The Wolverine-attachment0

The Wolverine

Movie Information

The Story: The Wolverine goes to Japan to see a dying man whose life he once saved, only to find himself enmeshed in dire doings. The Lowdown: It passes the time. It's neither particularly bad nor especially good — and it's almost completely unmemorable.
Score:

Genre: Comic Book Action
Director: James Mangold (Knight and Day)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi
Rated: PG-13

James Mangold’s The Wolverine can proudly take its place with most of the rest of its comic book brethren this summer — high atop the mountain of the Massively OK. It’s getting pretty crowded up there, since this kind of movie has been climbing that dubious summit for more than a few summers now. Like the ones before it, The Wolverine isn’t particularly bad. It just isn’t much of anything. It’s two hours of middling entertainment, and, as such, I guess it serves its function. Oh, it has a few inspired moments — the opening in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb hits, an amusingly silly fight on a bullet train, occasional images that recall Akira Kurosawa and some others that suggest a familiarity with the animated films of Satoshi Kon — but they don’t add up to anything memorable. The whole movie rests on Hugh Jackman — a man who has become so gym-ratted-up that he looks more uncomfortable than imposing — and it’s too much to ask of him. In his favor, he doesn’t sing selections from Les Misérables. That’s a plus.

When I say the whole thing rests on Jackman, that’s not a figure of speech. It’s really the case. Much of the cast is entirely made up of Japanese actors you mostly don’t know and one Russian actress you probably saw in 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. (There are some dream sequences with Famke Janssen as Jean Grey encouraging him to hurry up and die so he can join her on the other side, à la Lorelei in Frank Miller’s much maligned 2008 flick, The Spirit.) But mostly, it’s all Jackman as Logan/The Wolverine. It’s Logan in gloomy mode and Logan in surly mode and Logan in action mode and … well, you get the idea. It starts with him saving a Japanese officer, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), from the atomic bomb in Nagasaki. It then quickly moves to him living on a cliff-side (why, I do not know) in Canada for a sequence that really serves no discernible function before he’s whisked off to Japan for a meeting with the now dying Yashida. This is where the plot kicks in — a convoluted industrial takeover involving Yashida’s business empire. Of course, there’s a darker, deeper plot afoot that you can probably spot early on. It mostly doesn’t matter, because the movie’s primary raison d’être is Logan fighting off ninja assassins — with time out for a visit to a rundown, erotic adult hotel that looks like it was left over from Blue Valentine (2010).

The whole thing, of course, leads to a big showdown of the kind these movies are all geared toward. It’s no better or worse than most, and at least it doesn’t involve destroying an entire city. The big centerpiece here involves a giant chrome-plated samurai warrior that somehow manages to be a lot less menacing than the giant warrior in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985). It’s all moderately exciting while it’s going on, but loses most of its punch thanks to a supposed big revelation that is neither big nor much of a revelation. Like everything else about the movie (including the pointless 3-D), it’s ultimately just sort of there — at least up to the tease during the end credits that tantalizes us with a more interesting looking movie to come. Call me old-fashioned, but I really think a movie ought to be more than a two-hour trailer for a better movie. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.

Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

10 thoughts on “The Wolverine

  1. Dionysis

    No comments on this film, huh?

    For some reason, in spite of enjoying ‘The Avengers’, ‘Iron Man’ and some other comic superhero films, I’ve tired of them. Even with the forthcoming Avengers sequel and (reportedly) a ‘Superman vs. Batman’ thing coming down the pike, none of it interests me anymore.

  2. Ken Hanke

    You will get no argument from me. The problem is that we seem to have become — generally speaking — a society that is not only okay with watching the same thing year after year, but get excited about it.

    • patrick

      That is a silly thing to write.

      I seem to remember a time when 50%+ of all movies released were Westerns and WWII movies. And then there was the mobster movie for a decade or two. And then the scifi movie. And before that it was the sword and sandal epics. And now it is the superhero movies. Society is no different than it ever was.

      If you are going to say there is more hype around these movies than ones in the past it’s because movies are bigger these days with production teasers released before even filming begins. Hollywood is bigger.

  3. Ken Hanke

    I seem to remember a time when 50%+ of all movies released were Westerns and WWII movies. And then there was the mobster movie for a decade or two. And then the scifi movie. And before that it was the sword and sandal epics. And now it is the superhero movies. Society is no different than it ever was.

    I think it is. There have been periods of gluts of certain genres, but that’s not the same as what are essentially continuing stories. And actually, Hollywood is not bigger. The movies are more expensive, but there’s less Hollywood production than there was in those earlier eras when studios actually produced their own movies.

    • Dionysis

      There is no doubt that Hollywood is less of a player now than ever. So many films now are shot in other states, in Canada and, increasingly, in some Eastern European locations. Yes, more money is spent on big ticket Hollywood films, and their advertising juggernaut is still robust, but Tinseltown is living on past glory.

    • Patrick

      I would have to disagree. Hollywood gets bigger all the time.

      30+ years ago there was no commercial ties for movies. now they have children’s characters hocking cars. (the lorax) The production costs are much larger and so are the advertising budgets. There are tv show tie ins, toy tie ins, comic books, cereals. They may not produce as many movies into theaters as they used to but I think the cultural reach and general power is greater. The bigger budget movies crowd out the smaller ones for sure.

      As for story originality that is hard to argue. Maybe it is that when you get older you remember how story lines are repeated but the younger generation has not heard the stories before so everything is still new?

      But with the comic book movies the love is deep for the characters. People want to see them. There has not been another genre where people know a character for their entire lives in hundreds of different stories. There used to be book to movie adaptations but never has there been decades long continuing characters that have been brought to life on screen. Maybe the lone ranger? I cannot think of another. AND the lone ranger had as much hype in his day as the wolverine does today.

  4. DrSerizawa

    Yes, more money is spent on big ticket Hollywood films, and their advertising juggernaut is still robust, but Tinseltown is living on past glory.

    And making good coin at it if the crowds of tourists are any indication.

    • Dionysis

      Yep; no claim they’re going bankrupt, at least financially. Now, regarding quality, that might be a different matter.

  5. DrSerizawa

    Many businesses, big and small, are dumping out if California because of it’s extremely unfriendly business environment. I wouldn’t be surprised if the studios weren’t using divesting and cutouts to spread their assets elsewhere and avoid Calif’s punishing taxes and regulations.

  6. Ken Hanke

    30+ years ago there was no commercial ties for movies. now they have children’s characters hocking cars. (the lorax)

    I’m presuming you mean hawking cars, not hocking them, but regardless, there have been movie tie-ins and product placement for just about as long as there have been movies. It’s not a new phenomenon. By the mid-1910s they were putting out novelizations of movies, along with “photoplay editions” of books (with stills from the movies) that had been made into movies. Stars endorsed products of all kinds in advertising tied to their current movie. Even the Little Rascals endorsed products. In the early 1930s Warner Bros. not only used Brunswick radios in their movies, but made note of the fact in the opening credits.

    There are tv show tie ins, toy tie ins, comic books, cereals.

    Again, this is not new. And I don’t see how this indicates the size of Hollywood production.

    They may not produce as many movies into theaters as they used to but I think the cultural reach and general power is greater. The bigger budget movies crowd out the smaller ones for sure.

    So…now you’re saying that society is different? It would seem that it must be if Hollywood’s impact on culture is greater than it ever was.

    As for story originality that is hard to argue. Maybe it is that when you get older you remember how story lines are repeated but the younger generation has not heard the stories before so everything is still new?

    The fact that a story is new to someone who is unfamiliar with it doesn’t make the story new. But what are you arguing here? That because some broadly defined “younger generation” is unfamiliar with a story it’s just dinky doo for the movies to keep churning out the same stuff?

    But with the comic book movies the love is deep for the characters. People want to see them.

    Well, not everyone, but, yes, there seems to be an appeal.

    There has not been another genre where people know a character for their entire lives in hundreds of different stories.

    Again, what is your point? Seems you keep coming back around and agreeing with my original assertion that society has changed.

    There used to be book to movie adaptations but never has there been decades long continuing characters that have been brought to life on screen.

    There still are movies that are adapted from books. That hasn’t changed. Even so, you do realize that these characters that have been going on for decades in the comic books have been changing all the while? And I’m guessing you realize that no one ever attempted a seriously intended (sort of) movie from them that wasn’t aimed at kids till the 1978 Superman? And that when that sputtered out, it wasn’t until the Tim Burton Batman that this stuff got another jolt? When that burned out, there wasn’t anything really big and notable till X-Men in 2000. That’s about when this stuff started being an all-pervasive onslaught.

    Maybe the lone ranger? I cannot think of another. AND the lone ranger had as much hype in his day as the wolverine does today.

    Really? The Lone Ranger was originally a radio show aimed at kids and sponsored by General Mills. It spawned a couple of serial films, but it’s mostly the 1950s half-hour TV show that’s remembered. The only attempt at movies were two low-budget movies made for the kiddie matinee crowd and the bottom halves of drive-in double features. This is worlds removed from The Wolverine‘s level of hype. Or are you talking about the 1981 dud?

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