Near the end of The Wolverine’s first act, Hugh Jackman as Logan inexplicably finds himself on a Japanese bullet train, fighting members of the Yakuza, the Japanese mob. The scene feels out of place and is kind of jarring, like it was put into the film merely because the trailers promised it. But it’s only jarring and out of place for one reason: it’s unbelievably good. The Wolverine never soars any higher than that scene, although it does hang comfortably around acceptable mediocrity for most of its runtime, only occasionally drifting into some Batman And Robin-level terribleness, especially in the film’s disjointed and misled final act.
The film hinges on Hugh Jackman, who has always been charming, witty, and engrossing as Wolverine. He’s a likable movie star, and the character’s deadpan humor lightens up the bleak tone that this film sometimes tries too hard to give off. Besides Jackman, there’s not much to comment on. Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Svetlana Khodchenkova (have fun with those names), are all fine but unmemorable in their supporting roles, with Khodchenkova as the unfortunate standout. Her character, Viper, is unbelievably bad, a shocking throwback to Poison Ivy from the most infamous superhero film of them all: Batman and Robin.
For the most part, The Wolverine succeeds at being an improvement over the last solo outing for the clawed superhero. But its not much better. The film plods along as something dull and even a bit uninteresting from the beginning, and that might be fine if unremarkable if the action were good. But it really isn’t for most of the runtime. The first action scene, a Yakuza attack in a Japanese garden, is dizzying and poorly shot to an extreme. James Mangold goes straight into seizure mode and decides to overload the audience to the point where its hard to tell what the hell The Wolverine is even doing, besides the fact that you can hear his claws slash away at bad guys you don’t see die. The action doesn’t really continue this way, however, as this quickly segues into the aforementioned bullet train sequence. While the idea is clichéd and even overused, Mangold directs the scene with shocking, intriguing, and engrossing originality, opting for the rushing sounds of wind instead of a bombastic soundtrack. The scene is arresting and is as amazing as the film ever gets. In fact, I’d peg it as the single best action sequence of the year so far. Too bad the rest of the film can’t live up to that. Most of the action, save for that bullet train sequence (which I really can’t hype up more than I already have; it’s amazing), is merely acceptable. Nothing groundbreaking, but nothing too awful either. Then we get to the third act…
The film’s final act, a series of events centered around a final battle (I guess you could call it that) can only be described by one word: offensive. It’s truly terrible, something that lacks any momentum, intensity, or entertainment value whatsoever. This is when the film becomes the worst mix of Transformers, Batman and Robin, and any other bad action film you can think of. It’s clichéd and eye-rollingly dull. Something you can see from the trailers is the presence of a giant robot. It makes no sense, even in the context of the film. Enough said.
In the end, The Wolverine has a great star and one great sequence. For the most part, it’s leisurely pace and aesthetically pleasing setting could be enough for some diehard Wolverine fans, but I can’t even see this film being enjoyable for the less-demanding audiences of the population. However, one final thing must be said: that after-credits scene. Damn. Worth the price of admission.
FINAL GRADE: 3/10 stars