There is a high-energy fight sequence in the new movie The Wolverine that takes place on top of a speeding bullet train in Japan.
The character’s movements are silly and defy the laws of physics but it’s a thrilling spectacle that jump starts the movie after a sluggish first act. Unfortunately, this is the only time The Wolverine is any fun whatsoever, leaving the rest of the film dull and lifeless.
Hugh Jackman returns to play the titular Wolverine, a character so popular from the X-Men franchise that he’s spawned two separate feature films including this one. The last one was a filmmaking disaster and this one is merely watchable so I guess this is progress, just not the kind of progress I was expecting.
The Wolverine mostly takes place in Japan and is based on one of the most famous X-Men comic book storylines which will make purists happy but bore everyone else to tears. This isn’t to suggest The Wolverine is a total wash, it does have sequences of genuine fun but they are outweighed by dull stretches of bad dialogue and questionable storytelling.
James Mangold is the director responsible for putting the cinematic pieces together and while I am a fan of his action work (3:10 to Yuma, Cop Land), The Wolverine plays more like his last misfire, Knight and Day. Both films suffer from the same tonal and character issues and ironically they also share the same studio. Coincidence? I hope not.
Fans of the X-Men franchise will appreciate callbacks to the original series sprinkled throughout The Wolverine, most notably Famke Janssen who reprises her role of Jean Grey, our hero’s romantic weakness. She literally plays all her scenes in bed but in the context of the movie it makes sense.
The Wolverine plays it safe with a by-the-numbers action screenplay that results in a by-the-numbers movie. It’s not a terrible time at the movies but it’s not a great one either. Furthermore, if you insist on going against my wishes and seeing The Wolverine anyway, I will leave you with two final suggestions.
Number one, avoid seeing the 3D version at all costs. It adds nothing to the experience and will only rob you of extra money at the ticket counter. Secondly, stay for the end credits. There is an extra scene that sets up our hero’s future adventures and despite this installment’s shortcomings, will make you salivate in anticipation for the next chapter.
Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language)
The Wolverine opens in theaters on July 26, 2013.