Ho-hum. That sums up my reaction to this competently-made but
uninspired action movie about the character last seen on his own in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The fact that
the producers have added “The” to its title will separate it, I suppose, from
that disappointing 2009 film—which most people refer to as Wolverine. When the biggest distinction a multimillion dollar movie
has going for it is an article of speech, you know you’re in trouble. (In the
same vein, this serious script suddenly reaches for cheesy catchphrase dialogue
toward the end, in what seems to be an act of desperation.)
Hugh Jackman once again inhabits the character of Logan, a
tortured loner who lives with the curse of uncontrollable anger, which
manifests itself by the sudden appearance of sharp steel claws protruding from
his hands. Adversaries usually shy away after one encounter.
This time, however, Logan is sought out by a wiry Japanese
woman named Yuriko (Rila Fukushima), who summons him to her homeland so he can
say goodbye to an old acquaintance, a dying Japanese industrialist. This
seemingly simple task turns complicated when Logan interferes in a family blood
feud that also involves power-mad scientists and possibly even the Yakuza.
You’d expect a handsome hunk like Logan to be attracted to
leading lady Tao Okamoto (as the granddaughter of the industrialist, or “damsel
in distress”), but it’s still a stretch to connect this story to previous X-Men
sagas. The movie’s production notes go on at length about positioning Logan as
a Ronin—a Samurai warrior without a master. I would call this “justification.” There
is dialogue dealing with that subject, but a giant metallic robot and an alien
blonde villainess seem to take precedence.
What the film does offer is a lot of well-staged action, the
unquestionable highlight being a hand-to-hand battle atop a bullet train. And
if the mere sight of Hugh Jackman’s rippling muscles give you pleasure, you’ll
get plenty of what you’re looking for here. But the screenplay, credited to Mark
Bomback and Scott Frank, has little resonance. James Mangold’s direction is capable
enough but the movie winds up as just another serving of summertime fast-food,
quickly digested and just as quickly forgotten.