Villains and vengeance in The Wolverine
The Wolverine (M) 126 mins ★★★
Wolverine's claws come out for the sixth time in this latest instalment from the X-Men franchise.
After waking up from a bad dream in a Canadian forest, Wolverine (aka Logan) is looking more like Hugh Jackman's Les Miserables character Jean Valjean, with scruffy clothes and long, lank hair.
He is soon whisked away to Japan by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a cartoonish assassin eager to fulfil her boss Yashida's dying wish of saying goodbye to Logan. (We find out, through an early flashback, that the immortal Logan saved Yashida from the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, and the former Japanese soldier has never forgotten.) Yashida is now a successful businessman and once Logan reunites with his acquaintance on his death bed, the multi-faceted plot narrows in on Logan and his task to protect Yashida's granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), from her father's evil henchmen, while protecting himself from Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a mutant who brings true meaning to the phrase "acid tongue". Cluttered with villains, The Wolverine attacks familiar themes of vengeance while Logan again grapples with his immortality.
Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Knight and Day), The Wolverine follows 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2011's X-Men: First Class, both poorly received (a seventh X-Men film will be released next year, though director Bryan Singer is back at the helm after directing the franchise's acclaimed X-Men and X2).
There's a lot going on in The Wolverine: An army of nimble ninjas seem to have complicated motives, Mariko's treacherous father has an apparently unlimited supply of tenacious henchmen, while Logan must juggle Mariko, Viper and his dream encounters with Jean (Famke Janssen). X-Men fans will recognise Jean as the mutant Logan had to kill in X-Men: The Last Stand. Here she appears in cheesy fantasies attempting to draw Logan into the afterlife.
It's a bit lacklustre but The Wolverine has its merits. Jackman is reliably brilliant and Fukushima and Okamoto are both beguiling in their supporting roles. The setting of Japan and a unique backstory propels this film from being just another generic action flick. While it still entertains, this film will perhaps hold more favour with fans of the franchise.
Sunday Star Times