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Film critics take sharp claws to "Wolverine"
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Movie critics took sharp claws to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" on Wednesday, carving it up in several poor reviews, but box office watchers said it still should bring blockbuster ticket sales at this weekend's debut.
The movie is the first major release of Hollywood's lucrative summer season, which can account for up to 40 percent of the U.S. annual box office, so Hollywood studios including "X-Men" backer Twentieth Century Fox hope for a big hit.
Yet, despite some praise for star Hugh Jackman as the heroic mutant Wolverine, several critics were unimpressed.
"A prequel to the 'X-Men' trilogy made between 2000 and 2006, 'Wolverine' is silly and typical, not in spite of but because it bonds an undeveloped family feud onto the main character's renegade story," the New York Daily News said.
Showbusiness newspaper Daily Variety said, "Noisy and impersonal, 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' bears all the marks of a work for hire, conceived and executed with a big budget but little imagination," while The Hollywood Reporter called it "a keen disappointment."
In the film, Wolverine vengefully hunts his brother Sabertooth, believing he killed Wolverine's girlfriend.
Wolverine, who uses razor-like claws to battle his enemies, then gets entangled in a U.S. secret program.
The Daily News said Jackman showed a lot of "charisma" in the role he made famous in the previous three "X-Men" movies, which combined have hauled in more than $1.1 billion at global box offices.
Friday's debut of "Wolverine" comes as Fox, which is a unit of News Corp, in recent weeks has sought to limit damage from a recent Internet leak of the film.
But box office watchers said neither the leak nor the negative reviews should impact the movie's opening weekend ticket sales that could range from $85 million to $100 million in more than 4,000 U.S. and Canadian theaters.
"People are ready to start their summer moviegoing, and 'Wolverine's' a great movie to kick off the summer," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Media by Numbers.
However, Brandon Gray, founder of tracking firm Box Office Mojo, said that over its entire run "Wolverine" could underperform the last two "X-Men" movies -- 2003's "X2: X-Men United" which made $408 million at worldwide box offices and the $459 million made by 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand."
Wolverine's past was already touched upon in previous "X-Men" movies, so Gray doubted the latest release will succeed by again mining the character's origins.
"Why are they making a prequel as opposed to a new movie going forward? I think that's a huge issue," he said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Philip Barbara)