"The Wolverine" marks Hugh Jackman's sixth movie appearance as the clawed antihero of the same name, and film critics agree the 44-year-old actor has maintained his edge. But while many reviewers are commending Jackman for bringing depth to the character, they're more ambivalent about the rest of the film, which finds Wolverine in Japan grappling with his (im)mortality.
The Times' Kenneth Turan writes, "this latest venture reminds us how fortunate we are to have a capable, committed actor who exudes masculinity in the title role." Unfortunately, he adds, "not even Jackman can completely rescue his character's latest outing. As directed by the usually reliable James Mangold, 'The Wolverine' is an erratic affair, more lumbering than compelling, an ambitious film with its share of effective moments that stubbornly refuses to catch fire."
In a more positive review, the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle quips, "Somewhere along the line somebody must have had a crazy idea, that maybe for once the Wolverine required a decent script, and shouldn't rely only on action, audience goodwill and the sight of Hugh Jackman with his shirt off." He adds, "'The Wolverine' is the first film from the X-Men universe to show Jackman to full advantage … and his performance is in the best action tradition of strength and humor."
USA Today's Claudia Puig calls the movie "fairly engrossing, if occasionally convoluted." Although some moments are clichéd, formulaic or tedious, "The Wolverine" still represents "a marked improvement over 2009's 'X Men Origins: Wolverine,'" and it's "anchored by a strong performance by Jackman, who embodies Wolverine like no one else could."
A.O. Scott of the New York Times finds "The Wolverine" to be "something of an anomaly in the current, unstoppable wave of comic-book-based movies. It has all the requisite special effects and big-ticket action sequences … but it also has an unusually intimate, small-scale feel." He adds, "Mr. Jackman, for all his growling, flexing and macho wisecracking, keeps our attention focused on Logan's feelings. So does Mr. Mangold, even as he obeys the imperatives of the action-franchise machine."
The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips also appreciates the film's scaled-down approach, writing, "The results are quite good — the same old angst and grandiosity writ smaller than usual, and better for it." He goes on to say, "'The Wolverine' keeps its characters front and center, and only near the end does it turn into a routine, grinding action movie. Along the way there's a swell battle atop a speeding bullet train, the film's highlight."
Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press calls the film "fairly satisfying if not stellar" and says, "whether you're an X-Men fan or not, it's Jackman that makes 'The Wolverine' worth watching." She adds, "At this point he could play the role in his sleep — but he doesn't, and the nuances he and director Mangold bring to the character lift this enterprise up from the usual blockbuster-sequel fare."
Given the praise Jackman has garnered, it's easy to see how he racked up six Wolverine appearances — and counting. No. 7, "X-Men: Days of Future Past," is due next summer.