By Gary Murray

Starring Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto

Written by Mark Bomback, Scott Frank and Christopher McQuarrie

Directed by James Marigold

Running time 126 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating FORGET IT!


Contrary to what most people think, film critics do not hate movies.  We are the ultimate audience, a group of people so dedicated to the art and craft of cinema that they devote their lives to the discussion of film.  We just want to be both entertained and amazed. 

Since we see just about everything, a critic can become jaded to what most pop audiences think of pop films.  The reason so many foreign films make a critical end of year list is because they just seem fresh and different.

That brings one to The Wolverine, which is the second stand alone episode of the character in the X-men franchise.  It is a flick destined to break the $100 million mark.  It is also one of the most confusing and pointless films to be released this year.

The film starts in the days before the bombing of Japan.  The Wolverine aka Logan (Hugh Jackman) is trapped in a bunker.  As the bombs fall, one brave soldier uses his sword to free prisoners.  When the big one drops, Logan saves the soldier who saved his life. 

We then go to present day and Logan is a haunted man.  He dreams of his lost love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and has more in common with the grizzly bears that inhabit the mountains than his more human counterparts. 

Logan comes down from the hillside to avenge the death of a beast and eventually confronts Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a deadly woman who can swing a mean samurai sword.  She convinces Logan to travel to Japan to talk to Yashida.  He is now an old man and wants to thank Logan for saving his life.

Once in Japan, Logan finds that things are not as they seem.  Almost immediately there is a death and our hero must stay for a funeral.  At that funeral, all hell breaks loose and the grand daughter of Yashida, the very fetching Mariko (Tao Okamoto) falls in harms way.  It is one of the few great action pieces in this work.

The story of The Wolverine is the basic damsel in distress story line where our hero has to figure out who all is trying to get at the girl and why.  Along the way, another mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) flicks her poisoned mutant tongue into the dramatic works.  It all builds to a lack-luster confrontation.

The film makes the ultimate sin of a summer blockbuster type of film.  It is mind-numbingly boring.  The single best sequence happens on a bullet-train in the middle of the film.   The battle between a bunch of henchmen and our intrepid hero has stunts and aerials that amaze but it is almost all for naught.  The film never builds on that bit of action.  It becomes “blah-blah-blah-action bit-blah-blah-blah-action bit- blah-blah-blah” with too many blahs and not enough action.

There is no reason to watch the film in 3D.  Most of the movie just drags along with only a faint heartbeat of a script keeping the cinematic patient alive.  The few true reasons to watch it with the new technology are not worth the added cost.

As much as the actual film was dull, some of the performances were of different degrees of interesting.  Tao Okamoto is an amazingly beautiful actress but she is given so little to do here.  She is almost like a Bond girl, someone put in the film for her looks and not for any plot justification. 

Much better is Rila Fukushima who gets to brandish a sword and kick some bad guy butt.   There is this sparkle she brings to the role that saves the film time and time again.  A separate film with this small yet dangerous woman would be an interesting idea.

People go to see a film like The Wolverine to see Hugh (or I should said Huge) Jackman.  This is a definite beef-cake experience.  Director James Marigold takes every opportunity available to make sure we see the chiseled physique of this Australian mass of man.  He is ripped to the point of it being comical, not so much a real man but a comic personification of something out of Heavy Metal Magazine. 

The problem is that Jackman looks bored out of his skull with the role.  He is a song and dance man and this type of role is tedious at best.  I cannot see him reprising this role over and over.

Without giving away the finale, the last beats of The Wolverine felt as if we had seen this before.  There is a mix of different elements from Iron Man and the anime Metropolis thrown in with half a dozen sci-fi clichés in the mix.  It does not seem fresh but derivative.

The Wolverine is not the worst film of the year or the worst film of 2013.  It is a tremendous waste of time and talent.  Remember, I want movies to be great and The Wolverine isn’t. 

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