James Mangold brings a leaden touch to this tedious franchise instalment starring Hugh Jackman
The popularity of Marvel’s Wolverine character is surprising in the light of the rather hairy quality of his films. Without a Joss Whedon or a Shane Black to shape his manly world of robotic exoskeletons, denim jackets and sideburns, James Mangold is left to bring much the same leaden touch that Gavin Hood brought to X Men Origins: Wolverine.
The final scenes of his origin story depicted Logan aka The Wolverine arriving in Japan, a scene ignored by the mangled chronology of Mangold’s film, which instead offers up a lengthy preamble in which Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) lounges around a North American forest like a living cigarette commercial. He displays his affinity with nature by caring for and then revenging an obviously computer-generated bear that has been wounded by thoughtless hunters.
His ecological credentials firmly established, Wolverine accept a free trip to Tokyo, offered by Yashida (Ken Yamamura, then Hal Yamanouchi), a Japanese soldier that Wolverine rescued from an atomic bomb by lying on top of him in a rather distasteful prologue. On his death-bed, Yashida asks Wolverine to protect his daughter Yukio (Rila Fukushima), and when assassins disrupt her father’s funeral, Wolverine finds himself plunged into a world of Yakuza in-fighting.
The synopsis promises to put the Wolverine, a blue-collar superhero, into an appropriately realistic criminal environment, but in practice it all adds up to Wolverine fighting the usual big robot in a volcano-sized laboratory. There’s not much of Japanese culture, just a whole lot of tedious soul-searching as Wolverine goes through the familiar super-hero routine of losing then getting back his powers. Some macho gags, like one when Wolverine unwittingly drops an assailant into a swimming pool, are straight lifts from 70s Dirty Harry-type action tropes. A brief but dynamic bullet-train sequence apart, The Wolverine is remarkable only for making its ponderous origins story look lively in comparison.