The Wolverine. (12A.)
Directed by James Mangold.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Tao Okimoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova and Famke Janssen. 126 mins
This is Hugh Jackman’s fifth full Wolverine outing and with a sixth on the way I think that gives him a clear lead as the most movie performances as a single superhero character. Yet, after all that it seems nobody is quite sure about his purpose. With Jackman in the role 20th Century Fox seem convinced that he’s too big for X-Men ensemble movies but, although at times James Mangold’s effort does make a sprightly case for him, maybe the character is not quite big enough for his own films.
Like the first X-Men film this starts with a slightly dubious World War II scene – instead of a concentration camp this one takes places in a Nagasaki POW camp where Wolverine rescues a Japanese soldier from the atomic bomb drop. As luck would have it the soldier he saves goes on to become Japan’s most successful industrialist and on his death bed he seeks out Wolverine and offers to take away the curse of his immortality, which he wants to have for himself.
What follows is more cop-out-of water than superhero flick as he chases around Japan trying to protect the granddaughter heiress Mariko (Okimoto) from being kidnapped by the Yakuza. Rather than the bludgeoning force employed by most summer blockbusters it tries to impress through speed and agility and in the first hour there are some breathlessly executed action sequences. In the second hour the twisty and convoluted plot begins to weigh it down and the finale is the tired old confrontation at the villain’s hi-tech lair.
The problem with Wolverine is that he’s a 15 certificate character stuck in 12A movies. With those retractable blades springing out of knuckles he’s primed for a level of ferocity this film can’t deliver. It is infuriating that while filmmakers need to tell us the origins stories of Superman, Batman and Spider-man over and over again; Wolverine has been presented to us in dribs and drabs and it remains a hard figure to pin down, despite there previously being a standalone film to address the topic (the horrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine.) It is surely telling that the highlight is a post credit sequence setting up the next X-Men film.