Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Wolverine

Year: 2013
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi, Famke Janssen

Plot: Following the events of X-Men 3, Logan now lives in the wild, continually haunted by Jean's death. A dying Japanese man whose life Logan saved during the bombing of Nagasaki, calls him to Japan to bid farewell and offers him a chance to remove his healing ability so he may lead a normal life. However things get ugly when enemies within the old man's family get involved with the Yakuza and Logan gets stuck in the middle of it.

Review: I don't know why people hated Wolverine's origin film released a few years back. Whatever it lacked in substance, it made up with some nice action sequences, and it was still a fun experience. The critical failure of that film though has spurred Hugh Jackman to make a Wolverine film that lives up to the fans' expectations. And I must say that Jackman and director James Mangold have done that.

Now, if you walk into The Wolverine expecting The Amazing Spider-Man, you're gonna be disappointed. This is not THAT kind of movie, it's not Iron Man, it's not Thor and it certainly isn't The Avengers. The Wolverine is a well grounded comic book film that focuses on Logan's character and how he has to deal with his past and who he is essentially. While X-Men Origins: Wolverine focused on how he got the adamantium in his body, this film sheds light onto his character after he was forced to kill Jean in X3.

Now a lost and near broken man, Logan is sought by Yashida, a man he saved during the Nagasaki bombing, who offers to end his suffering from living eternally. But Logan has to contend with many dangers, including the old man's ruthless son Shingen, the Yakuza as well as a mysterious woman named Viper.

Mangold does a great job of making a film that doesn't simply rely on action sequences to be entertaining. The character study approach to Logan's story is a nice change and it is compelling enough to not be boring at all. Together with Jackman he makes Logan worthy to root for and care about, while not forgetting that action is where Wolverine is the best there is, featuring some solid sword to claw fighting sequences. Kudos to them both also for not using too much CGI and over the top stunts (save for the bullet train sequence).

Speaking of Jackman, he's in the best shape he's ever been and plays probably the best Wolverine characterisation since the first X-Men film. Credit must also be given to the filmmakers for hiring two Japanese models who although have no prior acting experience, still manage to nail the roles they were given. Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto play Yukio and Mariko respectively, the former as Mariko's adoptive sister and the latter as Yashida's granddaughter. The two are like two sides of the same coin: one hard, the other soft, but both strong and vulnerable equally. Fukushima gives enough spunk to Yukio to make her very likable, and excels in the sword fighting sequences too. Okamoto on the other hand gives a quiet demeanour to Mariko, who becomes Logan's love interest (I'm not gonna lie, she's real easy on the eyes).

Hiroyuki Sanada once again plays a sword wielding antagonist in Shingen, but he's great in it so I'm not complaining. Will Yun Lee is a bit wasted as Harada, leader of a group that protects the Yashida clan. Svetlana Khodchenkova is okay as Viper, she clearly enjoys the role a lot, but her character isn't given a lot of background or motive here, which would have helped a lot in understanding her purpose.

Mangold did slip up a couple of times with the camerawork, occasionally the fights were filmed too close and the foot chase through Tokyo looked real shaky. But other than that, The Wolverine is an awesome entry into the superhero genre, even if it doesn't have huge special effects and things blowing up every 15 minutes. I think that if you liked Logan in the X-Men films, chances are you'll love him a lot here.

Stay in your seats for the usual post credits scene. X-Men fans will surely enjoy this one. (4/5)   

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