Someone will like this movie. It’s just not me. Let me be clear. I am not a “comic book geek” — a group I revere as the gatekeepers of comic strip magazines and their stories. When working in comic book entertainment at least one should be consulted, if not a flock. Yes, a flock of CB geeks.
Now, I do love the specific comic-adapted-for-screen genre. I always have. I even enjoyed “Birds of Prey.” Twice. Though I’m not huge on animated comics I recently watched “Batman: Under the Red Hood” and totally had a good time. When I don’t know something about a storyline or why a director may have made a choice that doesn’t resonate with the audience (particularly me) I rely on my network of CB geeks to clarify.
So, can anybody tell me how “The Wolverine” motorcycled its way so far off the beaten path? It’s not a terrible story, but this James Mangold (Walk the Line) installment of the Wolverine saga just doesn’t quite live up to a movie called The Wolverine. I expected a little mutant grandeur.
Desires of delving deeper into the ages old psyche of a soldier always at war, even if that war is internal, through witnessing his battles with time, other mutants, his affections, what have you are dashed as we are forced to lay next to a droopy puppy lost in the aftershock of loving and killing Jean (Famke Janssen)…from like seven years and three movies ago.
“The Wolverine” opens strong both visually and narratively. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is framed beautifully, showing his physical captivity juxtaposed with his freedom from fear. The anecdote of his heroism is moving and evident of why he is The Wolverine.
From there we see him as a blathering, psychotic animal that’s been neutered. With Logan’s nightmares about Jean I was hoping that it was a precursor to him taking in her powers, which would be a fascinating storyline to explore. But no, it’s just more Logan having nightmares, except this time they don’t mean anything. They don’t result in any plot or character elevation.
The central theme of “one eye on the past and the other on the future” is always appropriate for an immortal guy who looks like a smoking hot, well, let’s just be generous and say thirty-something, but is really your granddaddy’s granddaddy. It’s certainly great for a “blast from the past” storyline, but the precarious nature of time, and quest for it, is not properly realized in this film.
There is a structural problem with the script. Three guys worked on it: Mark Bomback (Total Recall), Scott Frank (Minority Report), and Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and not one of them recognized that their mystery about obsession was delivered almost entirely in dialogue with a few visual cues here and there?
What happens on screen is a distraction from what the movie is really about. “The Wolverine” comes off as kind of cheap, and frankly, its star doesn’t seem to be having as good a time in this one.
Because of the absence of mutants, you may not have as good a time either. Yukio (Rila Fukushima) is not a mutant. Nightcrawler is a mutant, Magneto is a mutant, Mystique is a mutant. Yukio is a dreamer. A good fighter. But that’s about it.
That leaves Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). What kind of mutant movie has no mutants? It’s an outrage.
Aside from some tacky comments I could make about how the lead actress Tao Okamoto (Mariko) is distractingly thin and how Jackman may have out-aged the role, evident in his slight frame when draped in layers of black and how he appears to strain in flexing those still-really-pretty-but-just-not-how-they-used-to-be muscles when shirtless, those are basically the negatives.
There are some enjoyable elements as well. “The Wolverine” doesn’t completely abandon Logan’s wit and edge. The movie raises wonderful points about looking upon the devastation of our world, about healing, and the grace of time.
More pointedly, that idea as applied to Logan becomes both sad and powerful. To never end or have hope for an end is devastating. Our sympathies stay with him regardless of story, no matter how affected his character.
A little lackluster, “The Wolverine” keeps the comedy coming in just the right intervals and we get an elegant tour of Japan, its myths and political theater. The film moves right along to an explosive, exciting end. And I mean the end after the movie’s credits have begun to roll.