Directed by: James Mangold.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Famke Jannsen, Rila Fukushimo, Hal Yamanouchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova.
Rating: Running Time: 129 mins.
At the movie’s opening, Logan (Hugh Jackman) now lives away from civilisation in the Alaskan wilderness. Constantly reminded by his dreams of the loss of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), he isolates himself from anyone who could potentially be harmed by him or being around him. During an encounter with a group of hunters at a bar Logan is approached by Yukio (Rila Fukushimo), a woman in the employ of Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a man who Logan saved during world war II. Yukoi has been sent to find Logan and bring him to say goodbye to Yashida, who is close to death back in Japan.
Upon arriving, Logan learns that since saving him, Yashida has built up the biggest corporate empire in Japan, and fears for the safety of his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and his business after his death. Yashida has been looking for ways that modern medicine can extend his life, and seeing the toll that being practically immortal has taken on Logan, offers that his doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is able to transfer his healing ability from Logan to him, meaning that Logan could then live a normal mortal life. Declining the offer, Logan is set to leave when Yashida passes away, and at his funeral when the Yakuza attack, Logan acts to defend Mariko and is wounded. Finding that he no longer has his mutant healing ability, he is forced to go on the run with Mariko to protect her.
While The Wolverine is not a direct sequel to X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, it is similarly more of a spin-off from X-Men: The Last Stand, following the character after the events of that movie. X-Men: Origins – Wolverine did big business when it was released, but the majority of fans found the movie to be a shadow of what it could have and really should have been. It wasn’t a bad movie, but it was lacking any of the bite that the Wolverine character should have.
Fans will be equally disappointed that this also seems lacking and suffers from some of the same problems as that movie. There has been more of an attempt to build on the character of Logan in the movie, with his lengthy past haunting him, shown through flashbacks and dreams, including the return of Jean Grey to show his longing for a life which he feels he can never have. That is where the character development ends though, as the character makes decisions which contradict his statements not long after he makes them, as do several other characters, none of which has any development of their own to really explain their motivations or actions.
The action set-pieces feel just like that, they don’t really add anything special and feel like they could belong to any generic movie. One of them, set atop a 300 mile-an-hour bullet train is entertaining, but it never really gets going to the extent that you expect it should, and again, could. Once that happens, the movie begins to follow the typical thriller narrative, only for any built up momentum to come to a halt as we follow background characters doing things that seem to have little or no bearing on where the movie is going. This is especially noticeable at the beginning of the movie’s third act, when things become so formulaic and something happens to a character purely to facilitate Logan getting from location 2 to set-piece 4, as if someone read a book on plot-writing by numbers with half the pages ripped out.
The finale of the movie does its best to try and explain some of the motivations of some characters, but by this point it’s too little too late, and still leaves most of the characters as little than one-note stereotypical good guys or bad guys.
There’s also a lack of the character’s actions having any consequence on the world they inhabit. Logan, after being shot multiple times, just seems dazed momentarily to show that “something’s wrong”. Fair enough his bones are laced with adamantium metal meaning that a bullet would likely bounce off, but there’s little sign that he’s not so indestructible aside from a little blood and that his wounds don’t immediately heal up. Speaking of which, when he uses his claws and retracts them (which he does numerous times once he’s lost his healing ability) there’s no sign of his knuckles bleeding, and during the aforementioned bullet train sequence, Logan is using his claws to hold on to the side/top of the train, yet no one seems worried about foot long metal blades piercing through inside, or seems to care when the train arrives at it’s next stop with a gaping hole in the side of one of it’s carriages.
It’s not as disappointing as X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, it is well directed and for the majority the performances are good enough, but it’s let down by the poor writing, irritating plot contrivances, an over-long running time (129 minutes should have more story than this), and suffers from terrible dips in pacing that will promote restlessness from audiences. Go in with as low an expectation as possible so that you might at least be entertained.
Stay around once the credits roll for a mid-credit sequence that serves as a setup for next year’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past, here’s hoping that will turn out better.