Invited to Japan to say farewell to an ex-Japanese soldier that owes him his life, Logan finds himself embroiled in powerful family and yakuza politics that threaten the lives of everyone involved, including himself, being that his healing factor seems to be broken.
It’s no secret that the X-Men franchise had a bit of a rough time between X2 and First Class, with The Last Stand having a troubled production from the outset and Origins: Wolverine turning out to be, by all measures, a stinker.
First Class went some way to redeeming the franchise, though this reviewer enjoyed it less than most seemed to, but when word dropped that Darren Aronofsky, respected director of such films as The Wrestler and Black Swan, had jumped onboard to the next Wolverine film, entitled simply The Wolverine, bringing with him hard boiled writer, Chris McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Way of the Gun), there was plenty of reason to get excited about an entirely new direction and style for the X-flicks. Potentially darker, but certainly more considered.
As is often the case with these things, Aronofsky departed the project being replaced by eclectic but somewhat generic director, James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk the Line, Knight and Day), who made quite hefty script changes; but to what effect?
Well, it’s not terrible, in fact, I would be happy to say that to my mind it’s probably the second best of the X-films after X2, but it falls just short of being gripping and in this summer of ridiculously massive productions, feels more like a second-tier blockbuster.
From a positive perspective, the character doesn’t work too well with Avengers sized threats to deal with, so the story dealt us here is just the kind of thing us comics fans are used to and the nearest thing to the comicbook version of the character to date, so on some level The Wolverine is quite satisfying. Most of the ingredients are there, armies of ninja, a genuine threat in Logan’s lack of healing, lovelornedness, questions of honour, redemption, but we’re STILL missing that all important berserker rage.
One can only assume that this is too hard to pull off in film without jacking up the certification, but, bizarrely, despite its family friendly certification, it’s pretty damn violent, sweary and has sections and themes that could only seem boring to the very young. It truly is much more harder edged than you would expect, so not pushing that little bit further and giving the fans what they really want is all the more flummoxing.
The visuals are clean and quite beautiful, overriding some of that darkness of theme with the glossiness that comes with shooting in neon Japan. The action is good if a tad too spares, but accompanied with excellent CG that can go toe to toe with this year’s more effects driven films.
The predominantly Japanese cast are all good, but this is Hugh Jackman’s show and he does it as well as he ever has, cutting a more impressive look by piling on the shoulder and chest girth for a more stocky and sturdy Wolverine. He frowns and snarls and smiles not at all.
It’s hard to really pick fault with The Wolverine, because in every way it’s better than adequate and rather entertaining, but as mentioned it somehow just fails to fully grip, leaving in it’s wake that bad taste which comes with the yearning to see how Aronofsky’s version would have turned out.
Oh, and do not walk out before the mid-credit sequence, which IS gripping and choc full of nergasm potential.
C+ grade – for storytelling
B+ grade – for visuals
B grade – for action
B- grade – for acting
Overall grade – B-