How do you resurrect a character whose last cinematic outing and subsequent reputation resembled like that of a catastrophic omelette? Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine denied a legitimate solo flight for the arguably iconic mutant-cum-rage-machine, and rendered Hugh Jackman’s future job opportunity as Wolverine temporarily defunct. Even Matthew Vaughn’s excellently sassy and retro-vibed X-Men: First Class almost entirely ditched the Wolverine character with ashamed respite, leaving only one scene to allow him even the most miniature of consolations. Now, James Mangold drags the unenviable burden to grafting his mojo back – relocating the entire shebang to an exotic location, supplying new characters, hiring as many ninjas as Hollywood can afford and even bringing in a giant robotic adamantium samurai warrior to spice things up.
The result is a prototype superhero movie that looks like emperor’s new clothes in what is actually a body made out of old parts. Mangold tries his solemn direction of a material that struggles with conformity, and ends up as a direct result of a half-arsed blockbuster-making. There are thrilling action set-pieces, one in particular a nicely staged ambush sequence set in a traditional Japanese funeral that feels like a 90’s action film flick, but it loses its bearings after that. Logan’s existential crisis feels so forced that we get to see him occasionally wandering in and out of his subconscious, with Famke Janssen’s deceased Jean Grey in lingerie popping in to play the Conscience, whenever he’s not drifting around like a grizzly man, punching people in a bar or fighting ninjas. He gets pulled out from his isolation by a red-haired Japanese assassin (Rila Fukushima) just because there’s a plot that needs to happen, which involves characters such as Viper, a Poison Ivy-esque figure with barely any clear motivation, the Hunter, whose moral compass changes like a Russian roulette and a corporate oligarch whose dying wish is to see the man who once saved him from a nuclear extermination. And then there’s a finale that involves a fight for supremacy and immortality, the prime motivations of just about every single villain in superhero movies. It’s a practically lazy screenplay, with only Jackman who’s left to carry the entire show on his shoulders. He manages to pull off moments of serious gravitas, but The Wolverine never rises beyond mediocre and never takes any creative risk.[separator type=”space”] DIRECTOR: James Mangold | CAST : Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto | SCREENPLAY: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank | PRODUCER: 20th Century Fox | RUNNING-TIME: 126 mins | GENRE: Action/Adventure | COUNTRY: USA