Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy | Run Time: 126 min | Rated: PG-13
Director: James Mangold | Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima
By: George Wolf
The Wolverine seems invulnerable, but on the inside, he’s a heartbroken, wounded mess. Doesn’t that make him dreamy?
Ever since he had to go and kill Jean – the psychotic, clairvoyant killing machine and love of his life – he hasn’t been the same. He just exists, just goes on, pointlessly … kind of like this movie.
The latest in the X-Men franchise is certainly a letdown from 2011’s exceptionally fun and clever X-Men: First Class. This episode finds Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) holed up in a cave, living the life of a semi-boozy hermit, befriended, or at least tolerated, by a neighboring grizzly. But he’s lured out of hermitage by some dangerously incompetent hunters and a sword-wielding young woman with a request from Logan’s past.
Come to Tokyo, she says. I’ll have you home tomorrow, she says.
Wolverine is quickly sucked into yakuza/ninja/samurai/mutant/romantic intrigue.
In Japan we’re treated to too much sentiment, not enough action, and not nearly enough opportunity for Jackman to break out of Logan’s morose romanticism and crack a few jokes. Director James Mangold is preoccupied with honor, courage and love – solid enough staples for a samurai-tinged action film, but a humorless Wolverine is just no fun at all.
The film takes a comic book hero, casts him as a routine vampire cliché (the tragic-romantic immortal who wishes to be human), then paints everything with a mixture of several eras of Japanese crime cinema. But vampires and samurai tales require blood, and lots of it. Comic book movies – even when the hero slashes through everything with metal claws – are bloodless. The combination just doesn’t work.
Mangold continues to take the X-Men path less traveled by supplying so very few mutants. One common weakness of late-franchise superhero flicks is that they throw dozens of villains at you in the hopes of drawing your attention away from script weaknesses. Mangold has the bravery to avoid this gimmick, supplying only on mutant villain, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova – whose name is exponentially more interesting than her character).
The result? We can see how weak his script is.
The Wolverine does boast some cool action sequences – especially that bit on top of the train – and Jackman has more than enough talent and brawn to keep the movie interesting. But mostly the film dives into Logan’s internal scarring and seeks to help him appreciate his immortality and his purpose. Maybe next he can rediscover his sense of humor.
Read more reviews by George Wolf.