Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Hiroyuki Sanada and Famke Janssen
Plot: The Wolverine (Jackman) is brought out of his loner lifestyle to say goodbye to an old friend, when he is dragged into a family feud that sees his powers taken from him…
The Wolverine franchise has some making up to do. Origins was a disappointing movie, giving us a great character, but a terrible story to go with him. So, is the Wolverine an improvement? The quick answer is yes. Not by much, but an improvement nonetheless.
The story opens up in World War Two in Nagasaki, where Wolverine saves a soldier from the atomic bomb. We are quickly rushed into present day, where Wolverine is picked up by a mysterious mutant with the ability to see the future. She works for the same soldier, who is dying of old age and wants to see Wolverine before he dies. When Wolverine goes to Japan, the old man really wants to transfer Wolverine’s power over to him. We spend a good while in Japan and there is a sense that the film becomes a family drama. We are introduced to several shady characters, like some ITV murder mystery. There is the daughter who gets to inherit her grandfather’s business, her father who wants it all, the mysterious archer in the shadows and many more characters. The exposition really drags its feet, setting up all of these characters, when we only end up caring for a handful of them. For an action-packed superhero movie, this film does have lengthy moments of boredom.
Even after the first fight, where Wolverine ends up going on the run with Mariko, the film slows right down to build up their love story. It wasn’t that I particularly hated these scenes – the script was good and it was amusing when they had to hide out in a sex hotel – but there should have been something else here. Maybe the film could have kept cutting back to Yukio, the future-predicting mutant, with some action just to keep people invested in the movie. Thankfully, when Mariko gets captured again, the action dials itself right up, bringing us close to the film that we wanted. However, then the final fight involves Wolverine fighting a giant robot samurai and the camp superhero style, that the film was doing good avoiding until now, kicks in and dampens the mood slightly.
What really annoys me here is that both Wolverine stories have had a chance to break away from the common flaws in X-Men films: too many characters. With the original trilogy, it is an understandable set-back, but here, we should have been give Hugh Jackman, a few baddies and a couple of good guys, rather than a whole family tree of suspicious people. There are far too many villains here and the only one worth remembering is Khodchenkova’s Viper. This film should have been a sure-fire hit, but Mangold gets so lost in the narrative that he ends up losing touch with what we really wanted to see: an awesome superhero movie.
Also, the whole idea of Wolverine losing his powers was wasted. He stops being able to heal, yet he still takes a fair amount of bullets (I guess his skeleton is still made of adamantium). We should have been feeling scared for the character for the first time, but we still knew that he was going to have little trouble kicking ass and saving the day. Then halfway through the movie, Mangold realises that he can’t do as many awesome things with powerless Wolverine as he would like, so Logan gets his powers back earlier than he should and it’s business as usual. The scene where Wolverine operates on himself was pretty cool, but somewhat restrained. I wish Mangold would just make this an R-rated movie. It was pretty much border-line violent all the time, so it will probably dissuade parents from taking their kids to see this film anyway.
There are good moments hiding in the film. The fight scene on top of a bullet train was incredible and imaginative. I am surprised no one has thought of it before (have they? Leave in the comments below). Again, Viper was a pretty good villain, but gets lost in a busy film. The final fight is pretty climatic, if you can get over the fact that Wolverine is fighting a giant metal samurai. Also, some of the smaller fights are pretty good, with Wolverine hacking and slashing his way through his opponents. One good thing about too many villains is that there is never any shortage of people for Logan to kill. The other positive thing about this movie is, of course, Hugh Jackman, who has perfected the character by now. I don’t think anyone else can pull off the line ‘Hey, Bub!’ like Jackman. Now, we just need a movie, deserving of this character.
Final verdict: Some good ideas, but they are lost on a bloated narrative. Not quite the Wolverine film we’ve been waiting for.