Essentially there are a handful of scenes from The Wolverine that are worth seeing. First, there’s the opening scene set in Nagasaki right before the bomb drops that’s like if Ozu did X-Men.
Second, there are two fight scenes that are pretty spectacular to watch. One is mostly parkour. The other is atop a speeding train.
I also liked the set-up of Wolverine living with the bears just outside of Northern Exposure. But the rest is pretty shaky. In fact, you could probably just stop watching after the train fight. What pops up after the train fight is arguably the most cheap-looking, annoying mutant in the history of film mutants: Viper.
The love stories both lack depth. The angst over Jean’s death is hashed over too much, and the sudden love affair with Mariko feels forced and unlikely considering the angst over Jean. But perhaps my biggest complaint was that they missed the PERFECT moment to give Logan the gray streaks he shows up with in Days of Future Past. So as to avoid spoiling, it is in the climactic moment. It would have given that ending some real gravitas. Biffed.
Although I don’t feel worse for having seen it, I certainly don’t feel it’s added anything of worth to my life.
Perhaps, then, I came to The Wolverine in bad faith. The opening scene establishes one of the truly good characters in the franchise. Yashida rushes to free prisoners of war before Fat Man detonates across the bay; even the mysterious mutant dropped down an iron capped well. The eponymous Wolverine returns the favor and apparently this reciprocal kindness inspires the kind of villainy that would make Iago blanch. Whatever.
If there’s a dude with claws that can survive a plutonium gravity bomb and a woman who can see the future, I suppose anything’s possible. That takes a whole movie to fully irritate, though. One of the signature characteristics of Wolverine in the films is his casual danger. As a barely controlled killing machine those claws tend to extend at inopportune moments. He hurts people.
The sound of those claws extending and retracting is a staple of both the source comics and the movies. Off camera that sound extends the story beyond perspective shifts and scene changes. It’s handled poorly here. After repeated nightmares wherein Logan relives his tragic confrontation in X-Men: The Last Stand, the failure to account for his claws in a particular scene was almost maddening.
The Wolverine seems like a story that doesn’t know what to do with itself. Like the rice paper mural treasured by Yashida, it’s a series of figures, heavy on ninja, that fails to tell a story unless you have someone to explain it to you. Fortunately many of the characters once integral to Wolverine’s back story have been stripped of meaning and reworked into expository didacts.
Don’t watch this movie.