The Superhero,Without the Bang

The Superhero,Without the Bang

This superhero comes in the dependably muscular and tried form of Jackman

The Wolverine

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman,Tao Okamoto,

Rila Fukushima,Svetlana Khodchenkova


A superhero confronting his demons is par for the course these days,even if he is as banal as Wolverine. A superhero doing that while showing no mercy slashing people to whom he bears no particular grudge is quite another matter.

This superhero comes in the dependably muscular and tried form of Jackman. The grudge comes in the shape of a pretty,slight Japanese heiress Mariko (Okamoto),who is set to come into considerable fortune. Their paths cross as Mariko’s grandfather,Yashida,had been saved during the Nagasaki World War II bombing by Wolverine.

Yashida,who is dying,summons Wolverine,known here largely as Logan,to his bedside to say a final goodbye. The wily old man reveals tricks up his sleeve as well as a really cool bed underneath him when Logan does agree to visit. Lined with what look like blunt nails,the bed moulds itself to the shape of the occupant on it. Who would want to die lying on one,you think? You think right.


Even as you anticipate the plot to somehow take a jumpstart to saving the world,The Wolverine keeps its ambitions modestly curtailed to saving Mariko from the bad guys,who appear to run the length and breadth of,thankfully,a tiny Japan. There is an impressive confrontation at a funeral and a really impressive one atop a bullet train,before the action inevitably leads to Nagasaki.

Wolverine’s competition includes a catsuit-clad doctor (Khodchenkova) who drops enough hints to suggest that she may not be the oncologist Yashida says she is. Her name is ‘Viper’,and that stands for just one of the many talents she has to maim,burn,or just blow away people.

When Nagasaki is just the backdrop for a romantic interlude on a rainy night in kimonos,you know director James Mangold (with credentials ranging from Walk the Line and Girl,Interrupted to 3:10 to Yuma) isn’t really going for the big bang here. For a while,this tortured Wolverine — haunted by dreams of his late tenacious wife urging him to die and join her in mutant heaven — finding some sort of peace in the backwaters of a laid-back Japan,even with a girl who is his friend’s granddaughter,is appealing. But then Mangold succumbs.

And given the film this is,his big bangs comprise Logan doing a painful surgery on himself and a monstrous metallic tower perched on a hill that exists just for a lot of people to topple over inside it.

By the way,Wolverine also has a sidekick,Mariko’s red-headed childhood friend Yukio (Fukushima),who has a talent of her own — she can see the future. But she is also a mean swords-woman,as almost everyone in Japan apparently is. There is a lot of talk about samurais,honour,obedience and the Japanese way,enough to keep that part of the market happy. Just as long as the last man standing is in singlet,with curiously tufted hair and bared teeth,and long blades down his sides.