"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off," said old-timey writer Anton Chekhov. So, pop quiz: When the screenwriters behind X-Men Origins: Wolverine introduce a pistol early in the film, and make a big deal out of showing bullets made out of indestructible metal, and then have one character clearly enunciate, "The only thing that can kill him is an adamantium bullet," are you really gonna be surprised when said prop is trotted out in the third act and dutifully fired?
Now that we're thankfully past that brief detour into Old-Timey Russian Lit 101, let's get to Wolverine, a big dumb film in which Hugh Jackman reprises his role as a hairier, grumpier version of Edward Scissorhands. As he's fond of saying in X-Men comics, Wolverine is the best there is at what he does—and now, we discover that what he does is star in crappy spinoffs. In the first three X-films, Wolverine's backstory was untold, thanks to a convenient case of amnesia; here, we get all the bloody, underwhelming details. Turns out that before joining the X-Men, Wolverine spent his time (A) fighting in wars, and (B) fighting with his dickhead half-brother (Liev Schreiber), who is also a mutant, but whose powers are limited to growing his fingernails really long and hopping around on all fours like he's playing leapfrog. Also, (C) Wolverine falls in loooove—but only so that when his lady gets killed, he can fall to his knees and bellow at the heavens. (In Wolverine's 107 minutes, its titular character angrily screams at the sky three times.)
So Wolverine goes lookin' for revenge ("Grrr!"), and there are explosions, and lame sidekicks (hello, Will.i.am!), and also, in the middle of the movie, everything stops for 15 minutes so Wolverine can meet a really fat mutant named Blob, who wears a T-shirt that says, "Save the whales." Wolverine calls him "Slim" (ha!) and then the two of them put on boxing gloves and have a boxing match!
To say that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is shitty doesn't quite do it justice: This movie tries, and tries hard, but it just doesn't know what the fuck it's doing. A weirdly convoluted plot eventually gets abandoned in favor of a parade of cameos from less-famous X-Men, with director Gavin Hood practically shouting, "Hey, nerds! Look! There's Toad! Emma Frost! Cyclops! Quicksilver! Eh? Eh?" Yet while screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods damn near shit themselves trying to shoehorn in a poorly digitized Patrick Stewart, they lose sight of the characters who could make this thing entertaining, like a goofy Cajun, Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), or a wiseass mercenary, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds, for all of two minutes). The result is a film that I can't imagine will please anyone: It tries to pander to fanboys even as it bastardizes the characters they love; it's oblivious to how head-slappingly stupid its plot is, yet nevertheless tries to capture some of The Dark Knight's moodiness; it tries to be a summer action blockbuster, but lacks any momentum or punch. It's just a goddamn mess, and by the time it's over, you'll wish you'd brought along your own gun—with at least one adamantium bullet.