Dir: James Mangold, 2013
Haunted by the death of Jean Grey, Logan has once again retreated into the wilderness of the Canadian mountains, giving up the moniker of Wolverine. There he is found by Yukio, who convinces him to travel to Tokyo as the final wish of dying Japanese billionaire Yashida, whose life Logan saved during World War Two’s bombing in Nagasaki. Upon arrival, Yashida declares he wishes to repay Logan for saving his life by making him mortal.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not well received. Many criticisms were made of the over-abundance of mutant characters, the lacking script and the butchering of fan-favourite Gambit. But of course, it was extremely profitable and therefore a sequel was never out of the question. So, producer Lauren Shuler Donner enlists The Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie and director Darren Aronofsky, who is bent on securing an R-rating. Already things are looking up. That is, until Aronofsky drops out and rewrites are made to McQuarrie’s script.
As much as The Wolverine’s pre-production resembles a game of musical chairs, director James Mangold does enter the void with all the best intentions. It’s clear that Mangold is aiming for an Origins antidote, maintaining the focus strictly on Logan and keeping the mutant counter to a minimum (apart from including the maddeningly dull and confusing “Viper”). However despite sidestepping the little mistakes that Origins made, The Wolverine dives head-first into the bigger ones all the while trying to convince us that this is a different film.
The Wolverine depicts Logan in exile, more lost than ever, vowing never to hurt anyone again. Of course, this vow lasts all of ten minutes until some poor saps make the mistake of killing a bear and Logan comes looking for vengeance in full PETA-mode. Then we’re introduced to the cute yet staggeringly badass Yukio who brings Logan to Japan and it’s there where a whole load of nothing happens.
As bizarre as this sounds, Origins is a hard film to follow-up because there isn’t much of a story left to tell. We’ve seen Logan become the Wolverine, we’ve seen his X-peditions with that lovable mutant school and now what? Well we have Logan daydreaming in cleavage-heaven with Jean Grey, having nightmares about the events of X3: The Last Stand (and so say all of us) but as far as heightening the drama for the character, this just doesn’t fly. Mostly because these interludes with Famke Janssen force audiences to reminisce about that disastrous third film, which is akin to vividly imagining bowel movements before tucking into a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
The action scenes are refreshingly intimate compared to the Metropolis-destroying, aircraft-crashing set pieces of the summer so far, but they’re far too formulaic and feel like Mangold has a timer of no more than fifteen minutes before the claws must come out. Samurai tropes are thrown around frequently but the energy and innovation of the bushido are lacking, replaced with stringently edited violence and CGI mechanical monsters. This is very much a Hollywood film set in the Far East.
The Wolverine lacks the courage to commit to both its story and its setting, instead revelling on a half-immortal Wolverine and a beautiful Japanese backdrop that is spoiled by every Asian cliché under the sun, including chopstick gags, bathhouses and Yakuza versus Samurai. Ultimately, the audience is reminded of what could have been under a different writer and director and instead left with a mid-credits scene that overshadows the entire film.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆