Though Spider-Man can be accredited to rejuvenating superhero movies, there’s no doubt X-Men started the fire. It shied away from the jokey tone that plagued similar films, proving to be a winning formula for the series, but, the one element that has become truly immortalized is Hugh Jackman and the character that is truly his, Wolverine.
With an aggressive, stalky demeanor, a gruffy attitude, some badass claws—and beard to boot— he resonated with audiences in a big way, becoming the stand-out member of the X-Men. So much so that there have now been two solo movies dedicated to this claw swinging berserker—the most recent being the subject of this review. This new movie, and the mess before it, has proven one important fact: Wolverine’s claws aren’t sharp enough to drag him through his own adventure.
The fact Wolverine has been the mutated, creamy center of the X-Men is no surprise, even to the filmmakers of the original trilogy. The stories have always been centered on discovering his rocky and complex past. X2: X-Men United did the best job, and some could even say the definitive one. This notion seems to be clear as The Wolverine has a story that fails to either delve deeper into his character or even have him at the center.
After the events of X-Men: The Last Stand Logan a.k.a. Wolverine is racked with guilt from killing the only woman he’s ever loved, Jean (Famke Jenssen), who he continues to hallucinate about. Taking the hobo route, we find him bumming across the world, trying to avoid embracing the man he once was. Why do all of these heroes have to become bums? Can’t they just start a small business, or chop wood until they are called back into duty?
Jokes aside, having a traditionally abrasive character trying to go down the Buddhist path is an interesting concept for a comic book character study, and the fact the movie retains a consistent serious tone is a plus. But after an all-to aggressive encounter involving Logan stabbing a guy in the hand with an arrow it’s soon realized it was an idea no one had the intention of sticking to.
Soon after his little outburst, he is dragged to Japan by a mysterious woman with pink hair to say goodbye to a man, Ichiro, whose life he saved during the bombing of Nagasaki. There he is asked by the dying man to give over to him his power of rapid regeneration. After a much needed haircut, he un-humbly declines. But that doesn’t matter, because they eventually just inject a bug into his chest that makes his power null and void. An interesting change for the character, but not one he made introspectively or even wants, robbing it of any emotional power.
Then the ludicrously unfocused plot with holes built for Tremors boils over, with a kidnapping storyline involving members of a Japanese family fighting over control of a billion-dollar business, and Logan is caught dead in the center. But that’s the only reason why he’s there; because he’s caught in the middle.
The plot involving him protecting Ichiro’s granddaughter, Mariko, does little to service the structural blueprint of the characters new-found morals. He wants to avoid hurting people, but he continuously butchers and slashes through men like paper as if he enjoyed it. Sure you could just say he needs to defend himself, but hey, his bones are made of metal, I’m sure a few swift knock-out punches would do.
There are a few well staged action pieces. The karate style fights are a welcome alteration to the normal lightning bolts and fire of previous films. But, they are too far between and short lived to make for an engaging movie, and are instead out-shined for a family-drama that has little relevance or use for Logan, as he just seems to be hanging around because he’s a naturally good guy. The movie is more in-line with the tale of deception, greed and honor of other Japanese films, it just happens to have Wolverine in it.
Even the villain, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is a lacking foil for the hero, as she struts around unmenacingly, firing acid spit and stabbing people with her pinky nail. She’s a poisonous version of the one of the girls from Jersey Shore.
By the end, or even the middle, of the movie the fact becomes obvious that The Wolverine is a wasted effort to delve deeper into a not terribly deep character. He doesn’t evolve, nor do we learn any more about him. He moves on from Jean not because of a sudden epiphany, but because he happened to find someone else. All the intelligence the movie could’ve possessed is thrown aside by blatant laziness and lack of imagination. Where are the fancy British people when you need them?
Jackman is great as always, which makes this more upsetting. Unlike other Marvel films like Iron Man and Thor, not only is this movie irrelevant for the character, but towards future, grander movies he will most likely appear in. Everything from a disrespectful plot, mundane script and climax destined to disappoint fans of good films and explosions alike make for unsatisfying movie that drowns a smart, complex idea for a classic character. However, its miles better than the glossy train-wreck that is X-Men: Origins. Good God, that was bad.