The Wolverine – Film Review
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen
by Dan Berlinka
Despite being squarely within a long-running comic book/movie franchise, The Wolverine makes every effort to come off like a stand-alone enterprise. It is nominally a sequel to X-Men: Last Stand, but the viewer requires little, if any, prior knowledge. Unlike the various Avengers iterations it largely avoids spending time teeing up what may follow. Though fans should stick around for a teaser during the end credits.
In many ways, the producers appear to (wisely) follow the template of the James Bond reboot. Choose a credible director (James Mangold) whose previous work (3.10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) emphasises character over special effects. Of course, there is still plenty of action. But it is more personal and constrained, borrowing from Japanese samurai movie conventions. These in turn dovetail neatly with Mangold’s previous form with the Western.
“Just enough tinges of darkness”
Jackman fully commits to his portrayal of Wolverine. And here he is with a solid supporting cast, featuring engaging performances from Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto, with venomous menace provided by Svetlana Khodchenkova. Famke Janssen offers the only explicit link to previous instalments, but her role is by necessarily isolated from the main narrative.
Yes, there is still a certain amount of inherent silliness. If you simply can’t stand superhero movies then you’re unlikely to be won over. You could also argue that there’s a touch of Orientalism in how Japanese culture and traditions are used to put The Wolverine in a landscape of exotic fish-out-of water otherness.
But for fans (no matter how casual) this is a solidly entertaining picture. There is just enough tinges of darkness to make the experience that bit meatier than many others in the genre.