As summer comic-book blockbusters go, The Wolverine
is not as elephantine as it could have been. It's more, well, wolverine—bony, loping, a little shaggy-- and, blessedly, director James Mangold doesn't get bogged down in mythology. You don't need to diagram the convoluted relationships between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's X-Men characters to figure out what's going on. All you really need to know is that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a mutant whose knuckles sprout adamantium claws whenever he's threatened, has a secret that haunts him: He killed the person he loved best, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and now she keeps appearing in his dreams, wearing a silk nightie and slinging accusatory barbs more piercing than any set of mutant talons. But like so many of this summer's comic-book movies, particularly the hollow, forgettable behemoth Iron Man 3
, The Wolverine
represents a missed opportunity. Mangold tilts the movie heavily toward elaborate action sequences and skimps on the more romantic angles, which is especially frustrating since Jackman is the kind of actor who can deftly handle both. Occasionally, Wolverine gets to do some semi-poetic stuff, like open his own chest with his claws. Jackman is terrific in those moments-- he shifts between being affable and tortured as if it were no great shakes. Somehow, that makes Wolverine's suffering believable. With all his brawn, he can't escape sadness, and his nightmares form a connect-the-dots roadmap through the story. Jackman packs an extraordinary amount of feeling into these moments, and he even looks great in that flat-top hairdo with those little pointed ear-like tufts at the sides.