Movie reviews: The Wolverine

The Wolverine (12) might have Scott Frank and Christopher McQuarrie on script duties, who between them have written Get Shorty and The Usual Suspects, but when dealing with the likes of an established superhero, you have one job and that’s to give what the audience of 12-year-old boys want: the same as the last superhero movie, only different.

After Logan (Hugh Jackman) rescues a Japanese officer (Ken Yamamaru) from the horrors of Nagasaki, 1945, the story fast-forwards to the present day to find that the soldier has aged into a deathly ill industrialist who longs to be immortal like his bearded, frowning saviour. Whisked off to Japan to bid farewell to his ‘friend’, Logan finds himself fighting the Yakuza as they attempt to kidnap the industrialist’s granddaughter (Tao Akomoto). Shorn of blood and hard action to appease the 12A rating, The Wolverine is rather blunt affair as it flits from one plot-convenient set piece to the next. While it’s understandable that Logan’s trademark surly wit is cleaned up for the kids, The Wolverine’s biggest sin is forgetting the lessons taught by the last Indiana Jones: if your hero can survive an atomic bomb in the first 10 minutes, fisticuffs and guns are unlikely to raise any tension for the remainder of the movie. Although adapted from an original Frank Miller (Sin City) series from the mid-80s, there’s something reheated and tired about this story; in previous instalments Logan battled mutants and the world’s fate was at stake — now he’s tackling Japanese organised crime, ninjas and giant robot samurais. But give them what they’ll pay for: the same, only worse.

Greta Gerwig is the undisputed queen of indie cinema. What does that mean? It means you haven’t seen her movies, but her face makes it to the cover of magazines. Gerwig’s movies, at least the ones where she plays the lead, like Damsels In Distress and Greenberg, underperform but she’s consistently the best thing about them, like when she was playing Russell Brand’s love interest in a rare mainstream turn in 2011’s Arthur remake. Gerwig outshines the material again in her latest, Frances Ha (15A), a quirky comedy-drama she has co-written with her partner Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale). Gerwig plays the titular character, a 27-year-old wannabe dancer who has been unable to move on after college, preferring to stay in a co-habiting bubble with her best friend/soul mate Sophie (Mickey Sumner). When their lease expires and the formerly inseparable buddies go their separate ways, Frances suddenly has to deal with life’s harsh realities. The female equivalent to the bromance, this “romansis” is never short on likeability, but it’s too light and fluffy to be as engaging as it needs to be. Baumbach and Gerwig are so enamoured with Frances that they just sit back and allow her do her thing, which is essentially mooching about and acting the kid for most of the running time, before finally succumbing to narrative structure and reluctantly forcing change on their woman-child.

Raise-awareness documentaries like Blackfish (12A) and The Cove would better serve their subject matter, and encourage those willing to take up the cause, if they ended their documentaries on a low; sending the audience out on an upbeat note defeats the purpose and negates the possibility of some angry passion. What begins as a documentary on whale trainers and their relationship with Orca, or killer, whales Blackfish soon turns into an attack on Orlando’s SeaWorld. Former trainers, all ex-SeaWorld employees, spill the beans in whistle-blowing style, lamenting that they once toed the company line — the whales perform because they want to, and not because they know they won’t be fed if they fail to finish their routines. Most of the stories surround Tilikum, a whale responsible for two deaths, the second of an experienced trainer that SeaWorld tried to shift the blame to in an effort to decrease the likelihood of a drop off in attendances. SeaWorld management, whom we’re told declined to be interviewed numerous times, are depicted as a cynical, soulless company with little or no affection for their mammals. Blessed with great video footage — some of it showing the attacks on the trainers — Blackfish sometimes still can’t escape the whiff of TV.


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