After the ghastly, whimsical mess of X Men Origins, there’s a sense that director James Mangold is desperate to take the bearded one back to his scowling roots. So with The Wolverine it’s (in theory) a move away from the all growling and gurning high camp frivolity of this film’s predecessor, and a move towards something more intimate and emotional.
Well, Logan certainly has his sensible hat on this time round.
Bridging the gap between The Last Stand and Days of Future Past, The Wolverine is a noticeably muted and muddy affair; a mirthless adaptation of Logan’s Japanese adventures that will take some beating if it doesn’t turn out to be the most ponderous film of the summer.
In 1945 and in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, a pre-adamantium Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) witnesses the atomic bombing of Nagasaki from the relative safety of a well. Feeling uncharacteristically charitable, the future X Man saves a young prison guard from incineration before a flash-forward sees us transported approximately to the present day and the wild forests of North America, where a homeless, bedraggled Logan charms the local hunters with his committed impression of “the angriest hobo”.
It’s made abundantly clear from the off that Logan is struggling to come to terms with the events of The Last Stand and the loss of Jean Grey. The spectral form of his deceased lady love appears to him in frequent dreams imploring him to join her in the prestine, silken netherworld she appears to be inhabiting. The loss weighs heavy on his mind and it’s a sick-of-immortality man-without-a-purpose that we find wandering amongst the trees.
Logan’s fruitless life of solitude is broken by the arrival of assassin Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who brings him news that Yashida, the once Nagasaki prison guard, now billionaire businessman with dubious ties is dying and requests his presence. Logan goes to say farewell to the old chap but, upon arriving, finds himself presented with an unsual offer regarding his mutation and apparent immortality, and perhaps a chance to find peace.
Kudos, I suppose, to James Mangold for aiming to give his hero some sense of pain at his loss and, crucially, an attempt at a much needed sense of vulnerability. But he’s given no ounce of help from a script which sees Wolverine lurch clumsily from one set piece to another, and surrounds him constantly with an inexcusably dull army of black-clad ninjas and supporting characters devoid of any charisma, charm, invention, pathos, curiosity or genuine sense of wonder.
Jackman is an instantly likeable and interesting presence, but any and all sense of inner conflict he brings to the picture is smothered by the crushingly perfunctory plot; any innate charm he tries to impart is broken by the sullen joylessness of the whole endeavor.
As Wolverine hoiks a corrupt politician off a roof; tussles with the achingly banal, venom-spitting Viper; or induces paroxysms of restlessness during his Silver Samurai showdown; his look of distress is that of a man with one eye on the credits. Don’t worry Hugh, just 45 minutes to go.
Fair enough, Mangold has sought to give the franchise a kick in the balls and some much needed grit. I couldn’t help wishing he’d given Jackman at least one song and dance number.
Release Date (UK):
25th July 2013
Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Hal Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto
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