Friday, August 30, 2013

The Wolverine Movie Review

So, we've got a 6th X-Men movie out now. The Wolverine (2013) follows the events of the 3rd X-Men installment, X-Men: The Last Stand. X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class were both prequels. In my review of Origins I said I was worried there wasn't much left that could be done with Wolverine. That said, I was worried that The Wolverine was going to be as weak and shoddily done as Origins. There are times I enjoy being wrong.
Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), has sworn off violence after he was forced to kill his beloved Gene Grey (Famke Janssen) and is still haunted by her memory. Logan is summoned to Japan by a sword-wielding mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) on behalf of one of Logan's old friends. This friend, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), was a Japanese soldier whose life Wolverine saved in during the bombing of Nagasaki in World War II. Yashida is now the head of a powerful technology corporation, and upon his deathbed asks Logan to protect his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamato), whom he has personally chosen to take over the family business - much to the chagrin of her plotting father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada). The Yakuza, a transnational crime syndicate in Japan, stages a high-profile kidnapping of Mariko during Yashida's funeral and Wolverine comes to her rescue. But Logan finds his mutant healing powers slowly disappearing and the two barely escape with their lives. With the Yakuza, a group of ninjas, and a ruthless mutant named Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) hot on their trail, Wolverine may not be able to protect Mariko for long.
Of all the X-Men movies out there, this one is the least X-Men-like. There are only three mutants in the movie, and Yukio has precognitive abilities and can foresee people's deaths. So Wolverine and Viper are the only ones with very "flashy" powers. That said, most of The Wolverine could have simply been a Japanese crime movie. I think that's really interesting; while there are plenty of action scenes, it doesn't have a huge scale and with lots of buildings being destroyed or entire cities and populations at risk. Things don't get comic book-standard over the top until near the end. That's not very common in superhero movies and it brought the story and characters more down to earth.
It's good to see Hugh Jackman return as to this role in a movie that understands the character's inner conflict. Contrary to what was the case in Origins, Wolverine is well developed. With his healing powers that have kept him alive for over a hundred years, disappearing Logan is forced to face his own mortality, what he has done with his life, what his purpose is, and what he might do in the possibly short time that remains. The character becomes rather existential at moments which helps define the character in new and interesting ways. On the other hand, the comic book version of Wolverine was a kind of rage monster. Wolverine was a bit of a softy in the previous films. In The Wolverine we get to see him do a lot more hack 'n slash fight scenes that herald back to the classic Wolverine.
The movie does become a little ridiculous at times; there are lots of crime organization thugs that pop up at every turn, a clan of ninjas whose loyalties and intents are vague, and some fight scenes push credibility at times. There is a fight scene on one of Japan's bullet trains which was highly enjoyable and possibly more creative and fun than the train fight with Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2.  Not every scene is particularly good, but the poorer scenes aren't bad and the good scenes are very good.
The Wolverine features some excellent Japanese scenery, suspenseful and fun action scenes, a better than average production, and some interesting characters, some of whom register more powerfully than others. I feel like overall it could have been a little bit better, but it's a far cry better than Origins was. It's worth renting, possibly worth buying if you're collecting the X-Men movies like I am. Make sure you stick around for the mid-credits scene, if you're an X-Men fan, you'll be even more psyched for next year's X-Men: Days of Future Past.

If you've seen The Wolverine or The Last Stand you can probably guess what's coming up in Days of Future Past. What would you like to see happen in the upcoming X-Men movie(s)? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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