The Wolverine serves as a sequel to the critically panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, a distraught Wolverine retreats to the Canadian wilderness and leads an abject life of a wanderer. However, circumstances cause a drastic shift which places him in Tokyo, Japan. The story recounts Wolverine in unfamiliar territory, faced with precarious trials and tribulations.
The premise is based loosely on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s iconic 1982 comic book run, which finally gets the cinematic treatment. James Mangold (Walk the Line) takes the helm as director and delivers a distinctive character study of the ruthless killing machine.
In his sixth enactment of the fan favourite, Hugh Jackman represents a fascinating embodiment of Wolverine. Mangold and Jackman exhibit a mutual comprehension of proceedings, excelling as a pair in delineating the vulnerable side of Wolverine. While all previous X-Men installments were ensemble driven, The Wolverine offers an alternate dynamic: a more methodical version, with character development aplenty. Once Wolverine is pushed to his physical and emotional threshold, he is compelled to confront his internal conflict. This gives viewers a chance to actually associate with the character on a more intimate level. This isolation and agony felt by Wolverine is expertly portrayed.
While Jackman is able to carry the movie entirely on his own, he is supported admirably by Tao Okamoto, playing love interest Mariko, and Rila Fukushima as Yukio, Wolverine’s aide, both actresses sharing a good chemistry with Jackman. The interaction between Wolverine and Yukio leads to a few humorous moments, which are a welcome addition.
The Wolverine represents a marked improvement compared to its predecessor. However, it is not without its own failings. First and foremost, the action sequences, the USP of such movies, are uninspiring. Apart from a sensational set piece atop a Japanese bullet train, the movies other altercations are monotonous and bland.
Since the movie is shot primarily in Australia, with some studio sets serving as substitutes for the densely populated streets of Tokyo, the cinematographer is bound by such limitations. Therefore, the illuminated sights of Japan are rarely shown. Better comic book adaptations are known as much for their villains as the heroes and in this regard The Wolverine is bereft of an imperative element. The movie contains multiple threats for the protagonist, none of whom are a memorable adversary.
The movie is prone to predictability and offers no suspense. The background score adds nothing while lackluster editing fails to do justice, especially to the action scenes. Also, the 3D presentation, perhaps merely a marketing gimmick by studios to earn extra revenue, does not have the desired effect. Lastly, The Wolverine also suffers from a generic and underwhelming climax.
Despite the extent of errors, The Wolverine has the benefit of adjusted expectations, since it follows a widely derided prequel. The depiction of a more personal tale with lower stakes works in its favour. Nonetheless, the movie lacks the cutting edge and is tantamount to nothing more than acceptable fare.