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Please let The Wolverine end Wolverine's solo career on an acceptible note
With the release of The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman extends his record. Before Hugh Jackman came around, the man who held the record for portraying the same comic book hero on film was Christopher Reeve with 4 Superman movies. In 2009, Jackman tied that record with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In 2011, he had a cameo in X-Men: First Class, extending his streak to 5.
Now, no disrespect to Jackman or his portrayal of this fan-favorite character. I'm a fan myself. But I very much feel that Wolverine works best as a stand-out character, surrounded by a variety of other well-known and interesting characters. But he does not quite work as the one and only character in a movie that we know and care about.
That being said, The Wolverine is a considerable step up from his previous solo outing. It's an enjoyable and fair movie. But please let this be the last attempt in giving him a solo movie.
But first, the story
As the movie starts, we get a flashback to a piece of Logan/Wolverine's past. It turns out that he was at a POW camp near Nagasaki at the time of the infamous bombing. He saves the life of Yashida (Ken Yamamura), a young Japanese officer at the camp.
Flash forward and we find our hero living in the mountains in full-on mountain man mode, beard and everything. He's approached by young Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who brings him to Japan for a now aged and dying Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) to give him his final thanks. Logan meets Yashida's young granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), and his lovely yet mysterious doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova).
There is danger, intrigue, assassination attempts, kidnappings, blah blah blah. The rest gets a bit overly complicated, but all in all, it's fairly entertaining.
Dot dot dot
(Slight spoiler warning with this one)
If you take this movie as an indication, apparently Wolverine is mostly defined by the women around him. In addition to having frequent visions of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), his past love, he picks up a female bodyguard of sorts, falls for a lady he's attempting to protect, and gets at loggerheads with a female super-villain. I'll let you figure out which lady fills each role.
Let me say that, on the whole, I enjoyed and liked the movie. But it is far from perfect. I can sum up the movie's weaknesses in three main points:
- Could do with the action being better spread throughout the movie
- the vilainous plot is overly complicated
- Wolverine really works best when not being given a solo film
What action there is is well done. The train sequence, for instance is quite enjoyable. In almost any action movie, one or two of the action sequences could stand to be shortened, and that's somewhat the case here, but they don't reach Man of Steel levels of "holy cow just get on with it at last!" However there is a bit of a lull in the center where just a little bit of action wouldn't have hurt.
Regarding the villain's scheme, it really is much more complicated than it needs to be. Once the film ends, it may take you a little time to work out who was working for whom and why. But once you do figure it out (if ever) you start to realize that there has to have been a much simpler way to get the job done.
Right off the bat I can already think of one super super easy way for the villains to get what they wanted much much faster and easier. But then the movie would have been much shorter and have a much more depressing end.
Some may point to X-Men Origins: Wolverine as proof that Wolverine shouldn't ever work alone in a movie. But if you think that the only problem with that movie was the fact that Wolverine was running solo, you'd better never answer any emails from Nigerian princes. The Wolverine is a significant step up from that previous outing, but in so doing, still suffers from basing an entire movie around a character who, while a fan favorite, is still fairly un-charismatic.
That's not a slight on either the character or the actor. One of Wolverine's defining characteristics is exactly the fact that he doesn't care what people think of him. Which helps him stand out when placed among other likable characters, but hobbles any movie that uses him as the sole main character.
Basically, Wolverine's no Beyonce or Timberlake. He kinda needs the backup singers to carry the story forward while he sings the show stopping solo when the time comes.
The Wolverine trailer
There was one interesting thing that I noticed, though. If you look at this as Wolverine's second movie, there's an odd similarity with previous comic book sequel movies, such as Superman II, Spider-Man 2, Iron Man 3, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and Fantastic 4: The Rise of the Silver Surfer. And that is taking away the hero's defining super powers (or in the case of Fantastic 4, simply making his powers unstable).
If you've seen the trailers, you probably already know that there is at least a part of this movie where Wolverine loses one of his most helpful abilities. As I pointed out, this is a rather common story element in comic book movies, but it doesn't play out as cliché or trite as it could have. For the most part, it works well enough.
In fact, the use of that story technique actually dovetails with a thematic concept of immortality which is quite strongly hit upon in this movie.
One of the things this movie does best, though, is whet the appetite for the next X-Men movie: X-Men: Days of Future Past. There's a scene during the credits that does a great job of teasing the next adventure. Be sure to stay for that.
But what do you think of the movie?
In the end, The Wolverine is a significant step up from his previous solo outing, and is a fun and enjoyable movie overall, but I would still give it a strong 6 / 10. Almost a weak 7 / 10. Basically, if it's a movie you think you'll like or want to see, go see it and you should be able to enjoy yourself well enough.
The Wolverine is rated PG-13 for a bit of language (including one "F"), some sexuality and a decent amount of comic book action violence.