By Ryan Maddux and Andy Stuckey
---- — The latest Superhero summer flick is The Wolverine (PG-13).
Hugh Jackman reprises the title character and this time finds himself embroiled in a family dispute in modern day Japan. Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hal Yamanouchi and Svetlana Khodchenkova costar in the film. James Mangold (Walk the Line) directs.
Ryan: Prior to The Wolverine coming out, Hugh Jackman was doing his best to proclaim that this film was always the solo Wolverine movie that he had wanted to make, obviously conceding the universal fact that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a complete train wreck. And while I believe that the intentions of Jackman, Mangold and company were good, the results were not. The Wolverine is eerily similar to “Origins” in that it is not a good movie…not even close.
Andy: The Wolverine is one of the most boring action movies I have ever seen. James Mangold has proven he can direct a thrilling and interesting film (3:10 to Yuma), but the methodical pace he chooses here does not work for a superhero movie. He is not aided by an awkward and unfocused script by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, that never really lands on a storyline compelling enough hook the audience.
Wolverine is whisked away to Japan to say goodbye to a dying friend, when for reasons never made entirely clear, he chooses to protect the friend’s granddaughter from Japanese gangsters. These gangsters have vague motives and no consistently compelling villain (Viper? Really?), so it is hard to be too invested in the story.
Ryan: One of the more frustrating aspects of The Wolverine is that the ingredients were there for a more nuanced and thoughtful movie. Wolverine the character — and I know I’m “mixing metaphors” here — in a lot of ways is both Batman (thirst for justice) and Superman (nearly indestructible) so there’s a lot to play with there.
The film touches on some of these issues of immortality and angst but that’s just it — it never digs deeper to explore the emotional complexity of Wolverine. Just when one thinks the movie might take off in a more gratifying manner, we get just another Jackman growl or snarl.
Andy: This is the sixth time (counting his cameo in First Class) that Jackman has donned the adamantium claws to play Wolverine, and with another X-Men slated for next year, he will play this role at least seven times. It is hard to think of another actor who has performed the same character so many times, and it is difficult not to feel like Jackman is phoning it in a bit at this point. Part of what keeps The Wolverine from succeeding as a movie is that there does not seem to be enough depth to the title character. While some of that is the aforementioned screenplay, an actor of Jackman’s caliber should be able to elevate his signature character into some pretty interesting territory. Instead, he, and the movie in general, fall flat.
Ryan: I’m sure this isn’t the case but it’s almost like the filmmakers had this idea of how they wanted the movie to end (Wolverine battling a giant adamantium samurai) and then reverse- engineered the rest of the movie’s plot to arrive at the climax.
That sounds silly, and again I’m sure that is not what happened because I tend to believe that is now how movies are made, but the end of the film is so bad that I almost think there must be some validity to it. The end of the film contains so many ridiculous elements that it completely skewers whatever good will the rest of the film strived for.
While it strived to be better than its predecessor, The Wolverine crumbles in the end into a dissatisfying mess.
Final grade: D+.