Review – The Wolverine (12a) [2013]

The Wolverine - title banner

Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • James Mangold – Girl, Interrupted, 3:10 To Yuma, Knight & Day, Three Little Words

Cast:

  • Hugh Jackman – X-Men I-III, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Les Misérables, X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Famke Janssen – Goldeneye, X-Men I-III, Taken I-II, In The Woods
  • Rilo Fukushima
  • Tao Okamoto
  • Hiroyuki Sanada – The Last Samurai, Rush Hour III, The Railway Man
  • Svetlana Khodchenkova – No Love In The City, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Royal Killer

Music Composer:

Troubled productions can take on many forms. The Wolfman needed to reshoot scenes after completing filming; Transformers II: Revenge of the Fallen did not have script three weeks before filming; and Margaret had numerous post-production problems that led to the movie coming out six years after it was shot. Suffice to say, all of these movies were a mess when they arrived at cinemas. The same is true for The Wolverine, which had a change of director and several delays at pre-production stages.

Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) running with Mariko (Tao Okamoto), trying to protect her from assassins working for... well that's anyone's guess.

Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) running with Mariko (Tao Okamoto), trying to protect her from assassins working for… well that’s anyone’s guess.

The Wolverine follows on from events in X3: The Last Stand. Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is traumatised from having killed his lover, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and he spends his time nomadically walking around.

One night, he stumbles into a bar and meets Yukio (Rilo Fukushima), a random Japanese girl who has been trying to find him for a year. Yukio tells Logan that Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), someone Logan apparently saved at Nagasaki as the nuclear bomb went off in August 1945, is dying and wishes to see him one more time before he dies. Reluctantly, Logan agrees to go to Japan for a day to grant Shingen his wish.

But upon arrival, the paralysed Shingen informs Logan that he can end his immortality and pain. Logan declines. Shingen then begs Logan to protect his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), the heir to his company and fortune, from others wishing to kill her to seize everything for themselves, to which again Logan reluctantly agrees.

As is often the case with films with major production problems, The Wolverine’s dialogue is senseless and the plot is all over the place. A flashing red light should immediately go off in one’s mind upon realising that the film takes place after events in 2006’s panned X3, warning viewers of the train-wreck ahead. And also, when has it ever been mentioned in any of the other X-Men films that Logan spent time in Japan during World War II and survived a nuclear bomb? These oh so small details are merely the starting point for the film’s problems. That the film does not even bother to explain why Logan was in Japan/Nagasaki in 1945 or what his relationship with Shingen was in the first place merely adds to the sense that the movie lost its way long before filming started.

Logan with his claws out ready to fight a nameless, Japanese sword-wielding baddie.

Logan with his claws out ready to fight a nameless, Japanese sword-wielding baddie.

Yet, what is probably most disappointing about The Wolverine is that it feels like an irrelevant sideshow throughout its 126 minutes of running time and adds nothing to Logan’s personal story. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine might have been (rightly) ridiculed by fans and critics alike, but at least it showed audiences (albeit badly) how Logan acquired metal claws and why he has blanks in his memory.

The only positive aspect of The Wolverine’s storyline is Logan’s trauma. One must praise James Mangold for making Logan keep his psychological problem. But a trauma is a little bit more than half a dozen flashbacks to a deceased loved one. That the film doesn’t explore other angles of Logan’s psychological issues hints that the trauma was the idea of Darren Aranofsky, a specialist in films focussing on psychological problems and the initial director of The Wolverine, and that James Mangold carried on with the idea without having any real clue as to how to develop it.

Contending with this mess of a movie, Hugh Jackman does not do a bad job as the eponymous character. Whilst his performance is nothing special, Jackman at least makes us believe that the invincible Logan is suffering internally. Undoubtedly, Jackman is the film’s saving grace. The leading Japanese male actors do little more than shoot and swing swords (because that’s all Japanese men can do apparently), and the leading female actresses Rilo Fukushima and Tao Okamoto have no chemistry on set with Jackman/Logan and barely have an expression between them. Perhaps this is because Fukushima and Okamoto aren’t even actresses! They’re models (reminding us all of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s dreadful performance in Transformers III). Why couldn’t James Mangold find some qualified Japanese or Japanese-American actresses to do the jobs? What possible excuse is there for this?

Logan attempting to fend off the allure/threat of the sexy Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), one of several ambiguously-motivated, peripheral villains in the film.

Logan attempting to fend off the allure/threat of the sexy Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), one of several ambiguously-motivated, peripheral villains in the film.

One may argue that viewers do not go to see films like The Wolverine (or Transformers II) for the acting, but rather for the action and the special effects. If that is the case, The Wolverine won’t frustrate such people since there is a plethora of decent-looking (if inconsequential) fight scenes that fill the time. But it has all been seen and done before in the previous X-Men movies, making the fighting pointless and tedious.

All-in-all, The Wolverine’s troubles behind the scenes are reflected in the film’s end result. The plot goes to nowhere; the script makes no sense; the cast (with the exception of Hugh Jackman) are wooden; and the special effects and action scenes fail to flatter. Thus, but for the fact that the film is about Wolverine, arguably X-Men’s most well-known superhero, The Wolverine might as well as have been thrown in the bin.

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