Hugh Jackman has probably broken some kind of record; no other actor has played the same comic superhero more than he has, having appeared as the hirsute character Wolverine in seven different films – including this title and the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past.
There's no surprise that he has a lot of love for the character, after all his appearance in Bryan Singer's X-Men in 2000 was his break-out role in Hollywood. But as we all know its quality and not quantity, and particularly after the woeful effort that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, does the world really need yet another standalone Wolverine flick?
Whilst wandering around a remote part of the States, Logan (Jackman) still manages to get himself into trouble. A stranger helps him out; her name is Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and it's no coincidence that she happens to be there. She's actually been given the mission of tracking him down and passing on a message: a friend of his from the war is dying, and he would like Logan to return to Japan to say goodbye. Logan agrees and Yukio accompanies him to Tokyo.
Although he does indeed manage to see his friend before he dies, he passes soon after. Logan stays for the funeral, but unexpectedly gets embroiled in some family politics. It transpires that his friend has decided to leave his considerable fortune to his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), which will be confirmed in the reading of his will in three days. This decision doesn't go down well with someone, as during the funeral, a kidnapping attempt is made on her life.
With something not quite right with the whole scenario, Logan decides to hang around a little, to keep an eye on Mariko. It's not long after however that he soon discovers that there's also a target on his back and that's he's got quite a fight on his clawed hands ahead of him.
With a respected director on board – Cop Land's James Mangold – there was a chance to give a twist to this often seen comic superhero. Sadly it wasn't taken. Although the idea of setting this story in Japan gives it some originality, the execution of it is pitiful. Beyond a few shots of the neon lights of Tokyo, it really could have been set anywhere. The problem is that it's modern day Japan; Logan, for the most part, faces a fairly average foe, who dress in black and are drab in every sense of the world.
It would have been great to see Wolverine face a hundred or so samurai, but no. At one point he gets jumped by a number of ninjas, but it's too little too late. A missed opportunity if ever there was one.
And then you have the film itself; it's just all too overwhelmingly dry to be entertaining. The plot has no momentum whatsoever, and takes itself far too seriously. If Mangold's mandate was to make a superhero film without set pieces then he's succeeded. His twist comes in the form of making Logan vulnerable for a period of the film, but even then it doesn't feel much like a threat.
In his attempt to make a broody and moody film, Mangold has squeezed every ounce of excitement and wonder that should come from a superhero flick. So if you're after thrilling wolf action, you're better off with a David Attenborough documentary than this.
The biggest indictment of how poor this film reveals itself during the end credits; it acts as a teaser for Bryan Singer's upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, and it creates more buzz and excitement in its brief appearance than anything in the two hours before it.
If Hollywood insists in thrusting tales of mutants upon us, they should, at the very least, go through some quality control; if they had have in this case, The Wolverine would clearly not have made the cut.