Before you read on, I must confess something. Something that may alter your opinion of me (if such a thing exists) and force you to question what you’re doing here, reading the words of a man who would be shunned from many societies for his beliefs. You see… I liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I liked it quite a lot. I’ve seen it three times. I own the blu-ray. I even went on a radio show and gave it a solid review to the disbelieving host. This is not a popular opinion and it has won me only stares of bewilderment and frowns of confusion, but I stand by the movie. Yes, it’s a mess and has many, many problems, but I could watch Wolverine polishing his claws for two and a half hours and still be satisfied. I just love Wolverine. I love the character, I love the healing, I love the backstory, I love the adamantium, I love Hugh Jackman’s facial hair. Wolverine is a great character and Hugh Jackman is great at being him. But I did not love The Wolverine. Like the controversial “Origins” movie, I just liked it. I liked it a lot. Because I love Wolverine. I’ll now start the review before this turns into a love letter to Hugh Jackman. The plot in one sentence: Wolverine goes to Japan. The review in several paragraphs: After the dry-balls, wit-free, serious, frowny frown-fest that was Man of Steel, it’s nice to find that The Wolverine has gone for the straight-forward comic book movie approach – superpowers, silly plots, crazy technology and ninjas. What’s interesting is that it manages to make all this quite “believable” and “realistic”, without disappearing up its own arse like Man of Steel did. While it doesn’t reach the level of snappy humour that comes packaged with an Iron Man or Avengers movie, The Wolverine stays true by presenting us with a much-loved character faced with new circumstances, in an interesting new setting. The Japan backdrop works really well and is surprisingly subtle for a comic book film. Rather than fall on the easy minds-eye view of night-time neon Tokyo, we’re treated to a lot of brightly lit beautiful Japanese scenery and traditional buildings and backgrounds. The cinematography is frequently gorgeous and the action scenes surprisingly good, despite what the weak trailer promised. James Mangold might not be the most exciting director, but he’s put together a very solid, by-the-numbers reluctant-hero-saving-the-girl action thriller. The story-telling and pacing is clear and straight-forward (despite a ropey climax) and makes the movie feel somewhat traditional or old fashioned. But the unobtrusive directing lets Wolverine shine through and own the screen. This character is just effortless for Jackman and he’s still ridiculously likeable. Problems arise in the last half hour, where everything becomes a little too “final boss and his evil lair.” At this stage, a lot of the plot threads and characters tailspin with no payoff and you’re left wonderjng why they were even included in the first place. That said, they make some brave changes to Wolverine’s character and the expected post-credits sequence makes up for the lackluster ending by teeing up excitement for the next time we’ll see Logan.
THREE AND A HALF STARS