ONE thing you won’t discover from Wolverine is what his powers have to do with wolves anyway. Oh sure, both are feral and have claws, but near the start of the picture when Hugh Jackman’s angry loner is hiding out in the mountains, his main companion is a bear who seems just as conflicted and claw-complemented as any wolf.
The Wolverine (PG13)
Director: James Mangold
Running time: 126 minutes
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Six pictures and a cameo along, the least this latest X-Men offshoot could do is offer some clarity on this issue.
Instead, the issues for this hero-mutant superman are much as before: an unwanted immortality thanks to his freakish healing skills, bad dreams that mean he often wakens sweating and beclawed and a willingness to brawl in bars.
He’s in the middle of teaching hunters a lesson in one spit-and-sawdust arena when he’s scooped up by a perky, red-haired mutant called Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who wants to escort him to Japan so he can say goodbye to dying billionaire Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi). Half a century ago, Wolverine saved Yashida from the effects of Nagasaki, using just his body and a well lid. Along with that bit in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull where Harrison Ford survives a nuclear test by climbing into a lead-lined fridge, this stands as fair warning never to rely on Duck and Cover, or Hollywood movies, for atomic survival tips.
Fukushima is the real find in this film; assertive, charismatic and off-beat. So it’s disappointing to realise that once Wolverine hits Tokyo, he is smitten with Yashida’s submissive granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) instead, as well as caught up in a multi-generational family war that even the cast of Dallas might find absurdly dysfunctional.
It’s laudable that Wolverine tries to show cultural curiosity outside all-American heroism. It’s just unfortunate that whenever the action stops, Wolverine in Japan has the same kind of clunk as You Only Live Twice. Unlike James Bond, Wolverine doesn’t commit offences against common sense by passing himself off as a Japanese fisherman, but there’s a strong whiff of that patronising tourism, with director James Mangold ticking off every Japanese cliché you can think of, from ninjas and kimono-tying lessons to bullet trains, samurai swords, and gaming arcades.
Less ferociously mutton-chopped than in previous outings, Jackman remains buff beyond the call of duty to get through fights with assorted henchmen, adamantium-plated gizmos intent on sucking the immortality out of him, and a venom-producing woman called Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). The film has left space for manufactured emotional beats with Wolverine’s dead lover Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who pops up as a ghost every so often to remind him about that time when, you know, he killed her. In Wolverine: Origins, Logan lost another great love, a woman called Kayla Silverfox, who doesn’t get mentioned here. Perhaps Kayla’s agent isn’t as good as Jean’s.
Overlong, overserious, and overplotted, this is a sharp-clawed but dull-witted Wolverine, but a sequence mid-credits confirms that he will return for X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Was there any doubt? Ask that bear what he was doing in the woods. n
On general release from Thursday.
Film Box: The rest of the week’s releases
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Tourists love to see them jump through the hoops at big marinas, but living in captivity can be so stressful for killer whales that they can become aggressive and turn on the trainers. Whales and orcas are so strictly regulated in the UK that none has been held in captivity here since the 1990s.
In America, however, former SeaWorld trainers testify to safety lapses and questionable training practices. One mature whale called Tilikum, captured off Iceland as a calf and kept in a small, dark tank for more than 14 hours at a time, appears to have been pushed to the point of psychosis, killing three people.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite has made a fascinating documentary about the consequences of keeping these large and intelligent animals as tourist attractions. A pity that SeaWorld, portrayed as the villains of the piece, refused to be interviewed.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Friday until 1 August; Glasgow Film Theatre, 30 July to 1 August
Springsteen & I (PG)
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Director Baillie Walsh documents the life and career of Bruce Springsteen (right) through the eyes of his fans. Includes The Boss bellowing his way through his hits like an angry bull. Nice, if you like that sort of thing.
Cinemas across Scotland, tomorrow
Breath Of The Gods (U)
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Jan Schmidt-Garre doggedly documents the origins of yoga. True believers may be riveted by this earnest salute to the sun, but for others this enthusiastic showcase of impressively bendy people stretches the patience at 105 minutes.
Glasgow Film Theatre, today
The Frozen Ground (15)
Nicolas Cage (right) pursues a serial killer (John Cusack) in Scott Walker’s grim and not especially gripping police procedural. Based on a true story, it’s very thorough in its depiction of Alaska’s strip bars, but apparently not nearly as interested in character or psychology.
On general release