Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12A
  • Action, Comic Book
  • 2013
  • 126 mins

The Wolverine

The Wolverine

Synopsis

Erstwhile X-Man Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is struggling with existential woes and the trauma of killing the love of his life, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), when a figure from the past plucks him out of isolation and jets him off to Japan to offer him the chance of a lifetime: mortality.

About

How do you solve a problem like the Wolverine? After stealing the show in three consecutive X-Men features, the grizzled hero made the jump to centre stage in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a misconceived back-story dump that effectively knocked the franchise off course until Matthew Vaughn took the super-powered mutants back to the 1960s in 2011's X-Men: First Class. It seemed that this roguish loner, a star-making role for Hugh Jackman, was the X-Men's own Jack Sparrow or, more accurately, Han Solo - a scruffy-looking nerf herder who brought some much-needed swagger to an earnest ensemble, but, for all his snarky posturing, didn't have the depth required to carry a film himself.

Here, director James Mangold's (Knight And Day) solution is to push the reset button, take the character out of cinematic continuity and start afresh with the definitively-titled The Wolverine. He's still the Logan you know and love - claws, adamantium skeleton, superhuman healing, gruff voice, no-nonsense attitude and all - but now he's sequestered in a cave in deepest, darkest Canada, haunted by the ghost of his lost love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, the only nod to previously-established X-canon). However, soon enough, he's whisked away to Japan to meet a terminally-ill billionaire who, years before, he'd saved from the atomic bomb attack in Nagasaki.

And, for a time, this pseudo-reboot seems to work. Shorn of canonical baggage, this side-mission takes a slightly different form to most cookie-cutter superhero flicks, as Mangold and screenwriters Mark Bomback, Scott Frank and Christopher McQuarrie throw Wolverine into a down-to-earth, street-level plot that, more than anything, resembles an Orientalist noir, with our hero cast as the baffled gaijin tussling with archaic honour codes, corrupt politicians with mob connections, and mysterious, back-stabbing baddies who lurk around every corner.

It's also a dizzying game of Japanese cultural stereotype bingo, as in the space of an hour Mangold crams in samurai, ninjas, yakuza, bullet trains, pachinko parlours, chopsticks etiquette and seppuku. There's even a moment where Logan and his charge, the heiress to the billionaire's fortune, must shack up in a love hotel (specifically in the 'Mission To Mars' room) - at which point the action threatens to boil over into an old-fashioned screwball comedy in the vein of The 39 Steps and It Happened One Night.

But the Wolverine Problem soon comes out to play. The hints are there throughout, from the reliance on age-old super-tropes such as a power-sapping Something Or Other that effectively acts as Wolverine's Kryptonite, to the character's rather dull existential turmoil, which recalls a vampire narrative in his quest for a purpose to carry him through his immortal life. However, if Mangold and Jackman have attempted with The Wolverine to present a more thoughtful take on the character, a daft final act full of contrived plotting, unclear character motivations and an over-the-top scrap that pits Logan against a massive, robotic samurai with a flaming adamantium sword goes a long way toward reinstating the status quo.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Brian Tee, Will Yun Lee
  • Director: James Mangold
  • Writer: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank, Christopher McQuarrie
  • Producer: Lauren Shuler Donner
  • Photographer: Ross Emery
  • Composer: Marco Beltrami

In a nutshell

At first, this Japanese vacation looks like a smart, entertaining diversion for the X-Men franchise, but Wolverine soon proves - once again - to be a less than superhuman protagonist when taken out of an ensemble context.

by Michael Leader

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

    Zachary Gordon stars in the third film in the family comedy franchise, based on Jeff Kinney's hit pre-teen novels.

  • Film4

    Blood Ties

    Clive Owen, Billy Crudup and Zoe Saldana star in French actor-director Guillaume Canet's English-language directorial debut, a thriller set against the backdrop of 1970s New York.

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • Up next at 1.15pm, Greg Heffley's navigating the tricky social waters of middle school in Diary Of A Wimpy Kid. https://t.co/sskP9niMLu

  • 👆 Directorial debut of Peter Yates (Bullitt, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Krull)

  • Morning, folks! At 11am, we're going abroad with Cliff Richard & The Shadows in 60s musical comedy Summer Holiday. https://t.co/zDq9kmpV12

  • RT @FernRiddell: Come and see me talk Sex, Perversion and the Victorians, for @Film4 #SummerScreen #Dracula @ Somerset House!! https://t.c…

  • RT @Film4: 2001, The Shining & A Clockwork Orange are leading the Kubrick vote. But which will we show? https://t.co/4x9Oe8X5FW https://t.c…

Share