Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“It’s an honor to meet the Wolverine,” says Yukio (Rila Fukushima). “That’s not who I am anymore,” replies Logan (Hugh Jackman) as he’s on his way back to Japan to say goodbye to an old friend on his death bed in the action/adventure film The Wolverine.
It’s been a little over a year since the big battle between the mutants and since Logan had to kill the Phoenix – an evil reincarnation of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) which still haunts him. Living alone in the wilderness, Logan is approached by Yukio who works for an old WWII acquaintance of his, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi). He’s dying and wants to thank Logan in person for saving his life so many years ago.
Upon arriving in Japan, Logan begins to realize things are much more complicated than he was first led to believe. Mariko (Tao Okamoto), Yashida’s granddaughter, is going to be receiving all of her grandfather’s inheritance and taking over his billion dollar company after he dies. This makes her own father extremely bitter and angry towards her. It also makes her a target for the Japanese mafia who it seems did business with her grandfather back in the day. Logan, still feeling a bond towards Yashida, is compelled to look out for Mariko and try to keep her from harm not knowing if there is anyone in Japan she or he can trust.
But that’s not all Logan’s dealing with. It seems Yashida has kept tabs on The Wolverine’s life and struggles and has been researching for years a way to make Logan human again. The dying man tells Logan he just might have found a way to do it, offering him an end to his never-ending existence.
The Wolverine is a loud, slow and predictable spin-off of The X-Men franchise which takes the hero out of his element and puts him into a world of deception and betrayal, and up against a brand new enemy. The absolute best thing about the film is Hugh Jackman as Logan. He knows exactly how to play this role and really owns it. Jackman is to The Wolverine what Harrison Ford was to Indiana Jones. It’s almost impossible to imagine another actor playing the role. He captures the brooding, grieving loner wonderfully and is more than capable of handling himself in the action scenes.
And speaking of action scenes, there are two stand-out ones in the film. The first is in the opening showing an Allied bombing of Japan during WWII and how Logan saves Yashida, a Japanese soldier at the prison camp Logan is imprisoned in. It’s an extremely suspenseful and well shot sequence. The second is a fight both on board and up on top of a bullet train in Japan. Both should have the audience’s eyes glued to the screen.
Unfortunately, those are the only highlights in the film. The rest is an uneven and, at times, repetitive bore. There are way too many dream scenes with Logan being visited by Jean which represent the awful guilt he’s carrying knowing he had to kill the woman he loved. It goes from having an emotional and jolting experience the first time to just being redundant and uninteresting.
The Wolverine also has two of the worst performances this year on film. Newcomer Svetlana Khodchenkova as the chemist with a dark and lethal secret is completely awful as one of the villains. She reads her lines not just poorly but with one and only one expression during the entire film. Tao Okmato is miscast as Mariko, the quiet but determined granddaughter who’s up against more enemies than she could ever know. She has zero chemistry with Jackman and delivers a stiff and rigid performance.
The big climatic battle near the end of the film is nothing more than a chaotic, loud and unimpressive mess with the use of way too much CGI and half of the fight scenes being a quick blur. Also, the big surprise reveal of who is the real mastermind of the bad guys is so obvious in the first 30 minutes of the film the audience will see it coming a mile away.
Not as bad as X-Men Origins: Wolverine but still nowhere near as good as the first two X-Men films, The Wolverine is overall a plodding and disappointing addition to the mutant franchise.
The Wolverine is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.
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