<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by James Mangold. Starring Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Tao Okamoto, Famke Janssen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ken Yamamura, Hal Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Svetlana Khodchenkova
Even though the previous film X-Men Origins: Wolverine got lots of flack, I think I enjoyed it more than The Wolverine, which is not a bad film, just movie that doesn’t know what it’s trying to tell the audience.
To be quite honest I see no reason for Wolverine to have yet another film. Sure he’s a popular character – in no small part due to Hugh Jackman’s brilliant portrayal of the mutant. But you have to admit he’s a tad vanilla. And if you want to drool over Jackman, there’s plenty of stuff online.
I did initially like The Wolverine because it’s not set in America and doesn’t rely on huge explosions and cocky American bravado (as seen in Pacific Rim), the Japan setting for the film turns out to be full of clichés. Kimonos, Samurai, Yakuza, game parlours and the Japanese fascination for all things thematic abound in the film.
The Wolverine starts off with a flashback of when Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was captured during the Second World War where he found himself in the middle of the Allied nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. A Japanese officer lets him free and then he saves the officer from the debilitating effects of the bomb by jumping on top of the officer with a metal lid. Clearly we can’t be taking ‘what to do in case of a nuclear emergency tips’ from this film!
Immortal Wolverine then flashes back to his present where he has left the X-Men after the loss of Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Jean Grey (Famke Jenssen) who he killed in X-Men: The Last Stand. But Jean is haunting Logan who she longs to be with again. He may just get his chance.
While fighting for animal rights in a bar, Logan is approached by a Japanese girl called Yukio (Rila Fukushima) with red hair and a third eye for what will happen in the future. She works for Yashida, the Japanese officer Logan saved in the war who then went on to become a successful billionaire businessman. Unfortunately, he’s dying of cancer and wants to say goodbye to Logan. Or does he?
Logan then gets pulled into a family feud involving Yashida, Yashida’s greedy son and doting granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). The only real ‘villain’ is a ‘doctor’ played by Svetlana Khodchenkova who in her Viper avatar looks strikingly similar to Poison Ivy in the Batman film (of course Uma Thurman in that role was far better). In fact, the outfits worn by Viper are so ridiculously cheap and random that you wonder about the styling budget. Thankfully, Wolverine only has to wear his patented ribbed cotton sleeveless vest.
At some points in The Wolverine you are grateful it isn’t a regular X-Men movie. You think maybe it’ll be more. But it never gets there. It never reveals more about our titular hero nor does it give us more information about his background to chew on.
The filmmakers have tried explaining to the audience little bits of Japanese culture, like what is a Ronan (Samurai without a master) and how to tie a kimono and why chopsticks should never be placed vertically in a bowl of food. This is ostensibly to give it that feel of a Japanese film (in the comics, the character of Wolverine settles down in Japan for a while). But it’s all very superficial.
An action sequence shot on a bullet train is really the only standout part of the movie. Sure you’ve seen the ‘on top of a train’ fight sequences in many Hollywood flicks but this one is quite ingenious.
For Hugh Jackman this character is second nature and he’s good at it. Apart from him only Rila Fukushima as Yukio stands out. Unfortunately she’s not his love interest so gets less screen time but is clearly the one who stays with you.
Yes it’s a Marvel film so there’s a bonus scene soon after the end credits with two more veteran X-Men characters in a cameo that fails to properly explain how one of them is back from the dead. It lacks that wow factor and doesn’t make you want to find out or get interested in what is to come next. In my opinion, this helter-skelter timeline of films (with X-Men: First Class going all the way back) is perplexing. The Wolverine is a film that doesn’t really add to the X-Men canon in any way and fails to shed new light on this beloved character.
Oh and the finale battle between Logan and a giant adamantian Samurai is pretty ridiculous to say the least.