Many audiences just won’t give a damn or notice and that’s completely valid, but for the more discerning, shall we say, modern movie obsessive, director James Mangold‘s credibility is really going to take a hit if “The Wolverine” isn’t at least a sub-decent movie. The jury’s still out of course, but all the recent trailers have been worrisome and iffy-looking; perhaps just a small notch above the execrable “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” The added scrutiny and expectations comes from Mangold himself and Hugh Jackman to a degree. Not only were the director and star actively campaigning for the film months before it was ready — taking to YouTube to answer questions about the film during production — they were actively attempting to change the narrative of what came before. In short: don’t worry about “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” we’re starting over, doing something much darker, cooler and serious (when have we heard that one before?)
And Mangold talks a great game. Before any footage of “The Wolverine” was released, the director kept speaking at length about his inspirations for “The Wolverine”: the films of Yasujiro Ozu (“Floating Weeds“), Clint Eastwood, (“The Outlaw Josey Wales”), samurai epics (“13 Assassins”), and Wong Kar-Wai (“Chungking Express”). Was he setting the wrong expectations for audiences that understand those references well? Considering that “The Wolverine” — full of mutants, ninjas, yakuzas, samurais and gigantic samurai robots — looks fairly similar to your average overblown 20th Century Fox super hero film (the averages are not on their side), the answer to many seems like a resounding yes.
It’s doubly frustrating because Mangold can be a great director. His debut “Heavy” is a great moody little indie film. He brought the best work out of Sylvester Stallone in years with “Copland,” coached Reese Witherspoon to an Oscar in “Walk the Line,” and his Western remake of “3:10 To Yuma” (discussed here this morning) might just be the most underrated action drama of 2007. But 2010’s “Knight and Day” was a mess and though he had already deftly handled action in the picture before it, many were asking if the filmmaker was a first timer, given that it was so disorienting in its non-geography. To make this short: we all want a cool, dark Wolverine movie and we were pretty damn excited when Darren Aronofsky came on board. And then many decided to give Mangold the benefit of the doubt when the torch was passed on to him. But Fox… we don’t know if fans will ever forgive you if you fuck this one up considering the lengths everyone went to assure fans this was going to be the movie they always wanted.
A bunch of “Wolverine” marketing junk — a TV spots, a featurette and some character images below. “The Wolverine,” which started out sounding so promising, and we suppose still could be ok, lands in theaters July 26th.