Maybe someone can help me out here and tell me about a decent prequel that has ever been made. I'm sure someone, some time has made one--I just can't think of one. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (there's quite a mouthful) doesn't qualify.
If you know nothing about comics or movies, Wolverine is a character first introduced in the "X-Men" series of comics back in the '70s. He has cool metal claws that come out of his hands when he gets mad--which happens a lot. He can also regenerate, which comes in handy if the Incredible Hulk rips him in half, as happened in a recent comic book series. When the X-Men made the leap to the big screen in 2000, Wolverine was played by Hugh Jackman as gruff loner with cool metal claws and regenerative powers and also amnesia. In "X2" some of Wolverine's past was revealed when he uncovered the former lab of William Stryker, who performed experiments on mutants. So now you're up to speed.
Since making "X4" was too difficult, the studio decided to bring Jackman back to reprise Wolverine, only in this case to describe how he became everyone's favorite Canadian superhero. The movie starts with a prologue in 1845 in the Canadian Rockies, when young James Logan has a Luke Skywalker moment and also finds out cool bone claws spring from his hands when he gets mad. Together with his brother (or half-brother maybe, I'm not sure) Victor, aka Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber), Logan goes on for whatever reason to fight in every American war of the next 120 years from the Civil War on to Vietnam in a montage similar to the one used more effectively in "Watchmen."
With all of that out of the way the real story begins in the early '70s or so. Logan and Victor get found out by the Army and sentenced to death until a man named Major William Stryker (Danny Huston taking the role played by Brian Cox in "X2") steps in to offer them a License to Kill by doing the government's dirty work. While Victor enjoys this, Logan decides that 130 years of killing is enough and after a mission to Africa to locate meteor fragments containing a strange alien metal, he goes off the grid in the Canadian Rockies. There he lives with a schoolteacher named Kayla (Lynn Collins) and all seems happy.
But of course we know it can't stay that way because we've seen the other three movies. So it's no surprise when Victor shows up and kills Kayla. This drives Logan over the edge so that he makes a deal with Stryker to get adamantium (made from that alien metal found in Africa) injected into his body so that he can kill Victor. When Stryker tries to double-cross him, Logan goes on the run. Eventually more of Stryker's dirty deeds are uncovered, which leads to a battle at a certain nuclear plant that became famous in the late '70s. Along the way some mutants not seen in the previous movies like Gambit are introduced and younger versions of some shown in the previous movies like Cyclops are shown.
Like most prequels I found it hard to care much about any of this. The problem with prequels like this or the "Star Wars" ones is that it was never essential to know the background of the character. How many people besides rabid fanboys really cared how Darth Vader became Darth Vader? After over 8 mostly dull hours we found out, but did it satisfy anyone? In the same vein, how many people were really hankering to find out how Wolverine became Wolverine? Probably not many.
Like other prequels it does sort of in a half-baked way answer the big questions about Wolverine's origins. At the same time like any prequel made almost a decade after the source material it leaves other nagging questions, such as why Sabretooth looks completely different from the first film and seems not to really know his brother.
I suppose if you just want to appreciate this on the popcorn level it's slightly less boring and annoying than "Transformers 2." That's not saying much. Though I thought the effects looked pretty cheap, the kind you can tell were all done on computers. Notably was a scene where Logan and Kayla are in their El Camino and it's so obvious they were surrounded by a blue/green screen that I nearly laughed. And apparently the writers/producers/director didn't bother doing any homework or they'd have realized that HumVees did not go into service until 1985 and didn't even begin development until 1981, both coming after when this movie is supposed to be taking place. Is it that hard to find some old Jeeps these days? As well, it seems unlikely the technology for creating Weapon X (Wolvie's codename) would exist in the '70s when most computers still took up whole rooms.
Most damning though is still the absence of any yellow spandex. Though you have to admire the craftsmanship of the leather jacket he wears, which apparently survives the next 20 years.
That is all.
My score: 50/100 (2 stars)Metacritic score: 43/100 (1.5 stars)