The three dimensions in which The Wolverine is presented warrant three questions: Who are the focus groups telling Hollywood this really is the answer, what is it supposed to accomplish, and how does it make the experience better?
The third question is easy to answer: It doesn’t. The Wolverine comes the closest since the first X-Men adventure to hitting the mark of the legendary Marvel comic book antihero, but in 3-D, the movie is almost impossible to see. Much of the action happens in the dark (because it works for Christopher Nolan) but because RealD glasses tint everything to be noticeably darker, a lot of the action is just one shadow on top of another.
Many comic book fans will tell you that the chapter of Wolverine’s story that occurs in Japan makes the best movie fodder. It comes close, but this presentation just isn’t cool enough for the character. Hugh Jackman returns, playing this character for the fifth time, and because he has much to struggle with — the loss of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the potential loss of his own immortality — Jackman’s really good here. There’s a lot more meaning to what he’s doing, and it reaffirms that he really is and always has been the one guy to play this part.
Wolverine has traveled to Japan to say goodbye to a dying acquaintance, whose life he saved in World War II. The old man’s death is splintering his family empire, endangering his granddaughter (Tao Okamoto), whom Wolverine feels he must protect. That leads to a decent fight scene at a funeral and a great one on top of a bullet train, but outside of some pretty good character development, it’s all downhill after that.
While this film would stand a fighter’s chance with more Japanese culture embedded in the script and no damn 3-D, it’s ultimately just another missed opportunity for one of Marvel’s more interesting creations.
THE WOLVERINE Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, directed by James Mangold, PG-13, 126 mins.