According to reviewers in the U.K., The Wolverine is a lifeless, tired superhero movie that brings nothing to the genre and whose plot is nearly as wacky as X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And then according to other reviewers, it's the superhero movie of the year. The one thing it isn't, apparently, is just okay.
The divide seems to be between fans and regular movie critics; the critics dislike it, while the fans are thrilled. Let's start with The Guardian:
The film's opening hour is an evenly-paced gangster thriller that toys with the character as cultural export. He's a snarling beast, adrift in a society that runs on the individual's commitment to keeping their true nature concealed. There's obvious parallels with Logan's own struggle to contain his bestial nature, at least until Mangold unsheathes the set pieces and lets the Wolverine run riot. It's here – in the middle of the roaring and cutting that we've seen rejigged many, many times before – that our interest falls to pieces. The fights are predictable, the scenery disappointingly drab considering the potential in Tokyo's neon-lit wonder-world. Wolverine's mutant foe – a slinky, acid-spitter called Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) – slides in and out of the narrative, shedding skin and goodwill with each appearance.
Logan fared no better in The Telegraph:
This new film trades meaninglessness for joylessness, and it may be the series' huffiest entry yet. ... Sorry, but didn’t superhero films outgrow all of this five or so years ago? Where is the quicksilver wit and lightness of touch of the Avengers and Iron Man films, or the formal ambition of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy? The previous X-Men film, 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.
And those two reviews are sterling compared to The Mirror's:
To its credit, The Wolverine is less concerned with the let’s-level-a-cityscape formula of other superhero flicks such as Avengers Assemble, The Man Of Steel and Iron Man 3 and more interested in character development.
The problem is that, aside from the odd moment where our man flashes his claws, this looks an awful lot like one of those burn-and-churn cheapies that Nicolas Cage would sign up for.
Which, thinking about it, is just about the biggest insult you can level at a movie.
But don't despair; the fans don't just like it, they really like it. From the fansite Gotham News:
I've enjoyed aspects of Hugh Jackman's four previous portrayals of Wolverine but was never really a fan. This movie has made me one. It earned my fandom through cohesive storytelling, engaging characters and gritty action. The cinematography is fantastic, especially the wide shots that let you take in the majesty of the stunning Japanese landscapes. ...
The final product we're presented with is as good as the best X-Men movies that came before, enhanced by modernized effects and more a focused narrative. It's the antithesis to X-Men Origins, and refuels the popular hero with the same sense of purpose Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins did for The Dark Knight.
Those are some pretty bold words, but Edward Douglas of ComingSoon.net agrees:
Fans of the character disappointed by "X-Men Origins" who have been clamoring for a great Wolverine movie, one that lives up to Bryan Singer’s early "X-Men" movies, should be thrilled. Those just wanting a solid, well-made action film might be surprised by how much depth Mangold brings to the mix. The results are the best comic book movie of the summer and one that rarely feels like a comic book movie.
At least Total Film seems to come down a bit in the middle:
Yet though it doesn’t have the vibrant wit and zip of an Avengers Assemble, or the allegorical grandeur of a Dark Knight, it’s a step up from the garbled silliness of Wolverine’s first solo outing. Unlike Origins, the storytelling is more sharply focused here, ignited by flashes of stylised superheroism.
True, there’s probably one too many scenes of steel striking adamantium. But the 3D-assisted action is never less than spectacular, notably during a Kurosawa-flavoured ambush that sees Wolverine turned by arrows into a mutant pin-cushion.
So which is it? Well, Rotten Tomatoes has the film at 71%, but with only eight reviews, it's far too early to tell. I guess we'll all have to see for ourselves when The Wolverine premieres on July 26th.