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What Did Critics Say About Hugh Jackman When He Debuted in the First X-Men Movie?

Remember the year 2000? We had just gotten over that Y2K thing, Beyoncé was still in Destiny’s Child, and Bryan Singer had made a last-minute change and cast Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men. (Oh, Dougray Scott: what could have been.) From that point on, Hugh Jackman would get bigger and bigger (quite literally) with each X-Men movie, awards-show hosting gig, and Broadway production. But what did critics think of Hugh when he was just an unknown Australian thespian?

"He may even have found a major new star in Hugh Jackman, the Australian actor who plays Wolverine, a tormented mutant fighter with retractable metal claws. Brawny but lithe, Jackman gives an aggressively sexual performance, though there’s no sex in the movie. Singer gets something going beteween Jackman and Famke Janssen, a mutant doctor with telepathic powers, but he throws it away. The real love match is a meeting of souls between Jackman and Anna Paquin (the girl in The Piano), an anguished teen-age mutant who tries to make out with her human boyfriend and winds up putting him in a coma." —David Denby, The New Yorker

"Jackman's Wolverine, meanwhile, is a wonderful creation. Apparently, Singer once wanted Russell Crowe for the role, and Jackman, who's Australian, plays the part with a growling sensitivity not unlike Crowe's. Wolverine is off-the-charts cool as a superhero. But he's also just a screwed-up guy — the noble, conflicted soul of the whole X-Men universe." —Jeff Giles, Newsweek

"In the leading role of Wolverine, a hirsute renegade mutant with a tendency to sprout Freddy Krueger-like steel claws, Singer has cast nearly unknown Australian actor Hugh Jackman. With his striking resemblance to the Man With No Name-era Clint Eastwood, Jackman proves a likable, laconic star, but in a sense he’s getting a free ride. This fantasy aimed at American teenagers is largely carried by a conflict between two characters past middle age, played by arguably the two greatest living actors of the English stage (even if one of them is best known for commanding the Starship Enterprise)." —Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

"So far as the mutants go, the movie spends too much time dwelling on the problems of glowering Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and tremulous Rogue (Anna Paquin), but even here the romantic self-pity has a Cheez Doodle airiness." —J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

"With a face of fury partially covered by mutton-chop sideburns, Jackman is this film's star and brings a necessary level of acting intensity to the project." —Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"I can't help wondering how a guy whose knuckles turn into switchblades gets to be the top-ranking superhero." —Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

"The two-fisted Wolverine, well played by Mr. Jackman, is perhaps the only other semi-rounded character who animates the picture besides Xavier and Magneto. He lives to fight, a boisterous tragic hero without complication. (Bits of his back- story, lifted from the 'Weapon X' comic series, are suggested here.)" —Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

"The most arresting of the heroes is Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), an unsmiling, vaguely counterculturish-looking fellow (his hair and sideburns are very early-'70s werewolf) with a surgically implanted second skeleton made of metal rods, which allows him to shoot razor talons out of his knuckles. 'When they come out,' someone asks, 'does it hurt?' 'Every time,' says Wolverine, grimly feeling his own pain." —Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

"As Wolverine, Aussie thesp Jackman (a last-minute replacement for Dougray Scott when latter was detained on M:I-2) gets enough screen time to create an admirably cynical, melancholy character." —Dennis Harvey, Variety

"Chief among the 'good' mutants is Wolverine, who lends the movie a touch of sex appeal. Australian Hugh Jackman makes a charismatic Wolverine, something like Maxim de Winter in "Rebecca," a man of romance, dark secrets and black moods. Oh, and a double-curved sweep of hair that just barely suggests pointed animal ears tuned to higher frequencies." —Jami Bernard, New York Daily News

"Jackman looks oddly like - and even manages to sound like - Clint Eastwood during his sideburn years." —Jonathan Foreman, New York Post

"The acting [...] is generally spotty-though everybody looks so gosh-darned good you don't care. Much. [...] But it's Jackman, the latest in an apparently endless procession of brooding Australian hunks, who makes the best impression as the brooding Wolverine." —Gene Seymour, Newsday

"The second is Wolverine, played by Aussie Hugh Jackman, a fellow with a very square head who looks like Neil Diamond on steroids. Wolverine is a human switchblade. He has titanium blades spring-loaded into his bones. They pop out of the raw flesh when he's agitated, turning him into a Cuisinart with an attitude problem. His mutation is that he heals with absurd speed, so that when he folds up his knives, the skin heals over them. Someone thought this was cool?" —Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post

"None of the actors distinguishes himself or herself — unless you want to praise Romijn-Stamos for enduring that body paint job or mention newcomer Jackman's unusual resemblance to the young Clint Eastwood, squint and all." —Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

Photo: MArvel Enterprises/20th Century Fox