by Michael Walters
The Cantankerous Critic
“The Wolverine” takes America’s favorite ill-tempered mutton-chopped mutant to Japan to slice and dice with ninjas, but the results aren’t nearly as satisfying as they should be.
Like seemingly every other superhero this summer (see “Man of Steel” and “Iron Man 3”), “The Wolverine” begins with its hero living the life of a tortured loner. Hugh Jackman’s Logan has become a literal caveman, wandering the streets with a lifetime of regret hiding in his bushy beard and wild unkempt hair.
He’s summoned to Japan by an old friend, who is now a rich and dying Japanese industrialist. Wolverine pledges to protect the man’s granddaughter – and the heir to his entire fortune – from ninjas, venomous mutants, Japanese gangsters, and various other agents of corporate intrigue.
That’s pretty much all there is to the plot, which is really just an excuse to let Jackman slash dozens of people at a time, during the largely bloodless bloodbaths which ensue.
But Director James Mangold repeatedly takes promising set pieces and then fails to get to the payoff. Even when Wolverine turns his famous adamantium claws on himself, it’s just sort of ok. Only a wildly over the top action sequence set atop a Japanese bullet train comes close to what might have been.
I’ve never found Wolverine to be all that interesting in the first place. He’s good for a sneer, and a yell, and then that’s about all there is to him, despite the movie’s repeated attempts to provide a method to his rageaholic, growling madness.
But he’s the whole show here, and aside from the beautifully photographed Japanese setting, everyone else is so poorly developed, they feel like mere placeholders rather than characters.
“The Wolverine” still manages to be a step up from 2009′s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” but then again anything short of sticking your head in a vice while a 5-year-old repeatedly clangs pots and pans together is an improvement.