After X-Men Origins: Wolverine, my expectations were definitely tempered for this latest solo outing. The Wolverine isn’t a bad film but there’s a missing element that keeps it from being a memorable film. Unfortunately the narrative feels like a bloated mess that runs a little on the long side and definitely isn’t helped by its rather bland characters. The movie tries to tell a more intimate story about the consequences of being the Wolverine, which is somewhat successful for the first two thirds of the movie but ultimately ends as though it ran out of steam. The biggest crime The Wolverine commits is taking itself too seriously and not allowing a lot of breathing room for fun. The action scenes are definitely the highlight of the film, but unfortunately for The Wolverine they’re too spaced out to keep things from treading on boring territory.
Although not as frequent as they needed to be, the fighting scenes offered some tense moments. Having Wolverine’s powers taken away seemed like it was cause for cliché storytelling but it was handled really well and gave some much needed urgency for an otherwise immortal character. It is a bit of a hard pill to swallow as we watch Wolverine hack, slash, and impale enemies with only inklings of blood on screen, but that’s just the unfortunate nature of PG-13 restrictions. For what it lacks in gore though, it made up for with an incredibly scripted train sequence.
Eventually Wolverine finds himself fighting of members of the Yakuza gang while speeding along on top of a bullet train. The ducking and dodging of the various overhanging signs while trying to stay aboard the moving train kept me on the edge of my seat and was one of my favorite sequences of the movie. It is a bit of a shame that the movie never quite reaches this high mark again, especially since this train scene is very early on in the movie. The closest the film gets again is the final show down with one of the film’s antagonists, Viper, but due to the movie’s poor handling of villains and motives I honestly wasn’t as interested as I should have been.
I applaud the film for trying to tell a grounded engaging story and not relying on flashy effects to carry it, but the story feels so convoluted that I was never entirely sure what was going on with the villains. From what I’ve read The Wolverine plays it pretty close to the comics but, as is the running theme, I’m not familiar enough with the comic book version of Wolverine, so the inability to follow along could be the film taking for granted common comic book knowledge. Viper seems to be the film’s main antagonist through the film but she isn’t exactly that interesting. She’s sprinkled in here or there but her actions are transparent plot progression and nothing more. We are never clearly explained what she’s doing in Japan, why she’s is so involved in the political family debacle, or what she seems to gain for doing any of this. She also adds to the incredibly cheesy feel of the last third of the movie, which is only made worse by her bad dialogue. Viper ultimately comes across as useless and a big drawback for the film.
Other antagonists include a mix of people involved with political family backstabbing and power moves but due to the film only detailing these relationships in brief passing it’s hard to follow along with who is actually the good guys and who are the bad guys. One character in particular seemed to jump sides three different times with no real reason for doing so. These stories just aren’t that interesting and with what little time they’re given they never come to a satisfying conclusion.
Walking away from the movie my biggest impression of The Wolverine is that sadly it’s not that memorable. While it does surpass the low bar set by Wolverine’ last solo film, it never is quite able to clear it’s own obstacles enough to become a really great movie. Narratively the movie is bloated, often times slowing down the pacing of the film for a shoe horned love story, which to me is the most disappointing part. I was really looking forward to a story about Wolverine choosing between mortality and immortality but it’s such a second thought for the film that it never even feels like a choice. It’s a barebones experience that sprinkles in a few great moments here and there. It’s hard to be a great movie when, aside from your title character, the only seemingly defining characteristic of your cast is ‘the cool factor.’ Though it’s nice to see Hugh Jackman back as the Wolverine, the movie will definitely test your patience in between the fighting.
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
Although this solo outing for The Wolverine may be a disappointment, I could not contain my excitement during the film’s post credit stinger. Having Professor Xavier and Magneto confront Wolverine does a wonderful job of setting up for X-Men: Days of Future Past. I really enjoyed X-Men First Class and am excited to see the merging of these two story lines. It’ll be interesting to see and I’m definitely excited for the future of the X-Men series.
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