When you consider that, fan boy factor aside, this latest outing from hit-and-miss factory Marvel Studios is little more than a jumped up, pixel-spraying advert for lunchboxes and bedcovers, you really have to wonder what the two hundred thousand odd eager beavers who downloaded the leaked, effects free rough cut were so excited to see? Hugh Jackman's heavyweight thesping? Well, after sitting (or should that be suffering?) through the allegedly now complete experience, replete with all the digital wizardry, the first thing that comes to mind is the question of why exactly they bothered to spend the money? From the obvious rear-screen projection of the interior driving sequences to the abominable CGI Patrick Stewart, who honestly looks more like a GI Joe someone held too close to a naked flame, the effects work is just awful, and yet amazingly, it’s the best thing the film has going for it.

Following up his disappointingly flat, star studded, political drama no one saw, Rendition, Oscar-winning director Gavin Hood explores the fabled genesis of this most celebrated badass, desperately trying to cram in so much story that even a set of adamantium claws can’t cut through it. Opening in Canada, 1845, Hood hurries us through the child Logan’s discovery of his then bone claws and his animal nature pre-titles. Then he goes the Watchman route, laying the titles over a breakneck hundred years of history where we witness Logan and his obviously unstable brother Victor (Schreiber) lying some primal smackdown through every major conflict in American history. Then it’s the lightening formation of an elite commando unit of mutant soldiers with abilities ranging from the entertaining (Dominic Monaghan’s human radio transmitter) to the ridiculous (Daniel Kenny’s Gun Kata gymnast).

With the stage duly set for some quip-heavy carnage Hood grinds the film to a shuddering halt (the first of many) to re-do the opening act of Commando with superpowers. Danny Huston’s Col. Stryker (no Brian Cox by any means) shows up at Logan’s mountaintop log cabin to warn him that someone is offing the now mothballed unit members one by one. After what seems like an age the inevitable happens and Logan agrees to an adamantium infusion to make him indestructible so he can take on his murderous brother.

Now Hood is clearly in love with the source material – devoutly, demonstrably in love with it – to the point where he has a naked Logan fight a room of soldiers before mounting a bare-assed escape through the woods. Indeed Hood obviously thinks the way to tap into the bestial aspect of Logan’s character is via a borderline pathological fixation on the expansive vistas of Canada (actually New South Wales, Australia) that would embarrass John Ford.

So, surely we’re finally ready to go, yes? No! First we’ve got to hang out at a farm for a bit with Ma and Pa Kent clones to echo a little Superman?! Then, at long last, Hood finally unleashes everything the film has promised with a relentlessly paced, high-octane chase where Stryker’s team pursue Logan’s cycle riding beast via helicopter and humvee that reigns supreme as the film’s standout sequence. Now we’re in top gear… for about six or seven minutes. Then we’re off the Vegas for a little exposition in the form of an extended fat suit gag that wouldn’t look out of place in Date Movie.

There in lies the central problem with Wolverine (and there are enough smaller problems orbiting to turn it into the cinematic equivalent of Saturn) – so desperate to be all things to all people, Hood takes us on so many unnecessary tangents and distracting detours that it’s just impossible to build up anything approaching a head of steam. Clearly very adept at action (the fight scenes are ear-splittingly good), he crunches the gears each time he tries to shift them and the alleged meaty drama just comes off as flippant. Everything between these rather jarring extremes, while not uninteresting, is little more than a retread of what we already went over in Bryan Singer’s X-Men 2, with little new to offer.

Jackman makes a good fist of it, but really he just looks confused. He clearly wants to do his thing and hit the bar for brews, yet Hood keeps nagging at him about “inner-conflict” and the like, while at the same time handing him a script so wooden it comes flat packed with an IKEA logo stamped on the side. Liev Schreiber’s unbalanced bag of nuts is by far the best thing on display here, but he only seems to show up to remind us how crap the film is when he isn’t around before disappearing again. Cyclops, Gambit, and the much-touted Deadpool (who looks like some botched S&M sex doll) all get their five minutes to shine, but who’s origins story is this supposed to be again?

Clearly things have reached the point at Marval Studios where throwing characters onto the screen to see what sparks online fanboy interest – and thus the next spin-off – trumps any notion of telling a good story about any one player in their own right. Considering what DC and Warner now regularly churn out, there is simply no excuse for this. None.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Leiv Schreiber, Danny Huston, Taylor Kitsch, Daniel Henney, Ryan Reynolds

Director: Gavin Hood

Runtime: 107 Minutes

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Rating: PG-13

Read more about: