Direction: James Mangold
Actors: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto
Here’s a snappy spin-off of the X-Men movies with Hugh Jackman sinking his claws once more into the super-strong mutant from the 1980’s Marvel comic-book series.
This marks the sixth time for the actor in the role which catapulted him to stardom back in 2000. Adopting a decidedly populist style, director James Mangold (Walk The Line), succeeds in putting the franchise on a more confident footing following the titular character’s undistinguished solo debut, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009).
Primarily set in present-day Japan, the pacey plot finds the adamantine-boned warrior facing his greatest challenge yet.
Confronted for the first time with the prospect of his own mortality, Wolverine is on the verge of a physical and emotional breakdown.
Struggling to regain his self-healing abilities, he grapples with yakuza thugs, ninja swordsmen, a reptilian villainess (Svetlana Khodchenkova) and an arch–foe in samurai armour. In the middle of the mayhem, Wolverine must also protect an industrialist’s granddaughter (Okamoto) from the machinations of her feuding family.
Their relationship forms the core of the action-fantasy. The film is consistently eye-caressing, courtesy cinematographer Ross Emery.
A fight with an assassin atop a speeding Japanese bullet train is guaranteed to leave the viewer giddy with excitement. A later set piece in which Wolverine is pinned down by a horde of archers is obviously inspired by a somewhat similar scene in Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957).
Recurring flashbacks of Wolverine’s slain ex-sweetheart (Famke Janssen) tend to become wearisome after a while.
Also, the yarn devolves into blockbuster movie clichés during the extended end battle. Hugh Jackman is the cast standout. Rila Fukushima is sassy as the emissary who coaxes him out of self-imposed exile.
A closing credits encounter between Wolverine and a couple of familiar faces from the earlier films works as a prelude to the next X-Men adventure, Days Of Future Past, due next year. One hopes it measures up to this explosive outing. Keep those claws crossed.