Frances Winston went to see The Wolverine, and found incredibly stylised action sequences, and plenty of introspection
Directed by: James Mangold Starring: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee
Given that this film is based on a 1982 graphic novel by none other than Frank Miller, the man behind Sin City and 300, I had a looming expectation that this would be dark, moody and cerebral, rather than a full-on kick ass superhero movie. Miller wrote the graphic novel Wolverine in association with a colleague Chris Claremont, and this does have Miller’s stamp all over it. There is plenty of retrospection, and the action sequences are incredibly stylised.
Set after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan/Wolverine (Jackman) has retreated to the Canadian wilderness. He is haunted by hallucinations of his beloved Jean Grey, whom he was forced to kill, and of his time serving as a soldier in Nagasaki, during World War II. He is tracked down by a mutant called Yukio (Fukushima), who wants him to go to Tokyo to visit a man called Yashida (Sanada), whom he had saved from the Nagasaki bombing, and he reluctantly agrees.
On arrival, he is shocked to learn that Yashida is actually dying, but he has an interesting proposition for his old friend. He offers to extract Wolverine‘s immortality, so that it can be used to save his own life, which would mean Wolverine could live a normal life, get married, have a family and die like a regular man.
Refusing to go along with Yahida’s plan, Wolverine then finds himself accosted by the mutant Viper (Khodchenkova), who implants a bug in his system that blocks his healing ability. When Yahida dies, and his granddaughter Mariko (Okamoto) is attacked by Yakuza assassins, he becomes her protector. However, it soon becomes apparent that his physical abilities are not what they were, and he must try and uncover what is happening to him, while also trying to keep Mariko safe. He must also get to the bottom of the plot to kill her, which yields some surprising twists and turns along the way.
This is not as fast-paced or action-packed as the previous Wolverine movie, or indeed any of the X-Men films. Although there are a couple of fight scenes, it is realistically an hour before we see Wolverine in full flight. The rest of the time is filled in with exposition, and much talk of “honour”, which ties in with the Japanese setting, but does become tedious.
As always, Hugh Jackman is marvellous as Wolverine – although having played the role so often you would expect nothing less. You really get a sense of his loneliness and torment as he puts himself in jeopardy to protect a woman he barely knows. However, the hallucination scenes with Jean are pretty weak, and if you haven’t actually seen X-Men: The Last Stand (or indeed any of the films) they will make very little sense. The majority of the supporting cast are good, although a couple of performances border on caricature, and the dialogue doesn’t always ring true – perhaps because of language differences.
The pacing goes awry in places, and as much as I love Wolverine as a character, I did find myself looking at my watch at times, wishing they would just get on with it. That said, Hugh Jackman gets his shirt off a lot, which isn’t exactly the most displeasing image ever committed to screen. There is also a fabulous mid-credits section, that sets things up for the next X-Men movie, and sees the reappearance of two much loved characters. For this alone it is worth the admission price.
This is a fun watch and will definitely entertain. However, if you are watching it as a standalone movie and you haven’t seen Jackman’s previous outings as the animalistic hero, you may get a bit lost. Not as action packed as I would have liked, but satisfying enough for fans of the franchise.
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