Endings are a tough thing to pull off. Get it wrong and even the most creative and ambitious projects can leave a sour taste in the mouths of viewers. The Wolverine, the sixth film in the X-Men franchise, unfortunately gets it wrong. For most of its runtime The Wolverine features some of the best superhero filmmaking ever. However, when the film gets to its troublesome third act, it’s like someone else took over for James Mangold and his writers. Does all of the interesting ideas and smart plotting go to waste because of this? No, but The Wolverine loses any chance of being memorable thanks to too many missteps in the final act.
The Wolverine takes place in the aftermath of X-Men: The Last Stand(which is now eight years old) as Logan (Hugh Jackman reprising his most famous role) tries to recover from the stress of killing Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He is suddenly whisked away from the Canadian wilderness to help out an old friend and one of the richest people in Japan (Hal Yamanouchi) face his mortality as well as figure out the future of his company. The film is directed by James Mangold (who is quickly racking up an interesting filmography filled with a western, a biopic, a rom-com actioner and a film featuring an Academy Award winning performance from Angelina Jolie) and is written by Mark Bomback (Unstoppable) and Scott Frank (Minority Report).
It is quite amazing how perfectly this film works as a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand despite that poorly received threequel having been long since forgotten. A lot of credit has to be given to Bomback and Frank for working in the mythology of the X-Men series without bogging down the plotline of the actual movie (something which many superhero films have trouble doing). Thanks to the script and Mangold’s crisp direction, this film moves at a fast clip while still finding time to answer almost all of X-Men: The Last Stand’s many lingering questions.
That being said, a lot of the creative good will that Mangold and company build up is completely wasted when they consistently break the rules that the film sets up to get to its ending. In the film’s ridiculous final act, a character’s immaculate mutant ability suddenly doesn’t work at a key moment only to work minutes later to set up a plot twist that you can see coming from miles away. A smart and fierce villain not using a device that worked effectively earlier to dispatch a hero is also just another one of many moments that just brings this film down.
Luckily, the cast is quite solid. Playing a stripped down version of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman might offer his best portrayal yet of the character. Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima are also quite good in their first major American roles (even if the former plays a poorly written romantic object). Even Svetlana Khodschenkova leaves enough of an impression to get past what might be one of the worst written villains in recent memory.
The Wolverine offers enough interesting bits in its first two-thirds to make the film worth it.