The Wolverine Directed by: James Mangold Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Famke Janssen, Tao Okamoto Running Time: 2 hrs 6 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 26, 2013
PLOT: A brooding immortal mutant (Jackman) is recruited by a wealthy dying acquaintance (Yamanouchi) to protect his daughter (Okamoto).
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of Wolverine who like him for more than just his claws.
EXPECTATIONS: Before the screening I had joked at least twice of suffering from summer movie fatigue, which is an actual medical disease. How would this second Wolverine story try to stand out, especially in the big silly shadow of its predecessor X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
- READ Nick Allen's TSR Blog: 'The Wolverine' and the Curse of Eternity
- READ Jeff Bayer's TOP 7 Moments from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine: Previous Jean Valjean Jackman still can bring the internal pain despite being have adamantium in his veins. His charisma as Wolverine a non-issue, Jackman handles this role with great physicality, completely in sync with the fictional character as if the two were going to throw down with Pacific Rim style. Score: 7
Rila Fukushima as Yukio: This brightly-haired sidekick is referred to as a toy in the movie, and despite not actually being a child's play thing, she barely proves herself beyond that definition. Fukushima is best in this movie as an action figure, using her magical red stick to beat up bad guys, as opposed to being a quirky compadre who fails to make us care for her backstory. Score: 4
Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper: This femme fatale flirts dangerously close with being a laughable villain at the behest of this movie's attempt to be a serious comic book movie. Maybe its her constant ability to turn any surface into a fashion runway, or her methods of kissy-kissy seduction that beg me to make a Poison Ivy comparison. But, in the end, this goofier component to an overall darker big picture benefits from not being the main villain, but functioning more like the weirdest henchwoman a lead deviant could add to their roster. It's the constant crazy look in her Khodchenkova's eyes that allow us to give her the benefit of the doubt. Score: 5
TALKING: It is almost surreal how corny the film's dialogue is, especially in a movie that seems to have its brain functioning in numerous other areas. Creating far more groans than giggles, Wolverine's comic relief is especially thoroughly predictable. Attempts at lightening up this scowling hero instead make him generic, such as when he expresses dry reluctance to knowing he threw a scum bag into a pool instead of death, or even states the movie's title. When he aggressively mutters "Don't hurt my friends," it doesn't come as the sarcastic statement of a man joking about the seriousness of the violence afflicted upon his homies, but instead a very flat request to do just what he says, please. Score: 4
SIGHTS: For whatever preference this movie may have towards character-driven drama, The Wolverine does have a sharp eye for striking action. Such is noticeable in its charged sequences, which don't blow the movie's sense of composure. A fight scene on top of a speeding train is invigorating summer spectacle, providing the smaller but more immediate tension that sets this film above the mindless standards of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Other action scenes, including foot chases on rooftops and the movie's climax, come in specific portions, but deliver thrills far more tangible than something like, I don't know, watching Wolverine walk away from an explosion in slow motion. Score: 8
SOUNDS: The summer of loud blockbusters continues, from Man of Steel to Pacific Rim, with Marco Beltrami using his brass to enact a personal vendetta against the audience's eardrums. I felt it most during the end credits, but it certainly is apparent during the main movie that THIS MOVIE IS A LOUD ONE!!! Score: 5
BEST SCENE: I appreciate the movie's goal of overall serious intent, but nothing in this movie tops the excitement of watching that train sequence. It's completely thrilling, and even has a good sense of humor. It's also a great scene that's more exclusive to the capabilities of Wolverine than probably any other franchise character, and will make for yet another memorable moment in his cinematic career.
ENDING: In a two-minute stinger that feels like it is ten minutes long, the gang gets back together. Wolverine's vacation is over.
QUESTIONS: Man of Steel joked in its cheesy product promotions about the mystery of him shaving, but I believe the same question goes for Wolverine. And what exactly was Viper getting out of the whole Yashida deal? Being able to screw up another mutant?
REWATCHABILITY: I imagine that some of The Wolverine's family drama bits would drag the running time in a few occasions on repeat viewing. On the other hand, I am not sure some of these action sequences would lose their heat.
Despite its imperfections, The Wolverine is a honorable effort to do something richer with a comic book character we have already seen in five movies (six if you count a cameo in X-Men: First Class). In this regard, it is kinda sorta maybe a little like Skyfall, as it pushes this familiar franchise character into unique dramatic territory (Japan), and places him into challenging action sequences that have heightened physical or emotional stakes. Although The Wolverine feels inconsequential at the end, even for a freakin' comic book movie, this film at least dives into the more significant parts of Wolverine's existence, that this dude is going to live forever, and such eternity may indeed be a curse.
Unfortunately, the movie's daring decision to make patient drama a higher priority than comic book fight time is not fully justified by the overly twisted family plot. Despite the poetry to be found in Wolverine's significance to Yoshida, eventually our title hero's purpose in this twisted tale of deception is that of simple bodyguard, protecting a vulnerable granddaughter we don't really care about despite being told to do so. The script hopes to pull twists on its audience throughout its unique journey, but it hardly makes a case to get them on board in the first place.
The same goes for Wolverine's hallucinations involving his dead lover Jean Grey. Crammed into this movie and making for an obnoxious amount of "gotcha!" moments, they come with the same ineffectiveness of Tony Stark's nightmares in Iron Man 3. Wolverine's bedtime freakouts hint at a distractingly different story in another film, and don't earn the right to take up so much space in an already dramatically loaded movie. There is nothing emotional or cathartic about these scenes, only busy.
Especially with X-Men Origins: Wolverine in its rear view mirror, The Wolverine is intriguing to witness as a complete 180 from that original movie's reckless embrace for every cliche in the action genre trash barrel. For what it's worth The Wolverine stands for the other side of comic book filmmaking, in which the lead franchise figure transforms the intent of a tentpole blockbuster into a character study. Along with that, Jackman's natural charisma, and the intrigue of following his character through a Chinatown version of Tokyo, make this movie stand out from others with its tone, and its dramatic confidence.
Nobly made by a director aiming to shake up an easy formula, The Wolverine is certainly far less evil than a lot of other superhero movies out there. If the barrage of superhero movies warned to us by the most recent Comic Con have the intention of a movie like The Wolverine, then I think we'll be OK. For now.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10