Wolverine, The

Hugh Jackman returns for his sixth screen performance as the adamantium-reinforced superhero in James Mangold’s Japan-set “The Wolverine,” a mildly entertaining picture that lacks freshness and dynamic energy. Both actor and role seem too world-weary tired by now (and you cannot blame them for that).


Jackman has always tried to substitute his lack of real dramatic talent and gravitas with sly charm and genuinely appealing screen persona, a combination of traits that has worked to his advantage in choice as well as exceution of roles.

This version takes the character’s physical and emotional attributes to an extreme, hoping that the excess will fool viewers for the lack of other necessary ingredients, such as exciting action set-pieces, or state of the art effects.

As director, James Mangold is not particularly apt with the action genre (the Western “3:10 to Yuma” might have been the exception), and he certainly doesn’t take advantage of the colorful milieu of Japan. That said, “Wolverine”is one notch above Mangold’s last, abysmal picture, the silly “Knight and Day.”

Jackman works (too) hard to bring to life the most iconic character in the X-Men universe to largely middling effects, resulting in a sharply uneven picture, whose narrative and visual style are mishmashy.

For those who need a reminder: The Wolverine first emerged in 1974, when the character made his first appearance in the last segment of an issue of “The Incredible Hulk,” one that foreshadowed his joining a band of mutant heroes known as The X-Men. He soon became famous for his adamantium claws, his powers of self-healing and his primal “berserker” rages, all of which served to forge the Wolverine into a superstar of the superhero realm.

In the 1980s, the Wolverine came into his own in a four-issue miniseries created by “X-Men” writer Chris Claremont and the graphic artist Frank Miller (“The Dark Knight,” “Sin City”). In the series, the character makes a solo journey to Japan, only to be lured into labyrinth of crime, betrayal and honor, during which he is forced to confront his terrifying, unbelievable strength as well as his undiscovered vulnerability.

The Wolverine first made an appearance 13 years ago in Bryan Singer’s “X-Men,” wearing an outrageously campy yellow spandex, which later change due to the fans’ outrage.

In the third X-Men movie, he was forced to terminate the life of his love, Jean Grey, and we all wondered which direction the franchise would take. There was a huge disappointment with the 2009 installment in 2009, when X-Men Origins: Wolverine came out, though despite bad reviews, it made money. So put in perspective the new chapter, “The Wolverine,” is slightly better.

We first meet Logan as he lives out his days as a prisoner of war in Japan near the end of World War II, outside Nagasaki, when the Americans dropped the atomic payload on that city. A Japanese soldier, Yashida, decides that he’d rather live than die honorably in the nuclear disaster. To cover him, Logan takes the brunt of the blast, only to see his mutation repair his damaged body.

The story then flashes forward to modern day to find Logan, laced with Adamantium, living a solitary life in the mountains—until he meets Yukio (Rila Fukushima). She has been searching for him on behalf of an old friend who is dying of cancer.

The center of the unnecessary convoluted plot sees Logan embarking upon an epic journey in modern-day Japan. The century-old mutant is lured to a Japan, a country he hasn’t seen since World War II, finding himself in the shadowy arena of the Yakuza and Samurai.

To lend the picture more serious tone, Logan is constructed as a character confronted for the first time with mortality, which pushes him to physical and emotional edge. Forced to rediscover the real hero within, Logan grapples not only with powerful foes, mutant and human alike, but with the ghosts of his own haunted past.

In essence, the Wolverine crosses his adamantium claws with Samurai swords, which makes him appreciate a life that has no end. Though there are many different battles, the greatest battle is the one within Logan, torn between being a monster and becoming a human being.

The writers have gone out of their way to construct a world that’s vastly different from those seen before in the X-Men series, and t a large degree they succeed, but more on the visual and technical than the narrative or dramatic levels.

With the exception of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, no single superhero has gotten more screen time than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, so if you like Jackman, you would enjoy this curious movie.