The Wolverine

The Wolverine

(M) Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke Janssen

While many people credit Christopher Nolan for reviving interest in superheroes with his Batman trilogy, many forget the person who revived the whole superhero genre was Bryan Singer with the X-Men films.

The story goes that Hugh Jackman’s wife, Debra Lee-Furness, told her husband to avoid the character of Wolverine role at all costs. He stepped in after another actor had a scheduling conflict and proceeded to make the role his own. He has gone on to reprise the role in six other films, some in cameos and others in stand-alone movies.

Whatever you think of his characterisation, fans have come to embrace him and his iconic scowling performance.

This latest offering directed by James Mangold is interesting in that it really is the second origin film for the character. The first was X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009 which was a prequel to the original trilogy and this latest film falls after the first trilogy which concluded with X-Men 3: The Last Stand.

While he is one of the more interesting characters in the X-Men universe, this film feels from the opening like it doesn’t really need to exist. Audiences who have followed the series know that because of the adamantium that has been fused to his body, his body is constantly regenerating and so he cannot die.

The film, Jackman’s seventh outing as Logan, finds him hiding out in the woods of the Yukon, his best friend a grizzly bear. He runs into Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who has been tracking him and tells him he’s needed in Japan.

There, Logan is brought to the dying tycoon Harada, who apparently wants to say goodbye. As we see in a flashback, Logan had saved Harada from the Nagasaki atomic bombing. Actually, Harada wants to transfer Logan’s healing powers and immortality to himself. Logan doesn’t like the plan. Because although he is haunted by ephemeral visions of Jean Grey beckoning him to the afterlife, he is happy being immortal.

Before escaping, though, he attends Harada’s funeral, and finds himself fighting off mob thugs seeking to kidnap the man’s granddaughter, Mariko. Wounded, he manages to escape with Mariko onto a bullet train, where that great fight scene unfolds up on the roof.

Supporting players are patchy. Svetlana Khodchenkova, as Viper, is supposed to be villainous but comes across as only vampy; she recalls Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in “Batman & Robin,” only less interesting. And frustratingly, her vocal performance seems to be overdubbed. Tao Yokamoto is attractive and sweet as Mariko. Famke Janssen appears reprises her role as Jean Grey, but its Fukushima who gets some welcome light and shade and some excellent action set pieces.

It might be an odd thing to say, but Jackman is the best and worst thing about the film. He is nothing if not earnest with his veins threatening to burst out of his skin as he scowls with the now ubiquitous super-human grimace, claws bursting out of his hands. But this is about it for light and shade in his performance. He’s either violently threatening to slice enemies in half or bearing the slings and arrows (literally) of his foes.

It’s interesting to note that Jackman has played this role since 2000 and really all the light and shade in the character was exhausted a few movies ago.

The theme of immortality would be interesting if it perhaps were fleshed out even a little. Does Wolverine want to outlive everybody or not? Does he care. We are given no real reason to ponder his predicament. He doesn’t, so why should we?

Add to this the fact that the climax of the film is deeply unsatisfying and full of cut-rate CGI and convoluted plotting and what you have is a film that may satisfy the X-craving, but really adds little to the canon of X-films.

Adrian Drayton

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