James Mangold’s The Wolverine is now in theaters and hopes to erase the awful memory of Logan’s last stand-alone film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
*Minor plot synopsis contained below. If you want to avoid any plot mentions please proceed to the review summary box after the break.
The Wolverine has been described as a Ronin film, meaning that Logan himself is a samurai (more like soldier) without a master. This mantra is immediately made clear within the first few moments of the film’s opening. Logan has more or less shut himself off from the outside world after the events of X3, and we find him living in a forest like a hobo. He’s haunted by dreams of Jean Grey, which have driven him to give up his violent approach towards life, and for that matter, living in general.
Early on Logan gets mixed up in a bar fight due to his passion for nature, but before he fully realizes his violent tendencies, the conflict is diffused by some precise swordplay thanks to a future seeing Yukio, who is wonderfully played by Rila Fukushima. She works for a Japanese tech tycoon by the name of Yashida, who is a soldier that Logan saved during the Nagasaki nuclear bomb drop during WWII. Yashida wants to repay the Wolverine for saving him, so that’s why he sent one of his agents to bring him out of hiding.
After a 15-hour plane ride and a trip to a Japanese scrub tub, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine that we all know and love finally makes an appearance. Yashida offers him a chance to give up his immortality so he himself can continue living, which sets the main plot of The Wolverine into action. Unfortunately for Yashida, Logan isn’t down for the idea mainly because he doesn’t want to inflict his condition on anyone else, so he makes a hasty retreat and plans to leave Yashida’s compound. His departure gets delayed due to Yashida’s final passing, so through circumstance he gets mixed up in a seedy plot that forces him to be a hero once again.
Herein lies the main thread woven throughout the film, which is, does Logan really want to give up and die to be with Jean, or does he still have some fight left in him? It becomes clear early on that Logan still has a passion for saving the weak when he protects Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko, played by a very sexy Tao Okamoto, from a Yakuza attack during Yashida’s funeral.
What makes this relationship interesting is the fact that Logan loses a bulk of his healing powers early on in the film thanks to Viper’s (not a great villain by any means) handiwork, so he’s less than 100% while trying to keep Mariko safe for a large portion of the film. This concept is very reminiscent of Superman 2, namely the section of the film where Superman gives up his powers to be with Lois, and then quickly finds out that the world needs him more than a singular person. Logan didn’t give up his powers voluntarily, but through losing them he realizes that they may be needed to stop the threat that is trying to kidnap Mariko. He also dreams about what the loss could bring him, which is death, and a chance to be reunited with Jean. This inner conflict tugs at him emotionally through a large chunk of the film, and offers insights into the mind of an immortal being. It helped to make Wolverine feel more compassionate, and almost a more well rounded individual.
Although, the process of discovering the source of his lost power, and his budding feelings towards Mariko, do tend to drag on far too long. There’s nearly a 45-minute period where no action outside of some minor fisticuffs take place, and most of this timeframe is full of dialogue between Jackman’s Logan, and Okamoto’s Mariko. Their on-screen chemistry is strong, which made their relationship feel authentic and natural, as well as interesting to see grow, but in a movie about a character named after a wild beast, this long section of downtime did seem a little out of place, and slowed the pacing down mid-film considerably.
Speaking of action, there are some great fight scenes in The Wolverine, but they’re tainted due to a clear lack of blood and gore thanks to its PG-13 rating. A nerfed Wolverine is not the way to portray his prowess, but unfortunately he’s back in this film. It’s hard to believe that a mutant with indestructible claws can’t sever limbs of mere mortals, but they can tear through the side of a Japanese bullet train as if it were made out of paper. The absence of blood sprays, streaks, puncture wounds, and other injuries that claws can cause the human body to experience just looks ridiculous without blood, and it ruins any sense of realism in the movie. Shooting The Wolverine as a R-rated film would’ve made every single gnarly fight scene 10x better, and there’s a great chance it would’ve made this film one of the best entries in the Marvel X-Men movie franchise.
The lack of blood isn’t the only issue with this film though. The story itself becomes very predictable, even if you’re not well versed in Wolverine’s history. The big villain reveal at the end can be seen miles away, so there’s never a feeling of suspense in regards to how Logan’s journey will end. The long-winded dialogue sections mentioned above also derail getting invested into the film’s plot, and at times it felt like Mangold and his editing team missed the mark on certain scenes. The entire cast all give great performances, but certain sections of the film felt drawn out, and possibly out of place.
The Wolverine is definitely not the best summer movie of 2013, but it’s also not X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2. Mangold and his cast managed to craft an entertaining, and at times awesome Wolverine story. This becomes clear during the climax when the action finally ramps up and Logan realizes he needs to do what he does best, which is to kill everything in his way. The predominant Asian cast helped to flesh out the Far East setting, and brought a sense of culture to this comic book movie. Hugh Jackman once again gives a fantastic portrayal of Logan, effectively cementing him as the ultimate live action Wolverine, and one of Hollywood’s beefiest actors.
Ultimately, even with its failures, The Wolverine still provides an entertaining film going experience with a side of fun and a few laughs. It’s well worth a screening if you’ve seen the other X-Men films, and its after credit scene provides the perfect setup for X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Just don’t expect to see the Logan you’ve come to love from the comic books, because he’s too manly for Hollywood’s suits, and heaven forbid they take a risk with an R-rated comic book movie…
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