The Wolverine is the second attempt to make a film focussing on Hugh Jackman’s mutant after the woeful Origins. This is certainly an improvement, but while it is not a complete failure, it is remarkably boring in its attempt to be dark and brooding.
The story takes Wolverine to Japan, where an old man he saved in World War II is dying and wishes to say goodbye. Once there Logan is caught up in a dangerous conspiracy involving ninjas, samurais and other Japanese stereotypes. The film uses action sparingly, instead trying to keep our attention with mystery. This could have worked if the film had not spoon fed the audience so incessantly, fearing we wouldn’t follow what was going on. It left me bloated and bored. For example the word Ronin is used twice and an explanation as to what it means followed both instances.
Wolverine shares a problem with Superman, well not a problem for them, but certainly a problem for screenwriters; how do you get an audience to care for someone who is invulnerable? Well this time round Wolverine no longer is! His healing powers are stripped away making him like us – particularly vulnerable. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. He is shot, stabbed and beaten throughout, only this time he leaves a little puddle of blood and groans a bit more. Theoretically it is a great idea but the film-makers simply don’t stick to it.
The picture is not a complete disaster, thanks mainly to Jackman, who is somehow constantly likeable and believable as a man with metal claws and the senses of an animal. The supporting cast are also quite good, even though it is evident that English isn’t their first language (the few scenes they are allowed to talk to each other in Japanese come as a relief). I did feel sorry for Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova, who was so good in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, for she seems to have had all her lines dubbed over in a rather dull American accent.
This Blu Ray release features the extended cut which includes slightly more CGI blood and rather than add many new scenes it mainly just adds minutes onto already existing ones. The longer cut neither harms or improves the film but I must say the French plantation scene dragged slightly.
(The following paragraph contains spoilers)
My major problem with the movie was its depiction of the Japanese; Japanese men in particular (the women simply fall head over heels for this hairy Westerner). The opening of the film sees Logan in a prison cell in Nagasaki. The sirens start to blare and one Japanese soldier, against his superiors orders, rescues the prisoners, including Wolverine, who returns the favour by shielding him from the atomic blast. I thought that this was a nice touch, showing how war is not simply black and white and that there are good people on both sides. My only problem was the inclusion of the sound of women and children screaming as the CGI bomb desperately tries to entertain the audience. This is not the first time that the X-Men franchise has used real horrific events; the first film starts in a concentration camp, but this worked thematically, for X-Men is ultimately about segregation. The nuking of Nagasaki, where 70,000 people died, is simply used here for spectacle. Cut forward to modern Japan and apparently the men are still pure evil. Even the man who initially seemed like a sympathetic soldier in WWII, is now an evil business man who wants to kill his son (who himself wants to kill his own daughter) and become young again by stealing Wolverine’s powers. There needed to be at least one Japanese male character who wasn’t completely reprehensible.
I still have hope that there will be a good Wolverine film one day. Hugh Jackman is great as the character, he just needs to be unleashed under the right director. I would have loved to have seen Darren Aronofsky’s version of this film. Hopefully Bryan Singer will do another great job with Days of Future Past, for he has yet to make a bad X-Men movie.
2 ½ stars
Action, Adventure, Comic Book
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
18th November 2013 (UK)
Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Hal Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee,Famke Janssen