If there is any other comic book character who has been in as many movies as both Superman and Batman, it’s got to be Wolverine. This is the knuckle-bladed mutant’s fifth (sixth if you count his cameo in X-Men: First Class) film. All of which has been performed admirably by Hugh Jackman. After the train-wreck that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hollywood has tried to at least give it another solo-go with the beloved character. The only problem is, is that while The Wolverine is a much better film than Origins, it still feels like a rather bland, forgettable, and at times, boring superhero flick.
The Wolverine picks up some time after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan, aka The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is now living off in the woods, grown a thick beard, grew his hair out, dreaming about Jean Grey and trying to really go for that Bon Iver lifestyle. After a scene that tries to establish how Logan is no longer “The Wolverine” by using a weird little “Grizzly Bear getting hunted with poison darts” plot device, a strange Japanese girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) shows up and informs Logan that a Japanese soldier, named Yashida, that he once saved from the Atomic Bomb over Nagasaki, is dying and would like to say his goodbyes in person. Logan reluctantly travels to Japan, in which a plot to take over Yashida’s now bustling corporation mixes with a plot with a clan of Black Ninjas and a forced “well, the film needs a villain” plot using Viper, who’s basically around to be sexy, spit venom on people, and inexplicably change outfits for EVERY scene, no matter if they take place minutes apart from each other.
The film, for the most part, had it’s heart in the right place, but was just lazily put together. At one time, Darren Aronofsky (Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler) was set to direct the film, and that was truly an exciting thought, to have a guy who is SO GOOD at creating brutally tragic character studies make a superhero flick. Eventually Aronofsky dropped out for various reasons (although mostly to film his dream project), and in stepped James Mangold (Walk The Line, Girl, Interrupted). Somwhere along that developmental switch-over, which also saw quite a few re-writes, the stories possibility of being something special was lost and just became another forgettable superhero flick.
Hugh Jackman truly does his best with the character, playing Wolverine as well as he ever as, but the combination of the screenplay’s inability to really figure out what it wants to do and an awkward unnecessary love-story, it’s hard to care about anything that happens on screen. Then there are moments that, while are indeed cool looking, are just so ridiculously implausible that you can’t help but roll your eyes. Such as seeing Logan and Yashida outrun the Atomic Bomb blast, somewhat reminiscent of a certain limousine outrunning a certain earthquake; or a fight that takes place on top of a Japanese Bullet Train. You know, those ones that go like 300 MPH? It’s so goddamn ridiculous seeing the characters launch themselves up in the air to literally FLY with the train. If the train battles in The Lone Ranger bothered you, this one will really grind your gears.
Like I said though, The Wolverine has it’s heart it the right place, it just failed to really drive it home. It’s admirable to see the film step away from modern superhero flicks set on destroying major American cities, to try to adopt the Japanese culture. You can’t help but also admire the film’s darker edge to it, even going so far as including a nice Wolverine “Go fuck yourself” scene, although it’s not QUITE as resonating as the one from X-Men: First Class. Jackman does a well enough job, there are some neat visuals, decent cinematography, and a couple of cool action sequences. Other than that, The Wolverine just feels like another forgettable summer blockbuster. If it does anything the best though, it’s setting up excitement for the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past in the usual Marvel-Post Credits sequence. Better than Origins, but just not memorable enough.
I give The Wolverine a 2.5 out of 5.
By Richard Pepper