When I reviewed X-Men Origins: Wolverine last month, I stated the following: "Wolverine isn't a particularly interesting character to begin with (and he became increasingly less interesting as the franchise continued). I have a lot of difficulty believing that an entire movie revolving around this fairly bland character was an appealing idea for anybody. At any rate, it certainly didn't make for an appealing movie." In regards to the sequel, The Wolverine, the sentiment has not changed a bit.
Creatively titled The Wolverine (note the sarcasm), this is the sixth installment in the X-Men franchise. On the X-Men time table, this film occurs an unspecified amount of time after X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan is living on his own again, but is brought Tokyo to honor a dying man Logan once saved. But it all turns out to be a wicked plot to take Logan's powers from him. And also there's another woman that Logan hooks up with. For no. Stinking. Reason.
Which brings me into my first issue with the film (but certainly not the most important one): there are way too many unnecessary characters. There are really only three or four characters that needed to be in this film. The excess of characters is especially problematic because they're all horribly boring. Wolverine - among the least interesting X-Men characters - seems lively and fully dimensional compared to the rest of the cardboard cast. The performances are weak, but they're largely hindered by lifeless characters.
The action scenes are neatly choreographed, but completely uninvolving (partially due to the equally uninvolving characters). They lack the excitement and campy fun of the better X-Men films. The exception here is a brilliantly fun fight sequence that takes place on a moving train. It's as ridiculous as it sounds, but it's extremely fun to watch. Unfortunately, it only lasts about four minutes. The other 122 minutes are mostly a snooze.
The plot is somewhat confusing, but the exposition is so tedious to listen to, I quickly gave up trying, which perhaps explains my confusion. The script is just so poorly written, lacking almost any kind of humor and certainly any memorable dialogue. It has its laughably stupid moments, but not enough to boost the overall entertainment value.
The cast provides competent performances, but the unmemorable characters they're portraying puts a very low ceiling on the effectiveness of each. Hugh Jackman is again for the sixth-ish time (his brief cameo in First Class included) to once again walk around with his shirt off for a large portion of the movie and lust for another man's woman. Tao Okamoto is that said woman, and she's about as interesting as a stationary tree. Most of the cast comfortably reflects this comparison as well, though perhaps excepting Svetlana Khodchenkova. Khodchenkova portrays one of the many underdeveloped villains in this film, and though she has not nearly enough screentime to make much of an impression, one gets the feeling that she would be an engaging villain with a better script.
Marco Beltrami's score is effective enough in film, but it lacks memorable material. The music is very mood-oriented, rarely making use of distinctive melodies, and instead, often using the shear colors of the Asian instruments in the mix to provide the atmosphere. The score's action material is as bombastic as possible, but doesn't leave much of a positive impression.
The film's Tokyo setting and great-looking visual effects makes this possibly the best looking X-Men film thus far. But the polish that has gone into the visuals is not evident in the script. In addition to being poorly written, The Wolverine is just an utter bore. Outside of the fun train sequence, there's hardly a moment of fun to be had. There's an outrageous amount of violence here (easily the most of any of the X-Men films), but even then, the experience is oddly unengaging. The Wolverine is messy, tedious, and largely forgettable. Thankfully, nothing of consequence to the overall franchise occurs in this film, making this an easy film to skip.