For those keeping track, this the sixth installment in the X-Men film series and picks up where #3 X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) left off. In it our fearless hero the Wolverine–a.k.a. Logan–is confronted by the past as he experiences hallucinations of Jean Grey as well as the Nagasaki bombing of 1945. There he reflects back on a Japanese soldier he saved. Yashida is now a CEO dying of cancer and wants to return the favor with an interesting proposition.
In this cluttered cast there are actually three women vying for our hero’s attention. First there’s the ghost of Jean whom he was forced to kill. She keeps popping up to haunt our protagonist. She’s lovingly photographed in white with soft focus. Is that a halo I see? In addition we get Yukio, a woman who has powers allowing her to see people’s deaths. She is the messenger sent to bring the Wolverine to Japan. And then there’s Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko, whom he meets when he gets there. Not vying for his attention is a villain named Viper who looks like a porn star. She’s played with ultra camp by Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova. She forces The Wolverine to confront his own mortality. For the majority of the saga, the Wolverine can be hurt as any human man. That’s a bummer because it reduces the drama to that of an ordinary person, albeit one who looks like Hugh Jackman. This is not an event in the way that Man of Steel or Iron Man 3 were this summer. It’s a much smaller picture. I should be clear, though, this is BETTER than Man of Steel. Nevertheless, with his powers removed, this could be any generic 90s actioner.
The Wolverine is a middling attempt with a plot that is kind of dull. For a superhero film, there’s not a whole lot of fantasy. There’s a rousing sequence atop a speeding train. That got my pace quickening a bit. But for the most part it’s a minor entry in the X-Men franchise. I’ll admit there’s something to be said for a toned down effort with limited special effects and an intimate story. But this feels like a B-movie with characters cobbled together by screenwriters who have liberally sampled from Ninja, Samurai and Yakuza films. It all climaxes in a silly way that has nothing to do with the rest of the tale. No detailed spoilers, but a robot is involved. I’m not kidding. It’s telling that the most exhilarating part of the entire picture comes 1 minute after the credits start rolling. There we’re given a glimpse of what could have been.
A Note for Parents: This sets a new high (or low) for PG-13 rated entertainment. It is extremely violent. They creatively edit around it so the amount of blood is minimal. However there are a multitude of stabbings and when the Wolverine operates on his own chest by slicing it open, well I had to look away. The scene where he is mercilessly shot in the back with poison-dipped arrows so that he resembles a porcupine, was an image I won‘t soon forget either. If this had been rated R, I wouldn’t even be talking about this. The MPAA have always had harsher restrictions for sex and profanity than violence, but their hypocrisy is really shameful here. This far exceeds the normal level for a PG-13 rated film.