After X-Men Origins: Wolverine managed to tear asunder everyone’s favourite clawed antihero, shredding him limb from limb with antiquated set pieces and the nonchalant walking away from explosions worthy of Hollywood’s worst B-movies, you’d be forgiven for wondering if this X-Man might finally hang up the claws once and for all.
Alas, the Wolverine returns. Following the death of telepath Jean Grey and dissolution of the X-Men, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is now an unshaven recluse who finds himself amidst a feud in post-feudal Tokyo, upon greeting his old friend Yashida, whom he once saved during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Entrusted with protecting Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko from the Yakuza, a syndicate who are perhaps as unorganised as organised crime can be, this is big trouble in little Japan for our prickly protagonist.
Heed this warning: trailers beguile, for this is not the film many will be expecting. The premise that Wolverine’s healing ability has been removed is as redundant as it is short-lived, for Logan continues to slice and dice despite sustaining multiple gunshots and otherwise fatal blows. “‘Tis but a scratch,” the Black Knight from Monty Python would attest, and it’s as hard as ever to care about the self-destructive mutant, whose only threat of danger is a blunt minute or two during the climax of this edgeless escapade.
This wounded mortal’s most mortal wound, however, is the 12A rated leash bound tightly round his neck, stifling and suffocating the Wolverine, rendering him as vicious as a common housecat, as he is prevented from afflicting any degree of satisfying damage to his enemies. The lack of authentic mutilation and lacerations again leaves a pang of disappointment, as many will be left unsatisfied and thirsting for the blood that his adamantium appendages deserve. With a love interest as cold as his skeletal core, and a thoroughly uninspired and terribly brief appearance from the Silver Samurai adding insult to injury, it’s a truly dull affair.
Unfortunately, yet another solid performance from Jackman entrusted with a few sharp jokes sewn into this average adventure cannot suture the sense that Knight and Day director James Mangold has opened old wounds. Such a shame, really, considering the previous instalment to this superhero series propelled X-Men from second rate to First Class, regenerating the fast-paced fights and excellent character development that mutated in X2. Given there is a distinct lack of Ryan Reynolds, however, and some rather enjoyable (albeit formulaic) action sequences throughout, it’s still better than Origins. But then, most films are.
Indeed, it’s interesting that a film so preoccupied with death should condemn this uninteresting antihero to life support once more.