|Starring||Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Hal Yamanouchi|
|Release||26 JUL (US) 25 JUL (UK) Certificate 12A|
The film as a whole is a mixed affair. The set-up is enticing, with Logan flying to Tokyo to meet a man whose life he once saved and being presented with an opportunity to be rid of his mutant power and live a normal life (i.e. growing old and settling down). The dilemma highlights Logan’s current situation; a man that can live forever but with nothing to live for, and as he finds his healing powers waning in the film, we see the character truly vulnerable for the first time.
It does, however, set up a mystery that is frustratingly left unexplored for much of the film. What has happened to Logan? Who is behind all of this? With Logan spending much of the film trying to protect a young woman from attackers, more time is spent on his personal predicament than the greater scheme at large, meaning that we spend the first two acts without any clear antagonist.
Elsewhere, the film thankfully uses mutants more sparingly than in Wolverine's previous superpower-saturated outing, mainly because the nearby village is apparently populated entirely by ninjas. That said, there’s only really his companion Miko, who can predict when people die, and Viper, a mysterious nurse with a reptilian tongue – who can apparently suppress another mutant’s ability – to add to the mutant roster. While their powers are certainly more interesting than the average superstrength or telepathy, they’re not fully explored enough in the film, leaving you to wonder exactly how they work and to what extent.
The action sequences are at least exciting pockets of activity in an otherwise quiet film. The bullet train set-piece in particular provides thrills and laughs in equal measure, while the fight scenes in the rest of the movie are the usual quick-paced, acrobatic displays that we’ve come to expect from the franchise.
It is, however, a huge shame that, after flitting between two very different tones throughout the film, the climactic third act delves into complete silliness, presenting Wolverine with a larger-than-life foe to battle with just for the sake of having an 'epic comic-book showdown'. Rather respectably though, the fight at least sees Wolverine in genuine peril and it’s refreshing to see that, rather than the usual end-of-film reset that often occurs, he seems forever changed by the events in this film.
The slow-quick-slow-slow-quick pacing is the film's real problem though as Mangold obviously struggles to strike a balance between action and drama. While this is a remarkable attempt to make a mature film that sits outside the blockbuster box, overall you'll be left wishing that it was a fun comic-book movie with some emotional weight, rather than a serious character study with a few exciting scenes.
It says a lot that a tantalising mid-credits sting teasing Wolverine's next adventure received the biggest reaction from the audience of the screening I was in. With this film just falling short of expectations, it’s only right for all eyes to be on original director Bryan Singer to restore the balance next time round.