Film Title: The Wolverine
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova
Running Time: 107 min
You would like some Wolverine, sir? How much? About five yards? I think we can manage that.
Of all the various superhero franchises, the X-Men series – which takes in the Wolverine sub-franchise – is fast becoming the most reliably ordinary. You’re never going to have a disaster on the scale of Green Lantern. But the chances of any sort of classic seem equally remote.
Hugh Jackman brings his camp grace to a character that, with the best will in the world, has always struggled to stand out from the mutant pack. You expect such characters to have spikes in their knuckles. Only the extravagant sideburns – last worn by the drivers of yellow Ford Cortinas in 1978 – distinguish the Wolverine from a dozen other generically altered men in tight clothing.
The latest, modestly satisfactory swatch of Wolverine begins with a sequence that, had the first X-Men not dabbled in Holocaust chic 13 years ago, would seem almost unimaginably tasteless. Back in 1945, the indestructible Wolverine watches as Nagasaki is annihilated by the atomic bomb. Decades later, the young Japanese soldier he rescued has become a multi-millionaire, but, time being what it is, the industrialist now finds himself dying a painful death. Wolverine becomes involved in the old man’s family affairs and is soon fleeing Yakuza through a computer-generated Japan.
The first hour works as a high-end travelogue thriller. We get to drive through the neon-rich streets of Tokyo. We enjoy a fight in (not to mention on) a speeding bullet train. There is an amusing scene in a “love hotel”. It all passes amusingly enough if you shut out the realisation that any character – even one without spikes or Noddy Holder’s facial furniture – could propel the action just as well as Wolverine. If you’ve seen You Only Live Twice you’ll have some idea what to expect.
Then, as you won’t need to be told, it spins off into the expected 30 minutes of mindlessly boring digital turmoil. We’ve seen better. We’ve seen worse. Have another few yards ready for me in a years’ time.