“In this movie for the first time we finally explore what it’s like to live almost indefinitely with regret and pain,” said Hugh Jackman, on the promotional circuit to advertise his sixth incarnation of Marvel’s famous fork-armed hero. According to the 44-year-old former Boy from Oz, who bulked up for his latest role so much he looks both super fit and kind of freaky, this is the Wolverine movie he always wanted to make.
It’s a given that one should never trust an actor doing PR, but Jackman is a special breed of snake oil salesman. His ability to earnestly enunciate various iterations of “cha-ching” doesn’t come naturally to everybody.
“When I read the script for The Fan I was very happy, because I thought it was very funny,” he said last January, discussing the merits of one of his lesser known producions. It wasn’t a comedic remake of the 1996 Robert DeNiro thriller. It was a commercial for Lipton Iced Tea.
In The Wolverine, Jackman concentrates his energy on two things — looking angry and flexing his muscles — and seems rather proud he can do both at the same time. The hairy former thespian (now very much a Kool-Aid drinking superstar) grumbles pearlers to his love interest (Tao Okamoto) such as “you can’t pretend shit isn’t happening when it is, princess.”
Indeed, and by god Lipton Iced Tea truly quenches a parched throat. As it turns out, however, he was being ironic. [pullquote position=”right”]The Wolverine is surprisingly dour and uneventful, at least by the carnage-n-claptrap standards of modern superhero movies[/pullquote], and mostly consists of its eponymous negative Nelly walking around in a bad funk.
A fight scene on top of a bullet train is the best bit. Helping a man survive a nuclear bomb in Nagasaki isn’t bad either, though Wolverine presumably didn’t stop to think the rescued party would go on to die a far longer and more agonising death from radiation poisoning. But hey, this is the movies.
Greek tragedy it ain’t, but director James Mangold (Knight and Day, Cop Land, Walk the Line) and his cast insist on taking themselves seriously. It’s as if the original plan was to imitate Christopher Nolan’s gritty blockbusters until somebody remembered they were already five movies into the franchise and thus, difficult to start afresh.
Mangold wants us to believe living forever, being indestructible and having pecs tight as snare drums equals a fun-free existence, so Wolverine’s foray to Japan is not the kind you see on the brochures. A Poison Ivy-like villain drains him of his superpowers, which makes him even more fed up than usual despite an apparent deep desire to do a Pinochhcio and experience life as an ordinary human.
A baddie constructs a fist flinging robot not unlike the kind Jackman exchanged family friendly blows with in his 2011 clunker Real Steel (Jackman described it as “Rocky for a new generation”) and Mangold reverts back to SFX slathered cookie cutter action, as if finally admitting defeat on the whole disaffected superhero thing.
The Wolverine’s Australian theatrical release date: July 25, 2013.