GIVEN THAT THE first X-Men movies weren’t much chop, I guess it’s bets on that The Wolverine – which stars only one of the twisted superheroes – wouldn’t undermine the enterprise by being really good, or anything.
There are, however, a few reasons to be cheerful. Dedicated fans, of course, will see it whatever, and go in predisposed to enjoying it. And those who haven’t seen the preceding films in the series, one would think unlikely to bother picking up the plot.
Not that the plot is difficult, or anything: It’s comic book stuff, after all, so the story and characterisations are about as complex as an average day at kindergarten.
The Wolverine, right from the get-go, has a few things going for it. (Oh, did I say that already?) The main one is that it’s set in Japan, which means we don’t have to sit through yet another Hollywood action movie set in a location convenient to the film studios. The other reason involves Japan, too – specifically, Japanese women.
The Wolverine’s casting director has made a canny decision by giving two incredibly gorgeous Japanese models – Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto – major parts. Action movies are usually dominated by men, so it’s fantastic that not only are the women utterly gorgeous, but they are written into the fabric of the story, and one of them in particular is very clever, and a great fighter (and a predictor of deaths!)
So there you have it, several compelling reasons to see The Wolverine, should you happen to enjoy seeing exotic locations or exotic women in your comic book capers.
As mentioned above, however, neither the plot nor the characterisations are great, and the acting performances are, let’s say ‘rudimentary’, but that’s par for the course in movies where the action set-pieces and SFX and 3D imaging is considerably more important. Speaking of which, the action set-pieces are really good: there’s a whole lotta ninja fighting going on, poor old Hugh takes a lotta bullet and survives, and it does a good job of keeping the tension going between those scenes. And speaking of bullets, without spoiling it for you, I must mention that the scene on top of the speeding bullet train is great, and my wife can tell you I was just about under my seat at this point. The climatic scene with the big ol’ robot is pretty good, too, but by that point I was feeling a little fatigued by all the near-death experiences.
It’s also good to see a contemporary action film where the digital effects aren’t so overwhelming and so fake-looking that you might as well be playing it scene for scene on some gaming console. Although personally, to be honest I found some of the action sequences dizzying and hard to follow, possibly because I’m an old fart and I get vertigo easily, but also because the 3D medium produces a kind of flicker that makes it more difficult to achieve genuine motion clarity. And speaking of the 3D, I was really disappointed and would gladly have watched it in plain old 2D. Most of the time, it looked a little like those holographic bookmarks, with the human figures in contrast close-up and vistas in the distance, but no sense of their being anything in between – if that makes sense. The only two times the 3D really worked spectacularly well for me was during the aforementioned terrifying bullet train sequence, and a sequence near the end where the Wolverine is hooked by hundreds of ropes. But there you go.
With a movie like this you simply have to suspend your disbelief, because it’s all just too fantastical. The trouble is that given all that, you still need a hero you can believe in, and although the Wolverine is a plausible and interestingly dark character, the way that Jackman portrays him is just a bit cheesy. The trouble is that Jackman isn’t a spring chicken, and he’s got this rather weaselly little face that when it’s got some semblance of beard wrapped around it almost disappears, as well as looking out of all proportion to his buffed gym body. It’s when he has to express emotion through that hairy weasel face that the film goes awry for me, but hey, I’m a guy and I wanted to look at those incredible Japanese models, uh… actors, and maybe the few women in the audience were quivering in their seats at the sight of Jackman’s manliness. GARY STEEL
Movie = 3/5
* See Gary Steel’s review of X-Men First Class here.