Director: James Mangold
Writers: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sandada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Will Yun Lee, Ken Yamamura, Famke Jenssen, Hal Yamanouchi, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Nobutaka Aoyagi
Synopsis: Summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, Wolverine becomes embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language
I'm the best at what I do, but what I do isn't very nice
Out of all the superhero movies that I've ever seen, "The Wolverine" is the only one that has ever gotten me to be at a loss for words. After you first see it, you can't help but fall instantly in love with it's deep characterization of the character. It's innovative storytelling within the genre, and how the film manages to define itself as a true Wolverine story; instead of being another Wolverine and the X-Men film again (ala "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" or any other "X-Men" movie outside of "X-Men: First Class").
However, after I've had time to let the movie soak into my mind, I can't help but notice it's obvious flaws. Don't get me wrong, it's a good superhero film, and it's certainly miles ahead of Wolverine's last solo outing. In fact, I would dare even say this is arguably the best "X-Men" related movie that Fox has ever made; outside of "X-Men: First Class." However, as I always tell my readers, I make it a point to never ignore the painfully obvious. In the case of "The Wolverine", it would be foolish of me not to address some of it's flaws that keep it from being a great superhero film.
Before we delve into that, lets to go over the story, and some of the movie's positive points first. The story essentially takes place years after "X-Men 3: The Last Stand." Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is out on his own living in the woods up in the mountains. Ever since Jean Grey's untimely death, he's become something of a drifter; while sharing his mountain territory with a local grizzly bear.
A rebel without a cause. A ronin warrior if you will, as he's constantly haunted by the illicit dreams of his lost love, Jean Grey. Often talking to her in his dreams as if she was still alive. However, all that changes when Wolverine meets a mysterious young Asian girl, who tells him that an old friend would like to see him again before he dies.
Who is this old friend you may ask? Back in World War II, Wolverine met a young Japanese soldier named Yashida, and saved his life from an atomic bomb. Since then, Yashida has become fascinated by Wolverine's existence, and now that he's about to die soon, he wants to offer Wolverine his thanks for saving his life all those years ago.
Since their last meeting, Yashida has now become one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Japan. His eldest son longs to take over his business, while his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), only yearns for her family's well being.
However, things aren't what they seem, as Yashida makes a rather interesting proposal to Wolverine, to repay him for saving his life years ago. He offers Wolverine the chance to give up his mutant healing ability that prolongs his life, so he can transfer those powers over to Yashida. Not only would this procedure cause Wolverine to lose his powers to heal, but it would make him mortal to where he could die like everyone else of old age. In this interesting scene, he tells Logan how life can become a curse with immortality, as a man can run out of things to live for watching their loved ones die over the years.
Needless to say, this causes a lot of interesting questions for our protagonist to ponder. However, he immediately turns down Yashida's offer, but Wolverine soon finds his healing powers allegedly taken away anyway by a mysterious woman named Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova).
Who is this mysterious woman? And why would she want to take away Wolverine's powers? I can't really say without giving away too much, but lets just say that she's not someone you'd want to mess with. Through a series of events, Wolverine finds himself in an elaborate plot that could change his life forever, and that's all you really need to know about the story without giving away too much.
As I mentioned earlier, the film does a great job establishing this as a true solo Wolverine story, as that was part of the problem with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." In that film, it felt too much like another Wolverine and the X-Men movie because outside of "X-Men: First Class", majority of the "X-Men" films were heavily focused on Wolverine's point of view.
Don't get me wrong, I understand he's arguably the most popular "X-Men" character, so why wouldn't he be the main focus? However, this also causes a lot of the characters who have little to no relationship with Wolverine to become reduced to either supporting characters, or mere background characters. In fact, the "X-Men" trilogy seems to always center around Wolverine being surrounded by mutants on both sides. Not saying that's a bad thing, but I'll get to why this hurt "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" in just a moment.
In "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", you can argue that it was essentially an origin story to Wolverine's past. I get that, but we have to be honest with ourselves. The film was still a Wolverine centric film that had the character surrounded by mutants on both sides. The only difference was that the characters were different on both sides, but it still felt the same. Yes, I'm aware that none of the characters in the last Wolverine flick were ever in the actual "X-Men" groups in any comics (Except Wolverine, Cyclops and Gambit). However, I'm speaking in generalities. Long story short, it felt too much like another "Wolverine and the X-Men" story arc again with just different characters. Sure, there were other problems with that movie, but that was obviously one of them, as it failed to differentiate itself enough from the other "X-Men" movies of the past to feel like a true solo film.
Therefore, I have to really tip my hat off to James Mangold and his writers for creating a Wolverine centric film that actually feels like a solo film for once. Unlike the previous movies, you truly feel like this story is about Wolverine, and his internal struggles.
As I mentioned before, the characterization for Wolverine is definitely the best that I've seen so far in this series. Not only does the film do a great job portraying the internal struggle of Wolverine, but the dream sequences between him and Jean are very touching at times. In fact, they're arguably the best parts of the film, as it portrays how he has trouble letting go of the past; which leads to a lot of interesting drama.
As for Hugh Jackman, what can I say about the man that will give him justice? The man is on a roll right now, as he's fresh off his Oscar nominated performance from "Les Miserables", and he started a new science fiction franchise before that with "Real Steel." Now, he's back to play Wolverine with a vengeance. Although this is his sixth time playing the character (now the current record holder for playing the same superhero in multiple films), it seems like Hugh hasn't gotten tired of playing him at all.
You'd think that after being nominated for an Oscar that Hugh would be growing tired of playing this character. Hell, Christian Bale got tired of playing Batman. Sure, he said he'd come back if Nolan ever asked him to, but lets face it. The only reason he said that was because he knows Christopher Nolan won't ever want to do another Batman movie, and he'd never ask Christian Bale to come back either. Therefore, you'd think that maybe Hugh Jackman would want to play other roles instead, so he can get away from being typed cast as that character. However, it seems like Hugh hasn't gotten tired of it, as he's embraced it more if anything, and it shows through his performance.
Like Christopher Reeves in the classic "Superman" movies, Hugh Jackman's passion for playing the character really shines through in his performance. He doesn't just play the character. He becomes Wolverine himself in this movie, as it's almost amazing how brilliant of an actor he can be sometimes. Granted, he's made some bad choices in parts in the past. "Kate and Leopold" anyone? However, when he's on, he's arguably one of the best there is at what he does. No pun intended.
As for the rest of the cast, I thought they played their parts rather well, and the action scenes are definitely a step up from the previous solo outing. In fact, the train sequence fight scene in the movie was arguably one of the best action scenes I've ever seen in a superhero movie. Sure, it kind of rips off the idea from "Spider-Man 2", where we saw Dock Ock and Spidey fight during a train sequence, but we'll let that slide. Besides, it was still visually impressive scene nonetheless.
Unfortunately, this is where all the positives end, as we now need to address the flaws of this movie as well. The obvious one being the 3-D conversion. If you're thinking about seeing this in 3-D, then I should warn you that it's not worth it, as it's barely noticeable half the time. The cinematography is a bit sloppy too; especially during the fight sequences as it resorts to that whole shaky cam business.
However, the bigger issues with this movie revolve around the flaws in it's own story. Don't get me wrong, it does a great job in characterizing Wolverine, and it does a great job differentiating itself as a true solo flick to stand out from the previous X-Men movies. But, I make it a point to never ignore the obvious, so we have to go over the bad stuff too.
In the film, Viper takes away his healing powers, but it doesn't really seem to affect Wolverine all that much to where it's even noticeable if I'm to be honest. For starters, Wolverine gets shot when he first discovers his healing ability is gone, yet he's still able to chase down the bad guys anyway. Plus, if his healing powers are gone, then how the hell can he still use his adamantium claws? Wouldn't that hurt like hell?
Granted, I'm aware there are some people out there that have a high threshold for pain, but that still wouldn't explain how Wolverine never bleeds to death using those claws throughout most of the film. If anything, Wolverine can still use those things effortlessly with or without his healing powers in this movie; which makes the whole subplot about him losing his healing powers temporarily seem kind of pointless. Hell, if they easily rewrote this whole story to where Wolverine never loses his healing powers to begin with, then it never would've made that much of a difference in the movie, as it doesn't seem to affect him anyway.
Sure, they try to make it seem like a big deal when you watch the trailers, and there's even a young girl who's a psychic in this film that predicts that Wolverine will die now that he's temporarily mortal. However, we all know better though, as Wolverine still gets shot and attacked constantly in this film, yet losing those healing powers doesn't really seem to slow him down in the least. Therefore, it's hard to take a subplot like that seriously, when it's this inconsistent.
Unfortunately, this also kind of kills the climax to some extent when Wolverine gains his healing powers back. Throughout the whole movie, the audience never really gets a sense that Wolverine is vulnerable without his healing powers. If anything, it doesn't seem to affect him at all; outside of the first scene where he discovers it; which makes the climax when he finally does regain his healing ability seem even less impressive. Heck, if he's able to not heal as fast, then shouldn't there have been a scene or two discussing him dealing with pain for the first time?
I mean when you stop and think about it. This is a character that has gone his whole life used to having injuries healing up in a matter of seconds. Now, he's put in a position where the pain and injuries don't go away as fast; hence he shouldn't be able to adjust to that easily. Let alone even be able to use his claws at all.
Unfortunately for "The Wolverine", it tries to use the same plot device that "Superman II" and "Spider-Man 2" used once, where the protagonist temporarily loses their powers, or one of their abilities in Wolverine's case. Sadly, it doesn't work. Why doesn't it work? Well, I'll gladly explain.
Although many young people like to make fun of Superman these days, the reality is that it was still the first series of movies that ever took comic book characters seriously, and it did it surprisingly very well for it's time period. In "Superman II", Clark gave up all his powers to be with Lois Lane, the girl that he's been madly in love with since they first met. Although it seems like a no brainer to give up those powers for love, the reality is that Superman wouldn't be able to adjust that easily without them.
After Clark loses his powers, he goes on a date with Lois Lane at a local diner. While Clark is in the restroom, Lois gets harassed by a truck driver. Clark wanting to defend the girl that he loves intervenes, but he gets his a** kicked....BADLY! In fact, they even establish, in that scene, it was the first time that Superman ever felt pain before, as it was a new sensation for him. Take in mind, Superman grew up his whole life being the strongest being on the planet, where he was practically invulnerable to anything other than kryptonite. Now, he's on the ground with a bloody lip, and he doesn't know how to handle it.
It should've been the same case with Wolverine. He shouldn't be able to adjust that easily without his healing powers because he's used to having them his whole damn life. Granted, Wolverine still has his adamantium skeletal structure, and he's still a good brawler, but if someone shoots him a few times, then he shouldn't have the energy to still fight off yakuza.
As for Viper, I know many critics have slammed her character for being a weak villain, and to some extent I agree mostly because her character is fairly forgettable.
However, it's just a movie, and I doubt most fans are honestly going to give a damn about what i just said about the negatives. Having said all that, I will say that even though "The Wolverine" has a lot of flaws, it's actually a very good movie. The story is still fairly engaging in spite of it's shortcomings, and Hugh Jackman's performance elevates the film to a whole other level.
Definitely not one of the best superhero movies that I've ever seen, but it's helluva a lot better than most of them out there. In the end, I'd have to give this film a three out of four. It's worth seeing in theaters if you haven't seen it yet, as long as you don't pay to see it in 3-D.
Also, I would advise readers to stay to watch the credits, as it sets up the next "X-Men" movie nicely.
X-Men- The Lotus and the Steel
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