‘The Wolverine’ sinks his claws into theaters Friday, July 26. If you have waited for an awesome, standalone movie from Marvel’s toughest X-Man, I have news for you.
You will have to keep waiting. ‘The Wolverine,’ although good, is not the movie that it should have been.
‘The Wolverine’ has solid production values. The sets, special effects, and other technical merits are all what we’ve come to expect from the Marvel Comics films.
What is lacking from ‘The Wolverine’ are cohesive narrative, well-defined characters, or any emotional attachment for the audience to accompany the considerable on-screen mayhem.
Logan, as inhabited by Hugh Jackman (for the sixth time), is found imprisoned in Japan at the opening of ‘The Wolverine.’ The reasons aren’t disclosed, but as Allied forces proceed to bomb Japan during WWII, Logan escapes his cell and saves the life of a young Japanese soldier named Yashida.
Decades later, the adopted granddaughter of the Japanese soldier seeks out Logan. Yukio, a fellow mutant, delivers Yashida’s message to Logan that his presence has been requested in Tokyo at the behest of her dying grandfather. Yashida wishes to formally thank Logan for saving his life years ago and to make him an offer.
Yashida, now the most prominent businessman in Asia, offers to release Logan from his tortured existence and medically “cure” his immortality. After Logan rejects the offer, a member of Yashida’s inner circle poisons him, rendering his powers of regeneration dormant.
Yashida soon dies and a plot to kidnap Mariko, Yashida’s heir, are soon revealed. As Logan tries to protect Mariko, he comes face to face with his own mortality. Yakuza are desperately trying to assassinate Mariko, and it’s up to ‘The Wolverine’ to stop them.
Where ‘The Wolverine’ fails story-wise is that it is obvious to the audience that there will be twists to the plot. The film tips its hand far too early in the story for those twists to be engaging or effective. If the audience knows that there is sleight of hand, the magic trick isn’t ever as effective.
For audiences who aren’t as familiar with Logan as the die-hard X-Men fans, a significant part of the story may leave you scratching your head in confusion.
Why is Jean Grey so significant to Logan? If you don’t know the answer to this question before seeing ‘The Wolverine,’ brushing up on the first three ‘X-Men’ films will be a great benefit to your enjoyment of this movie.
Other than fan’s built-in knowledge of Logan, there isn’t much in terms of character development in ‘The Wolverine.’ Why some of the principal characters take the actions that they do is left up to your own assumptions. The motivations behind those actions are semi-implied at best.
A great standalone movie should be just that. Standalone means that you don’t need to have watched all of the other movies with Jackman as Wolverine to enjoy this one. Essentially none of the characters in this film are fleshed out enough to compel the audience to understand or care about them.
Without Hugh Jackman’s considerable presence and swagger as Logan, there really isn’t much to see here other than some elaborately constructed action sequences.
Hugh Jackman as ‘The Wolverine’ Logan glowers, snarls, and continues to cement his reputation as one of the two current “bad-asses” at the movies. Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond is the other.
Both of these actors bring a physical intensity, considerable acting skills, and aura of dark heroism to their respective franchise roles.
There are many things to like about ‘The Wolverine.’ The film is lensed with a moody, often rainy, atmosphere that suits its tortured hero. Some of the sets used to recreate Tokyo and other parts of Japan are postcard worthy and beautiful to observe.
The action sequences are grand, although would have benefitted from stationary camera work. The shaky-cam technique, designed to make the audience feel present, contradict the painstakingly planned action scenes. It can be difficult to see, let alone fully appreciate, all of the intricate action choreography.
At one point in time, director Darren Aronofsky was attached to helm ‘The Wolverine.’ Aronofsky (Pi, The Fountain) would have delivered a more interesting movie if the goal was to fully flesh out the character of Logan.
James Mangold has given us a pretty, yet passionless and “by the numbers” action movie.
If you love the character of Logan and have seen all of the films featuring ‘The Wolverine,’ then you will likely enjoy this movie.
For the average film-goer, ‘The Wolverine’ just might leave you wondering what all of the fuss is about when it comes to this franchise.