The Wolverine is an important film but that doesn't translate to it being good, writes Raja Sen.
When we eventually look back at The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman's latest snikt-and-sideburns adventure, it may prove to be a turning point in the increasingly cluttered superhero movie genre.
It is a sparse, stark film -- focusing on a critically-acclaimed storyline that is anything but comic -- with long, dialogue-less stretches as the story unfolds slowly, in its own time.
It also feels like less of a blockbuster event than we're used to; Wolverine may be a top-tier Marvel superstar but this film seems like an indie compared to the gigantic tentpole releases his brethren usually enjoy. 3D glasses have rarely felt this redundant.
The Wolverine is thus an important film. Which, sadly, doesn't translate to it being a good film. Or even a mostly enjoyable one.
Forgive me, oh lovers of Logan, but I briefly snoozed off.
I am as true as any Marvel believer can get and yet the first half of James Mangold's decidedly unsuper film had me nearly nodding off, before a fight scene on top of a bullet-train jolted me upright.
Because it's a bore, you see. It is a brooding, plot-driven film that is too joyless to embrace. Poring over meticulously detailed comic-book panels unencumbered by speech-balloons is one thing, but there is simply not enough style in this film to let the plot do the talking.
It takes a lot to fill a film with ninjas, mutants and redheaded anime-like assassins, and still make it a drag, but Mangold manages it. It's like a James Bond film without Bond (even though Wolvie shamelessly steals a line from Connery's Diamonds Are Forever).
In my defense, I'm not the only one preferring sleep to the goings-on in the film. For large chunks of the film we see Jackman's Wolverine asleep and dreaming -- and, considering his dreams involve Famke Jannsen wearing something flimsy and lying in bed with him, we can't quite blame him.
Jannsen, who played Wolverine's major obsession (and the awesomest X-person of them all) Jean Grey through the first X-Men trilogy, returns here as an embodiment of our hero's guilt. And there's a whole lot of demons in Logan's past, this film starting with the Nagasaki bombing.
As Wolverine, Logan is cursed with immortality. Jackman, who has already played the gruff hero for four movies (plus a cameo), looks adequately weary in (and of) the part.
He's a committed performer and can pull off both snarl and sideburn well, and this film challenges him further by adding pain to the equation: making Wolverine mortal. (Of course, when we say 'mortal' in blockbuster-ese, we mean his bullet-wounds won't heal instantly but he'll still be able to take on an army of Yakuza wackjobs).
He still kicks as much ass, only grimaces more than usual. This makes the powerless-hero angle nonsensical.
In the film, Wolverine is asked by an old, dying friend to trade his immortality for the chance at a human existence. The story is intriguing, and, in the hands of the right director, could have been quite powerful. Darren Aronofsky was first choice for the film and it would indeed be special to see that man tackle the superhero genre, but Mangold plays it too clinically cold to be any fun.
It is better than the truly daft film before it, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that just means one can tolerably sit -- or sleep -- through it. There are a couple of strong moments and two very interesting female characters, but on the whole this film, like the protagonist, mostly just grunts.
Which is a pity because this (relatively) minimalist approach to the genre could have rejuvenated superhero movies, but if The Wolverine fails -- which it well may, given that the post-credits sequence is better than the film preceding it -- upcoming superhero projects may become even more bombastic than what we've gotten used to. Ulp. Smoke on that, bub.