Film Review: The Wolverine

August 14, 2013 6:25 pm

The Wolverine might just be the superhero film that fans of the character have been waiting for. Peeling off the porous scab that was Origins, James Mangold’s film focuses on Wolverine’s Japan saga created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller in the 1983 miniseries. It does a good job of shifting the focus away from other mutants solely onto Wolverine, and having learned from Origins’ mistakes, keeps their number at a minimum. Although the storyline and the characters are a bit shifted and shuffled around compared to the comics, that’s not a bad thing as it works well and the relations between them remain intact, helping to better shape Logan’s journey.

The film starts with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) saving a young Japanese officer named Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) from the nuclear blast in WWII Nagasaki. Fast forward to the present and we find Wolverine living with bears in a self-imposed exile in the Yukon, haunted by the death of Jean Gray and trying to come to grips with his own immortality. Of course, this hermit lifestyle doesn’t last for very long and he picks up a fight with a hunter in a bar. He is interrupted by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a Harajuku girl-ninja that summons him to Japan at the request of her employer, the aforementioned Yashida, now a tech mogul. Hearing of the old man’s impending death, Wolverine reluctantly agrees to accompany her and starts his adventures in Japan.

From here on, he will spend most of the film without his healing power, dealing with an existential crisis and confronting his own mortality, in the end finding love and new reasons to fight and live for. The story is something you’d expect from superhero movies nowadays, as most have adopted the psychological deconstruction of the protagonist. Some critics have argued that the film gets stuck somewhere in limbo, never finding its pace between drama and action, focusing more on the latter. I would say that the pacing is good because the film is in the end an action movie, but those dramatic beats remind us of Wolverine’s motivations. And how can you not love the bullet train sequence which rivals those from the Bourne trilogy?

The lack of much drama might be perceived as a directorial/writer hiccup but, as much as it pains me to admit it, because I have very fond childhood memories of him, Wolverine isn’t a very rounded character. There are plenty of them in the Marvel Universe, starting with Iron Man and ending with Silver Surfer, but Wolverine is one-dimensional most of the time. Even Claremont’s writing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though good in the 80’s, by today’s stand

Hugh Jackman shows off his acting chops.

Hugh Jackman shows off his acting chops.

ards his frequent thought bubbles would seem distracting and one has to credit Grant Morrison and Joss Whedon with writing the best X-Men comics to date.

But nevertheless, Hugh Jackman puts on a very good performance, his best from his six outings as Wolverine. This is in part due to the fact that he arrives in Japan as “kuzuri”, the ferocious god-like animal we admire, but soon loses his healing powers, transforming into the troubled human we can identify with. The loss of his power also gives Jackman the chance to flex his acting muscles rather than his ripped body. He is charismatic, troubled and brings the character to life in great fashion, making Wolverine into the ronin he always was at heart.

The rest of the cast, even though a bit clichéd, do a great job acting as foils for Wolverine and strengthening his goals.  The only character that seems to be lacking any motivation whatsoever is Viper. I suspect this is because Fox cannot use the Hydra characters from Marvel/Disney, but still, there should have been a slight hint of motivation there.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and would rank it up there with the first two X-Men, even though it acts as a stand-alone. The only part that I found out of place, illogical and kind of rushed was the ending. I won’t spoil anything, but its quality is much lower than the rest of the film. Also, remember that it’s a Marvel (well, Fox here) movie and you have to stay until the credits roll as there is a scene that ties into Days of Future Past.

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