After "Red 2" and "Turbo" last week, here's another film based on a comic book character. For the uninitiated, "The Wolverine" is a "ronin" mutant superhero with metallic claws rising from his knuckles. He often appears as an associate of the X-Men.
This film is a pure pulp fiction based on the 1982 limited series on the character's exploits in Japan. Though the film connects and refers to various past "X-Men" films, this one is no sequel. It has a consolidated story by itself and the past references beautifully merge with the present tale on its own.
The narration begins with two snippets. The first: Logan's act of protecting a Japanese soldier and their survival during the holocaust at a Japanese POW camp on the outskirts of Nagasaki, during World War II. And the second, his nightmares of having killed the love of his life, Jean Grey, and he swearing not to lead a violent life.
After establishing the back story, the film rolls with an unkempt Logan leading a passive life in the Yukon wilds, occasionally losing his temper, when he sees sport hunters killing wild bears for amusement.
It is during his stay at the Yukon wilds that a red-haired mysterious woman, Yukio, surfaces to inform him that he is summoned to Japan by a dying millionaire, Mr. Yashida. Ironically, Mr. Yashida is the Japanese soldier whose life Logan had saved in Nagasaki. Hence, he complies with the request and travels to Japan.
Once in Japan, Mr. Yashida, who is on his deathbed, politely tries to seek Logan's secret of immortality, failing which he makes Logan promise to protect his granddaughter Mariko who he fears would be murdered soon after she inherits his empire.
What follows is a series of insipid family politics within the Yashida clan together with high-on-action dramatic stunts that involves - henchmen fighting on top of the moving bullet train, a corrupt minister, an army of ninjas, fellow mutant enemies and weak ploy to rob the Wolverine of his super powers.
Hugh Jackman as Logan expertly fits into the character, but unfortunately the script provides him with only limited scope to perform, which is way below the mark of an ace
'superhero'. Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, the deceased love of Logan, injects guilt pangs into Logan through hackneyed dream sequences, is funny and expressive.
Tao Okamota as the dynamic Mariko is beautiful and elegant, but the chemistry between Logan and her is sketchy and superficial. Rila Fukushima is decent as Yukio, but the "bodyguard" bit at the end is confusing and unwarranted.
Mangold is a brilliant director and he manages to unfurl the drama imaginatively with the help of production designer Francois Audouy and crisp editing. The production values of the film are overwhelming.
The frames canned by director of photography Ross Emery too are worth a mention. He has captured Japan with all its aesthetic beauty. He has also combined the latest digital technology with images from traditional lenses to deliver a characteristic look and feel.
Deemed to be an action film, the script provides high voltage action sporadically. Unfortunately, the fights that keep you glued are synthetic and bloodless and the climax gravitates instead of surging to the zenith.
"The Wolverine" is not a bad film at all.