I’m somewhere between 60% and 70% positive on James Mangold‘s Japan-set The Wolverine. It isn’t ground-breaking, but how could it be? Who goes to…what is this, the sixth or seventh film with in which Hugh Jackman portrays the same old buff, gruff, mutton-chopped mutant…who goes to films like this expecting something really and truly “new”? I suppose that the bullet-train fight sequence (a good portion of which is viewable on YouTube) qualifies as something never-before-seen, but it seemed a little too hard-drivey. And I know that every time a samurai-swordfight or crossbow or dynamic physical combat sequence began I zoned out. It’s nice that…uhm, I didn’t notice any bullets being fired ( or forgot about same), but leaping aerial ballet sequences involving medieval weaponry…later. They have no real kick or throttle. They’re just “performed” and then they’re over. I know I could do very, very well without seeing another Asian-styled combat sequence for the rest of my life on this or any other planet.
It’s conceivable that The Wolverine might have had a quality of extra-ness (whatever image or vibe that term literally means in your head) if original director Darren Aronofsky hadn’t bailed. I do know that I felt an effort on Mangold’s part to deliver the tale (written by an un-billed Christopher McQuarrie along with the credited Mark Bomback and Scott Frank) in a rooted and disciplined fashion. Mangold is no comic-book genre whore. Despite Knight and Day and 3:10 to Yuma his hand on the tiller means (to me anyway) a cut above — effort, thought, follow-through, wholeness. The result is that despite those awful combat sequences I didn’t exhibit the usual signs of stress and discontent. I didn’t groan or roll my eyes or cover my face with my hands. The Wolverine is a better-than-decent effort. It caused me no serious pain. Which is saying something considering that I hate movies like this and intend to never again visit Japan if I can help it.
I don’t know what else I could or should say.