Minimal Wolverine Discomfort

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.

  • MarkVH

    You don’t have to say anything, Jeff. You don’t have to say
    anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing.

    Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Jeff? You just put your lips together and… blow.

  • Max Stephens

    I much prefer Knight and Day and 3:10 to Yuma to Walk the Line, Identity, and Cop Land, the only other Mangolds I’ve seen.

  • Sams

    Not bad as a martial arts film, but it isn’t Wolverine’s story, it’s the Japanese’s. It’s barely a super-hero film and the hand to hand combat had too much shaky-cam.

    • Michael Gebert

      “It’s barely a super-hero film”

      I’m there.

  • Mangold

    To me, this is a rave, Jeff. So I thank you humbly. I know squeezing out that modest begrudging Logan-like positive energy on a film of this ilk is hard for you. By the way, the shaky cam is minimal in this movie. I am not sure Sams actually saw my film, or maybe he/she has a shaky head.

  • Mangold

    By the way, that clip you linked to is a terribly up cut thing made by the marketing dept w/ inappropriate score slathered on it. The same action in the film takes much longer to evolve and by the time they are outside the train, there is no music at all. Only wind.

    • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

      Don’t let the marketing department hack your stuff apart like that!

      • Mangold

        Yeah– I reacted to this clip too late as I was in Europe and missed it. I try to stay on it but its too much to manage when you are opening around the world on the same day and there are so many offices producing clips and trailer hybrids and posting them. Too many versions of clips.

    • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com/ Jeffrey Wells

      The wind is very good.

  • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

    I love this review for some reason. It sounds like a child that doesn’t want to admit they enjoyed the forced trip to grandma’s house.

  • joeybot

    Wait, so you’re saying James Mangold DIDN’T make a ground-breaking film?

    I am shocked, shocked!

    • Mangold

      I agree, Joey. I am one beige middle of the road mother fucker. What with my down the middle western where the hero dies, my down the middle teen girl ensemble film featuring incest, suicide, and jolie as a sociopath (which I also i wrote in a bland and down the middle fashion), my down the middle silent fat guy movie (ditto), my down the middle cop ensemble film where Stallone was fat and everyone died (ditto), and my down the middle white version of Ray with that down the middle cheesy mother fucker Joaquin (ditto). I am such a studio lackey. A total ringer. I apologize, Joey.

      • Joe Leydon

        James: You’re too good for this. Walk away from the computer, pour yourself a stiff drink, and then think of coming up with some great extras for all of us who’re waiting to buy the Vegas DVD boxed-set. Don’t waste time feeding trolls.

        • Mangold

          You’re sweet, Joe. I am fine. But I will take your advice nonetheless. The VEGAS set is done and shipped FYI. I’ve been working the last few days on an unrated blu ray of THE WOLVERINE.

          • Joe Leydon

            Are we going to see the alternative ending where Quaid lets Chiklis blow Ironside’s head off?

            • Mangold

              Absolutely.

              • Joe Leydon

                Hot damn. Where do I advance order?

      • Alan Burnett

        I’m genuinely curious: why do you actually care what anyone says? With the exception of a few commentators, most of the people here aren’t living particularly interesting or passionate lives. On the other hand, you are a filmmaker aka a modern GOD. I don’t know, it just seems as if Ramses came down from his throne and started getting into squabbles with the slaves.

        • frickyeah1990s

          You’re pretty warped in the head if you think this guy is a god. Maybe, like a medieval nobleman or something. “God” status is reserved for guys like Kubrick, bro. If James Mangold is a god, then pretty much everyone thats ever worked in the entertainment industry in any capacity is a “god”. Have some self respect guy. Don’t gush over mediocre hacks.

          • Alan Burnett

            “If James Mangold is a god, then pretty much everyone thats ever worked in the entertainment industry in any capacity is a “god”.”

            Reread what I wrote. I suggested that directors are Gods, not him specifically (or anyone in general). And I didn’t even comment on his quality as a filmmaker. I was talking about his STATUS. His STATUS – travelling across the world, hanging out with stars – makes him a God, which is why I was surprised that he would waste his time when he clearly has better things to do with his life.

            Don’t respond to comments if you don’t understand them. But, yeah, well done on using KUBRICK, the go-to example that EVERY FUCKING MORON uses for ANY ARGUMENT (even if it DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH MY ACTUAL ARGUMENT). “Yeah, I am citing Kubrick therefore you are wrong”. Not only did you not understand what I wrote, but you also used the most clichéd-as-fuck example, so it isn’t necessarily just a one-off example: you are clearly a fucking moron and reading your post was a waste of time. If you genuinely respected other people’s time, you would have opened with “I’m a fucking moron, don’t bother reading my opinion, it’s both ignorant and clichéd.”

            • frickyeah1990s

              “Reread what I wrote. I suggested that directors are Gods, not him specifically ”

              you were writing to James Mangold directly and you refer to him as a “god”, I mean that seems pretty specific to me, even if it wasnt your intent. And, I also don’t really think the lifestyle of a working hollywood filmmaker is all that godlike. i’d consider it a very shallow and unfulfilling existence (especially if what you’re working on isnt artistically powerful or culturally relevant).

              I get your point, but I just don’t see filmmakers or movie stars as gods and i dont fetishize their lifestyle to the point where I’d consider it “godlike”. I mean put me, (any famous person name here) and Noam Chomsky in the same room together, and I’d be fawning over Noam Chomsky. So thats where I’m coming from. The people and the stories happening in the real world are infinitely more interesting than the hacks working in Hollywood, and they know it too. They all know that what they’re doing is essentially worthless.

              Also, calm the fuck down.

              • Mangold

                Alan, the same thoughtful question can be applied to you. I reply cause I care what people think and I like to talk with people who care about film. And sometimes, like you or Jeff or anyone else, I make a slip and get caught up in some bar scrap with someone who said something foolish. The other guy is right that I am not a god, although I understood exactly what you meant too and I don’t think you were trying to blow me or should have to defend yourself for asking the question. Joe Leydon said the same thing a different less exagerated way last night. But it really doesn’t hurt for all of us to keep in mind amid all th colorful banter that there is a big space between god and hack and most of us live there, doing our best. And sometimes what you say and do and write might get read by the person you are talking about and it doesn’t hurt to consider whether you would actually have the balls to say whtver you think to their face. You can actually do that without being boring or insipid.

                • Alan Burnett

                  Thanks for the considered response. But you’re wrong when you suggested that “the other guy is right that I am not a god”: you wrote and directed a scene in which Henry Hill comes out of nowhere and blows away Leo McGarry, which is THE GREATEST MOMENT IN CINEMATIC HISTORY. BAR NONE.
                  Therefore, “Mangold + Bagpipes Score + Liotta Reveal = GOD-LIKE” is the only mathematic equation that makes sense in my mind. If there are no bagpipes or Liotta in ‘The Wolverine’ in the first five minutes, then I’m walking out.

                • Circumvrent

                  This is probably not the most effective form of marketing, but you’ve really made me want to buy a ticket to your movie, James.

                • frickyeah1990s

                  Lol I’d totally have the balls to say anything to anyone. Especially if what I’m saying isnt particularly offensive or intentionally malicious, I mean I could have a conversation with any filmmaker or any hollywood star about how I don’t really respect what Hollywood is or the films they make. I could be perfectly rational and polite while doing so. And I think that I have. I mean, your pal was the one typing FUCKING MORON in all caps. So you trying to cast me as the irrational one, is a bit disingenuous. But anyway, if I ever did come face to face with whoever I wouldn’t say anything really, I wouldn’t care to. There are a class of people out there that arent impressed by the superficiality of Hollywood. You’d be perfectly aware of that if you had the least bit of self-awareness

                  • Storymark

                    You have the balls to say anything…. from behind a pseudonym. And you aren’t impressed by Hollywood… Yet…. you argue on a movie blog. Oh, adorable.

                  • Mangold

                    Hollywood is filled with many different folks, Fricky. I don’t know what you think “Hollywood” people are like– but I went to PS42 in the lower East side of Manhattan where I lived in a one room apartment with my parents who were struggling artists. Hugh Jackman was in his thirties and on his last month’s rent when he was cast in XMEN and came from a middle class Aussie home. You might be surprised at people’s humanity if you gave them a chance. I don’t want you any further backed into a corner but in reality, we are not a monolithic mass of mediocrity but a group as varied in talent, good will, and ambition as the participants in this dialogue. Peace.

                  • Alan Burnett

                    “I could be perfectly rational and polite while doing so. And I think that I have.”

                    “You’re pretty warped in the head”

                    Makes sense …

  • Raising_Kaned

    Actually getting some Good Vibrations (Funky Bunch™) from this one. A superhero flick that doesn’t really feel like one? Excellent.

    I’ll be there Friday, and will be expecting no less than a Dredd-like throwback surprise.

    The (SPOILER) “no bullets fired” thing seems like a minor spoiler of sorts to me (I know you really don’t give a shit about that stuff, though) — but I’d much, much rather see hand-to-hand melees onscreen than the ridiculously pedestrian gunplay American flicks tend to offer (what was the last one that even TRIED to do something different in this respect? Equilibrium??).

    TEAM “QUEER FOR SWORDS” REPRESENTIN’.

    ALL HAIL MANGOLD TOE SOCKS.

    • Mangold

      Don’t worry, Raising. There’s plenty of bullets. I think Jeff had his eyes closed and fingers in his ears. And, DoWhatYouDo, I humbly submit that it really ain’t like we named The Empire Strikes Back “THE STAR WARS”. Hm. Maybe more like someone made STAR WARS: ORIGINS: BOBA FETT five years ago and it went over badly so people tried to make another one and called it THE BOBA FETT. The “the” title was actually Darren’s idea which may help you respect it.

    • Correcting Jeff

      Swordfighting, yes. But hand-to-hand? God, no.

      This ENTIRE SUMMER feels like one awful, unending, non-sensical series of dumbass fistfighting.

      Iron Man 3: Ends in fistfight.

      Star Trek Into Darkness: Ends in fistfight.

      Man of Steel: Ends in fistfight.

      Pacific Rim: Begins, continues, and ends in fistfight.

      It’s terrible and lazy and goodness please it needs to effing stop.

  • dowhatyoudoyou

    The title tells you everything you need to know about the creative effort put into this movie. Imagine if the sequel to Star Wars wasn’t called The Empire Strikes Back but The Star Wars.

    Why not “Man of Admantium” or whatever that shit is called?

  • Mr. F.

    Would have been 80-90% positive if Mangold had cast Vinessa Shaw again.

    • Raising_Kaned

      Shocked it took more than 10 comments to drop the “Shaw” bomb.

  • Eloi Wrath

    I really like 3:10 to Yuma. Unfussy, badass Western with two bonafide movie stars.

  • NephewOfAnarchy

    Two guys fighting on top of a speeding train = awesome action trope that NEVER gets old. FACE THE TRAIN.

  • roland1824

    So if I’m correctly reading between the lines here, you’re saying that as far Wolverine movies go, this one is a pretty good Wolverine movie.

  • Gabe_Toro

    I dunno, I thought this was kind of awesome. WALL TO WALL NINJAS, man. Hollywood’s been weirdly doing ninjas with CGI, or quick-cut ninjas you can barely see. But there is NOTHING more cinematic than a bunch of black-clad shit-kickers in a single wide shot scaling a building or quietly marching in the background, silent like the wind. Even to people with a bias for that sort of thing, seeing that executed with practical precision will ALWAYS be worthwhile.

    The rest of it? True to the comics, in that it’s ridiculous, melodramatic, violent and weirdly ponderous. Given the diversity of comics, I’m surprised we don’t see more films like this. Comics aren’t like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which is just a bunch of retarded clatter. They can have quiet moments, scenes of characters having WEIGHTY discussions about DEATH and MORTALITY and BEING A WARRIOR. Some mouth-breathing jerk behind me actually said, “I don’t know, I’m actually falling asleep” to her companion before stomping out, and I was grateful. Any blockbuster that can have that effect on an obviously rude pig (who was talking the entire time and kicking my seat like a caged animal) earns at least half a pass.

    Would probably rank this slightly below X2, but above the other films in this series. The first hour or so is better than what follows, but still, kind of enjoyable, great action, great Jackman (those abs!), tons of stabbing, good setting. Kind of disappointed that we have to see Jackman leaving this to rejoin the dorks in the regular X-Men series next year.

  • zantetsupowaa

    “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.”

    Yeah, it would’ve looked like a bad Hunger Games knock-off like Noah, because the only thing Aronofsky is good at is plagiarizing Satoshi Kon.

  • Ray Quick

    Is there any hotness in this movie? Seems like it needs a name white actress. Between this and THE RIM, what’s with the new Geek war on hotness? Should have like Taylor Swift in it.

    Also Mangold = HEAVY POWER. Still my favorite movie of his.

    • HarryWarden

      Haven’t seen the actual movie but the trailer has what looks like a fairly attractive white woman her skin off her face or something similar, if that floats your boat.

  • frickyeah1990s

    The zinger at the end about Japan is the type of Jeff-ism that keeps me coming back.