And, speaking of which, since you’re already in the theater, might as well stick around for the credits.
Since killing Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) back in X-Men: The Last Stand — a girl he had a crush on but got nowhere with for three movies because she was in love with a more boring character — Logan (Jackman) has been bummed. He’s been hanging out in the woods, making friends with bears — you know, the usual. But then Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a red-haired sword-welding Japanese gal, appears and takes Logan to Japan to pay his respects to Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). Back during the war, young Yashida (Ken Yamamura) was saved from the nuclear blast that destroyed Nagasaki thanks to the strength and bouncing-back-from-third-degree-burns abilities of Logan. Now, he wants to repay Logan’s kindness by killing him. No, but in a nice way! Yashida offers Logan the chance to ditch his immortality and live and die like a regular person.
I’m a little unclear on whether Logan ever really gives a solid yes or no to this plan. Before it gets that far, Yashida dies, tattooed bad dudes are chasing Yashida’s beloved granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and Logan finds that when he is shot or stabbed he doesn’t heal as quickly as he expects to. Perhaps the obviously evil blonde doctor who we eventually learn is actually Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) has something to do with it.
The Wolverine has this going for it: it’s better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first stand-alone movie about our adamantium-enhanced friend. This movie does not have some endless origin story to bog it down. Sure, it finds other things to bog it down — Yashida’s quest for a longer life moves me not at all; Mariko, who spends the middle third of the movie hanging out with Logan before spending the final third in damsel-in-distress mode, has all the charisma of a bag of limp lettuce. But at least this is a forward-moving action story, with mysteries to uncover.
While it clears the “better than Origins” bar, The Wolverine doesn’t aim much higher. There’s some spiffy fighting from Yukio, but as a character she doesn’t do much more than show up, fight and then step aside for plot to happen to other characters. In a summer of movies clocking in around two and a half hours, The Wolverine’s just-over-two-hours runtime is short but the movie still drags.
The worst sin of The Wolverine is that it is almost completely free of Wolverine’s best quality: his smartass-ness. He’s the tough guy in the leather jacket who was too cool for Professor X’s school, calling Cyclops names and having flirty banter with Jean Grey. Here, he gets a little romance and a lot of butt-kicking but not much fun. The best X-Men movies have sparkle, fun and characters we care about. The last X-Men movie, X-Men: First Class, had its problems, but its sense of humor and its relationships made it a fun ride. The Wolverine could have benefited from more of the glee of Wolverine. C+
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language. Directed by James Mangold and written by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, The Wolverine is two hours and six minutes long and is distributed by 20th Century Fox.