In The Wolverine, the sixth feature in 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, Hugh Jackman’s silver-clawed superhero scratches out an adventure in Japan. James Mangold, the film’s director, has claimed that his picture was partly influenced by the Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu’s elegiac 1959 drama Floating Weeds. Ozu was, and remains, the master of the ‘pillow shot’: quiet still lifes with no inherent meaning or narrative content that gave his audience time to ruminate. What Mangold has created is something theoretically similar but perhaps even more revolutionary: an entire pillow film.
How could a movie that begins with a nuclear explosion, features ninja, samurai and Yakuza, and culminates in a battle with a sword-swinging robot, feel this stuffed with Siberian goose down? Perhaps if Mangold (Walk The Line, Knight and Day) had set his sights on more appropriate source material, The Wolverine might have been an X-Men equivalent of You Only Live Twice, with hollow volcanoes, silvery secret passageways, and a bouncing delight in its own silliness. Set aside a joke about a swimming pool lifted almost word-for-word from Diamonds Are Forever, though, and Bond’s influence is nowhere to be seen. Nor, unsurprisingly, is there any meaningful trace of Ozu’s Floating Weeds, nor any other film whose characters do much apart from growl, pout and punch.
Jackman last took a starring role in the X-Men franchise four years ago, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a poorly received and broadly incoherent prequel. This new film trades meaninglessness for joylessness, and it may be the series’ huffiest entry yet. The story begins with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, where Wolverine is being held in a prisoner of war camp. He outruns the blast before jumping down a well, while saving the life of a Japanese officer in the bargain.
Fast-forward almost seven decades, though, and this extraordinary good luck seems to have run out: our hero is now sleeping rough in the Canadian mountains. We watch as Jackman stumbles between tree-trunks, eyes wild, beard matted, and generally looking so much like Jean Valjean that you are braced for Russell Crowe to emerge from behind a bush and burst into song at any moment. In fact, the unexpected arrival is Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a red-haired Japanese assassin who brings Wolverine to Tokyo so her shadowy master can settle an old debt.
Soon a menagerie of villains are on Wolverine’s tail, and so he hops from location to location with both Yukio and an heiress called Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who is being pursued by the Japanese mob. (This is exactly the kind of rambling, episodic plot that is more easily swallowable in comic-book-sized mouthfuls than in a single feature-length gulp.) The hunting party is led by Viper (Sveltana Khodchenkova), an evil mutant with a poisonous kiss — a special move that is no less naff now than it was in 1997, when Uma Thurman deployed it in Batman & Robin while wearing a similar green vinyl catsuit.
The high point of the chase, which comes very early, is a scrap on the roof of a speeding bullet train. In its quieter moments, we see Wolverine lying in bed and hallucinating Famke Janssen in a silk negligee, which at least gives him something in common with the film’s core audience. You will of course recall, with a misty eye, that Janssen’s character, Jean Grey, was killed off in the third X-Men film in 2006, and now she is dispensing ghostly moral support.
Sorry, but didn’t superhero films outgrow all of this five or so years ago? Where is the quicksilver wit and lightness of touch of the Avengers and Iron Man films, or the formal ambition of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy? The previous X-Men film, First Class, was secure enough in its own skin to embrace its comic side. Mangold’s picture affects a pubescent snarl instead: that’s the difference between comic and daft.
The wolverine 3d (U/A)
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke Janssen
Running time: 126 minutes
watch it for hugh and the end credits. only
It began with a lot of promise and it ended with a hell of a lot of more promise (of things to come, that is). Stay for the end credits and it might just make your movie, but what happens in between is a lot of adamantium flashing (applause), delicious body baring (ooohh), innumerable cliches (boo) and a whole lot of “what the...” moments. Don’t get me wrong. It works infinitely better than Hugh Jackman’s first solo outing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine but The Wolverine, where our hero lands up in Japan, never matches up to the wonder of the first two X-Men movies or X-Men: First Class. Here’s why:
Hugh Jackman, but you could put your money on that safely with your eyes wide shut. The man wears the clawed mutant like second skin. He carries the movie on his very, ahem, capable (read sexy) shoulders.
The fact that they trusted The Wolverine to work a movie on his own and not throw in a jumble of other mutants to make it more appealing (which it wasn’t in the earlier film).
The fight atop the bullet train — exhilarating and exciting.
l The teaser after the end credits... trust me, it is the high point of the film (it was the only thing that had the audience clapping!).
No that’s about it... seriously.
Really? With the kind of literature the movie had to work on, it is a shame that it ended up being the same old aggressive, on-the-warpath-without-a-solid-reason Wolverine action where he slices through numerous ninjas and Japanese mobsters but without any bloodshed.
Wolverine’s struggle to come to terms with his immortality while people he cares about die around him was very poorly depicted and mostly through dream sequences with his lady love Jean Grey, who he had to kill in X-Men: The Last Stand.
Jean Grey or dreams of her may cause The Wolverine a lot of pain but it pales into insignificance next to the pain she causes to the audience. By the third time she appears in Logan’s dream your groan could drown out Logan’s growl and force you to unsheathe your claws.
Fans know what Japan is to Wolverine and to reduce it to some age-old cliches is just so wrong! There is the “love hotel”, the ninjas, mentions of the samurai, issues with chopsticks (!) and the lamest last word to the villain.Yes, it is Sayonara... duh!
The villains. The less said about them the better. The Viper was so Poison Ivy (Batman & Robin) and so bleh! The Silver Samurai was so pointless that the climactic fight bombed #epic fail.
So, a broken Logan comes to Japan finds his purpose and leaves as The Wolverine again. How it happened? There is something, I am sure, that must make sense in the convoluted plot. Why it happened? I haven’t the faintest.
Last word? Watch it for Jackman, that man sure knows his Wolverine, and please, please stay for the end credits. Yes, I’ll say it. Sayonara!
This is Hugh Jackman’s sixth appearance as the adamantium-clawed, self-healing mutant The Wolverine. And we cannot imagine anyone else playing the superhero. Here is his sixer:
X-Men (2000): We first meet the tough, rough and rude Logan who doesn’t remember anything about his past and becomes a reluctant member of the X-Men squad.
X2 (2003): Wolverine returns to the Mutant Academy, confronts Stryker (Brian Cox) and recovers the memory about his origin. He is romantically interested in Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who sacrifices herself to save the X-Men.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006): Wolverine struggles to work in a team and angers Storm (Halle Berry). Jean Grey surfaces but is controlled by her alternate personality Phoenix and in order to stop her Logan must kill her. We even see him holding her body and weeping.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009): This film was supposed to be all about Logan. We find out his back story, his relationship with his brother Victor (Sabretooth), how he comes to be called Logan and becomes Wolverine but there was so much happening that the storyline bombed. A complete dud.
X-Men: First Class (2011): We see Wolverine in a cameo in the film where he rudely dismisses Xavier and Lensherr (later Magneto) as they ask him to join them. Tiny role, uncredited, but so typically Logan.