverine totally lives up to the hype. The first chapter in the X-Men saga is thrilling and visually stunning. It’s also much darker and sadder, and has less humor than the previous X-Mens, but that’s okay. They’re explaining Logan’s background and it becomes clear immediately why he turned into such a big, bad wolf.

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In a flashback to 150 years ago, young Logan learns that Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber), aka Sabretooth, is his brother after a family tragedy. The two flee together and end up fighting in the Civil War, World Wars I and II and Vietnam. But Logan realizes that Victor, who has feral super-human strength, likes to murder just a little too much.

The brothers are recruited by Col. William Stryker (Danny Huston) to take part in Team X, a covert military mission that utilizes the powers of mutants like expert swordsman Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), teleporter Wraith (Will.i.am) and electricity manipulator Bradley (Dominic Monaghan). But Logan can’t deal with the bloodlust of his squad and bolts — and Victor is enraged.

Flash forward six years, to the 1970s, and Logan is hiding out in Canada, working as a lumberjack and living with his gorgeous girlfriend, schoolteacher Kayla Silverfox. But when Victor comes looking for his brother, and Stryker comes back to recruit Logan for a new secret government experiment called Weapon X, his idyllic life is turned upside down.

Fans of the series get some big questions answered, including why Wolverine has berserker rage, how he got the name Wolverine and even where his signature motorcycle jacket comes from. Stryker’s love/hate relationship with the mutants is explored. And we also meet some of our favorite characters, including Emma Frost, a young Scott Summers, later to be known as Cyclops, and card shark Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), who hangs out with poker pro Daniel Negreanu in a distracting cameo.

X-Men: Wolverine is a roller coaster ride of action and emotion. Hugh Jackman radiates Logan’s primal fury, through his pulsating biceps and constantly furrowed brow. And Liev Schreiber is perfectly cast as the snarling, bloodthirsty Victor. But the best thing about it is that it stays true to the tone of the franchise. We can’t wait for the next one.

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