Short version: While not exactly great, Wolverine is better than X-Men 3 and is a decent start to the 2009 Summer movie season.
Screen Rant reviews X-Men Origins: Wolverine
So it's finally here... The next X-Men movie, Wolverine. There's been MUCH controversy surrounding this film (at least to fans of the comic book titles) - certain characters injected into the film that shouldn't be there (a young Cyclops, for example), the height difference between Wolverine and Sabretooth (silly, in my opinion), whether Gambit would have an appropriate Cajun accent, and the biggie: The depiction of "Deadpool" (played by Ryan Reynolds).
For details and reader comments on all this check out this summary post of the Wolverine controversies.
In addition to that we had the April Fool's day bombshell of a workprint of the movie making its way onto the internet. Would this hurt the box office? Early opening weekend ticket sales indicate that it probably didn't.
Wolverine follows the life of James Logan from a young boy (in the late 1800s?), through (briefly) a number of wars and takes us through his adamantium skeleton implantation and right up until the point where he loses his memory. As a young boy, we discover that the older boy (Victor Creed) who will become Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) is actually Logan's brother.
After a death, the boys go on the run and during the opening title sequence we watch as they fight side by side in a number of wars. During this sequence (which is quite possibly the coolest thing in the entire film) we watch as Victor becomes more and more bloodthirsty as Logan tries to hold him back. Eventually it culminates in the murder of an officer, and the army attempts to execute them both. Too bad both of them have regenerative healing powers and can't be easily killed.
This is where William Stryker (Danny Huston) comes in and offers them the chance to "really serve their country." Here is where we meet the other members of Stryker's team: Agent Zero (not clear on his power), Wade Wilson (assassin with healing ability already?), John Wraith (teleporter), Frederick J. Dukes (future Blob and incredibly strong and resilient) and Bolt (telekinetic powers).
They go on a mission, things get out of hand, and Logan bails on the team. Six years later we find him living in Washington state as a logger with a beautiful woman in a lone cabin. Things look good, but of course they don't last. One thing leads to another and Logan goes back to Stryker, who wants to turn him into a super-weapon. Logan agrees if he can get revenge on Sabretooth - and warns Stryker that he is now the animal that Stryker always said he was.
As indicated in the previous X-Men movies, things do NOT go well directly after the adamantium implantation, but it is pretty cool to see exactly what went down during and after the procedure.
In order to track down Sabretooth he comes across John Wraith again and the (now) Blob, where we get a bit of a funny scene between the two. From there he seeks out Gambit who, yes, has a slight Cajun accent (almost unnoticeable). [MINOR SPOILER AHEAD] A battle soon ensues between Sabretooth and Wolverine, which is for some bizarre reason interrupted by Gambit, allowing Sabretooth to escape. Within the context of the story and considering Gambit's reaction to the mention of Victor Creed, it didn't really make any sense to me. [END SPOILER]
Eventually Wolverine makes it to the secret base where a bunch of mutants who could very well be the cast of the in development film X-Men: First Class. He runs into Weapon XI (previously Wade Wilson aka Deadpool) and the big final beat-down ensues.
So after all this, what's the verdict?
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not that bad. In fact, I'd say it's pretty decent - IF you're not a hardcore fan of the comic book universe. If you're a fan (which I'm not, really) I'd say all of your fears about characters and their relationships will be realized in the film.
From what I've read, fans are going to be pretty mad about the depiction of Wade Wilson (I don't want to call him Deadpool, since he doesn't seem to be that character yet) in the film. There's also the issue of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Wolverine having met prior to the events of the first X-Men film.
Some of the "adamantium claws" CGI was pretty poor. Why, I have no idea since I thought the claws looked pretty darned good in the previous films. Did the maybe go from mainly mechanical effects to poorly done CGI? Also, with two primary characters using claws to basically rip, shred, stab and disembowel their opponents, the lack of a single drop of blood being shed is highly noticeable and ridiculous. Ane the way in which Wolverine loses his memory... it's not the actual way in which he loses it, but the certainty on the part of Stryker that it will work that seemed pretty silly.
There was also a scene early on where Agent Zero reloads a couple of handguns in the most ridiculous way possible - I actually laughed out loud when it happened, and that was not the intention of the scene. Then again, that could just be because I'm pretty familiar with handguns.
As to Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, I'm conflicted. I think Reynolds was a good casting choice, but especially considering that they supposedly went back and added more shots with him, he didn't have much face time as himself (as opposed to Weapon XI). He got off a couple of minor zingers, but nothing really substantial as far as wisecracks. He did have a very cool scene early on in the film however, where he gets to show off his skills.
So what was good? Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber were great - both individual and when sharing scenes. Some of the action was pretty great, especially the few scenes where Gambit was utilized (would've liked to have seen more of that). I also really liked Lynn Collins as Logan's love interest. Oh, and Wolverine is no longer the "wuss" he was being turned into more and more with each subsequent X-Men film - here he is a bad-ass once again.
Overall X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a not-very-deep, surface-level kind of movie where you don't really get drawn into the characters very much (although I imagine that's what director Gavin Hood was trying to accomplish). You just don't get to know the characters very well outside of Wolverine. Even with all the screen time given to Creed, he still seems one-dimensional (at least until the very end of the film). It's not as good as the first two X-Men films, but it's better than X-Men 3.
However if you're not hung up on the comic book details and don't look for too much from it, I think you'll enjoy the film as an action-packed popcorn movie, and a decent opener to the 2009 Summer blockbuster movie season.