So far, the critics like Wolverine the mutant superhero a lot, but they're iffy on "The Wolverine" the movie. Beyond that, they really don't know what the deal is with Famke Janssen ... in her negligee.
The first reviews are in on "The Wolverine," which once again stars Hugh Jackman as the hairy, blade-knuckled X-Men character. And the critics have reached a consensus, saying that he owns the role, especially in the movie's action scenes. While Jackman's getting plenty of love, director James Mangold is being marked down for inconsistent pacing, a mood that's a little too lazy, and some extraneous sexiness.
Everyone is on the same page about one thing: 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was a disaster, and as a stand-alone story, "The Wolverine" is a significant improvement. As Megan Lehmann writes in the Hollywood Reporter, "Coming on the heels of the woebegone shambles that was 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' (which still managed to earn more than $373 million worldwide), it is … a step forward for Hugh Jackman's scowly, mutton-chopped mutant."
Jackman is also getting a big thumbs up (or should that be claws up?) in his latest adventure. "Though Wolvie comes across a bit world-weary and battle-worn by now, Jackman is in top form, taking the opportunity to test the character's physical and emotional extremes," says Peter Debruge in Variety. Neil Smith of Total Film agrees: "With Wolverine intervening at a bullet-strewn funeral, dispensing with goons on the roof of a 300 mph bullet train and going toe to toe with a giant Silver Samurai, a beefed-up and always watchable Jackman is undoubtedly put through his paces."
"The Wolverine" was based on a 1982 story arc from the "X-Men" comics (the original story was co-written by "Sin City" creator Frank Miller) in which Wolverine travels to Japan to meet with the man who rescued him after the Nagasaki bombing near the end of World War II. Reviewers so far have mixed feelings about the character's new surroundings.
A fight staged on top of a high-speed bullet train is being praised as a dazzler, but Chris Hewitt in Empire felt the local color was a bit much. "Sadly, the embrace of Japanese culture feels often skin-deep, a superficial whisk through a checklist of clichés," Hewitt writes. "There’s an (admittedly very funny) awkward visit to a love hotel with Mariko as they go on the run; Logan struggles to come to grips with chopsticks like a gaijin fool; and he keeps being told he’s a ronin, a samurai without a master … Just a shame he doesn’t show up at a karaoke bar — we reckon Logan has serious pipes."
Though director Mangold seems to have a good feel for character and atmosphere, most reviewers are finding fault with his approach to the material. Even the most enthusiastic initial review, from Debruge in Variety, says, Mangold's direction "is where 'The Wolverine' falls shy of greatness, despite terrific production values, elegant storytelling and a sensational cross-cultural score from Marco Beltrami … Mangold's approach is clean and correct, but does nothing to advance the overall state of comic book movies, owing largely to how heavily he borrows from other helmers." And Robbie Collin in The Telegraph says the movie doesn't match up to the last "X-Men" adventure: "The previous 'X-Men' film ['X-Men: First Class'] was secure enough in its own skin to embrace its comic side. Mangold’s picture affects a pubescent snarl instead: that’s the difference between comic and daft."
While no one's complaining about the several dream sequences in which Famke Janssen as Jean Grey (Wolverine's former love who died in "X-Men: The Last Stand") visits him in his fantasies wearing something slinky, no one seems to understand just why it's happening. As Collin writes, "In its quieter moments, we see Wolverine lying in bed and hallucinating Famke Janssen in a silk negligee, which at least gives him something in common with the film's core audience."
So the consensus so far: Come for Hugh Jackman and that amazing bullet train fight, stay for Famke Janssen looking sexy for no clear reason. And bring a big cup of coffee to keep you awake during the slow spots, since this movie sure has them.