llow me to catch everyone up to speed on who Wolverine is and his adventures through Hollywood. He's a comic book character created by Marvel who is a mutant that has a metal skeleton, can shoot claws from his hands and heals so quickly he's basically immortal. He is a member of the superhero team The X-Men and was featured in a really great movie about them in 2000. It made Hugh Jackman an A-list star and was the beginning of the superhero films ruling the box office. Since then, 20th Century Fox (who owns the rights to the X-Men characters) has made six movies feauring him and have slowly reduced Wolverine from one of the best superheros of all time to one of the most over-exposed.
To anyone who is ignorant of the Wolverine stories, The Wolverine
seems like a "jump-the-shark" moment where they stick him in an adventure in Japan just to shake things up a bit. That's not entirely true, although it's hard to argue that it isn't. In the '80s, artist Frank Miller (who did 300
and Sin City
) took Wolverine to Japan for a whole story arc that bored the snot out of me as a kid and didn't do anything different to me as an adult. As far as the movies go, it takes place after the third X-Men
film but has basically nothing to do with those far better movies.
Taking the reigns at directing this time is James Mangold who is Oscar-nominated for Walk the Line
and has kicked ass with films like 3:10 to Yuma, Copland, Identity
and Girl, Interrupted
. His efforts here are still noble and impressive for the most part but I still can't understand why the hell he's involved in the first place since it seems like he's above comic book movies and doesn't understand them to begin witn. You can tell that he had a very unique and serious approach to this movie and was allowed to exercise it for the first two acts and then had it taken away for the finale.
I'm not opposed to a more serious approach to superhero films. I think most of the characters are written off as being shallow but if you dip into the mythos, there's a lot of meat there; so a character study that feels more like an international spy drama is intriguing and potentially exciting. That's what the first 80 minutes of The Wolverine
feels like. However, the last 40 watches like a student cramming the night before a big test. It's as if they forgot they were making a superhero action film and made the ending so ridiculous and silly that it throws the tone of the film off so badly it drags an average film down to bad one.
Jackman still gives a great performance as the reluctant hero and his muscles bulging out in 3D alone are worth at least part of the ticket price. The supporting cast is fine as well, but it's the script that really sucks. If X-Men Origin: Wolverine
taught us anything it's that we like him as a supporting cast member but not as a lead. Now, this is far better than that embarrassing mess but not by much and for a very different reason; it lacked fun.
Even a film that's dark, brooding and mostly a character study like Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight
trilogy still remembered that having fun during these types of movies is crucial. I don't think The Wolverine
had to be as colorful, pithy and circus-like as The Avengers
but it did have to make me smile here and there. It doesn't (except for the hidden scene during the credits which sets up the next X-Men film which is called Days of Future Past
and comes out next summer). It's a real shame that this is what one of my favorite comic characters has been reduced to. In the film Wolverine struggles with the notion that it might be time for him to finally die; and I think I might agree. It's time to let go of (Hollywood) immortality, bub.
The Wolverine (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: D+