'Wolverine' doesn't cut deep enough
“To be, or not” ... let's make it “To slash, or not to slash.” Because this latest X-Men movie is a lot more existential than recent installments in this comic-book series have been.
“The Wolverine” is nothing if not ambitious — a moody, haunted tale of Logan the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) coping with his ghosts and settling old debts — in Japan, no less. It's the perfect country for a guy who appreciates a good, sharp blade.
And, if this James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) take on the superhero franchise stumbles up blind alleys, overreaches and turns long and repetitious by its bloody-bland predictable third act, at least it gives Jackman something worth chewing over for the first 90 minutes.
We first see our man Logan in solitary, stuck in a well in a Japanese POW camp at the end of World War II. His captors panic at the sight of a couple of B-29 bombers, and one frees the American prisoners, very uncharacteristic behavior historically, but hey, this is comic-book history. Logan shields the guard when the big blast comes, because this turns out to be Nagasaki, where the second atomic bomb was detonated to force Japan's surrender.
Decades later, the immortal mutant is summoned to the side of the man he saved, by a martial-arts pixie (Rila Fukushima).
“Eternity can be a curse,” the dying old man (Hal Yamanouchi), now a billionaire, speculates. “A man can run out of things to live for.” He offers his savior the chance to lose his immortality, to live a normal lifespan without the super-healing powers and strength that make the very idea that Wolverine would have ever been a prisoner of war absurd.
Wolverine finds himself mixed up in the succession between the dying man and his heirs. The Japanese mob, the Yakuza, is trying to nab the supermodel-thin granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), and Wolverine chases her cross-country to protect her.
Wolverine takes his place within Japanese culture as a ronin, a loner, a samurai without a leader or purpose. He's dreaming a lot about the mutant he loved but had to kill (Famke Janssen), and fretting over the dying old man's doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a fork-tongued devil so thin she makes Mariko consider a diet. And then his powers start to fail him.
Mangold sets up an interesting premise — an immortal tired of living faced with mortality. How brave can Wolverine be when the bullets leave permanent holes, when every arrow fired by a ninja could kill and every slashing-fight against samurai sword-wielding foes could be his last?
Then the movie stumbles into the curse of the feeble villains and the trap of endless fights.
Jackman has great presence in this role, brooding, sulking, wisecracking to alarmed airport metal-detector operators — “Hip replacement.”
This “Wolverine” gets our hopes up, and falls short. Even for a summer comic-book movie, “The Wolverine” may leave you wanting the higher-minded movie this one promised to be — for a while.
Roger Moore is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.