X-Men Origins: Wolverine hits Blu-ray—should you care?

Suffice it to say that X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn't especially well-received when it was originally released in theaters. As an indicator of the consistency and overall quality of most of the summer's blockbusters, it was ultimately and perhaps appropriately best-described as average.

Watching it again on Blu-ray, however, it's actually easier to see its strengths, among them Gavin Hood's thoughtful if not always technically-superlative directing, and the movie's generally successful juggling of fan expectations, franchise-launching singularity and sincere storytelling. Then again, that might only be the case because of all of the home video version's extras and additions, but they're also what makes the set something of a must-have for anyone with a passing interest in the X-Men's cinematic iterations.

For the purposes of its home-video release, there's no need to revisit the movie itself, since Wolverine arrives on DVD and Blu-ray without any changes, edits, or super-special-extended-director's-cut-type of implementations. While you're watching the theatrical cut, however, there are several options that expand the viewing experience to give audiences a broader perspective on the creative and technical challenges the filmmakers faced. First, director Gavin Hood and producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter offer not one but two audio commentaries, and both are genuinely informative: Hood seems obsessed—in a good way—with the psychological motivations of his characters, and the metaphorical value of character developments and plot points; meanwhile, Shuler Donner and Winter examine some of the film's conceptual choices, and explain how the narrative of the film evolved.

Additionally, the film can be watched in "Ultimate X-Mode," where viewers can choose from three options to enhance their experience with pre-visualization footage, behind-the-scenes clips, or a trivia track. Personally speaking I always prefer a trivia track to any other sort of in-movie features, even commentaries, because they're less intrusive (you can see the picture and hear the soundtrack), but all of this material is interesting, especially if you're a fan of the film or even just interested in the filmmaking process. Oh, and if that's not enough, there's also "Live Lookup," which accesses the IMDB via BD-Live technology to give viewers an up-to-date look at the credits of the cast and crew.

In terms of featurettes, the disc boasts several standalone interview pieces, starting with "The Roots of Wolverine," where creators Len Wein and Stan Lee talk about the character's origins, and offer a portrait of the motivation and creative impulse that goes into conceiving new characters first within the comic world and then giving them life in other forms. "Wolverine Unleashed," on the other hand, offers a comprehensive look at the character, and includes some footage that looks like it was shot especially for the featurette; admittedly most of that new material just includes Hugh Jackman in a set of fake claws screaming at the sky, but overall the piece serves as a more formal introduction to the character's psychology and history, and also sets up the format used for the rest of the biographies of the other characters in the film.

There are ten bios in all, and in addition to the core characters, there's background information on Kayla Silverfox, Bradley, Deadpool, and other folks who appear in the film who didn't have enough screen time to completely establish themselves. If that isn't enough, however, the deleted scenes offer a few more looks at them, and even add one more character—X-Men's Storm as a child—just to confirm how thoroughly the filmmakers thought about integrating the X-Men films' history into this one's new-old timeline.

Finally, there's an extended featurette that looks at the film's centerpiece motorcycle-helicopter chase sequence, as well as a Fox Movie Channel "World Premiere" segment, but by the time you've listened to the commentaries and watched the rest of the bonus content, this is either repetitive or unnecessary. Barring the possibility of a director's cut some time in the future, however, it appears that Fox Home Entertainment has really put together everything that they can to make this the definitive release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on home video. Again, whether that improves the movie itself or makes it great remains to be seen, but if you're a collector or a fan of the series then your expectations will be fulfilled, which means that at the absolute worst, it's an average movie on an exceptional Blu-ray or DVD.

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