Title: The Wolverine (2013)
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi
The Wolverine is the summer movie that slipped by me, it was not a top priority in my list because there were so many other summer flicks that seemed more mind blowing, I figured I’d get to it eventually. The trailers hadn’t blown me away and to be honest, I didn’t think it was going to be good, I guess it had something to do with how much I loathed X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), the last Wolverine solo movie. You know, the crappy one, the one that should’ve never happened. Well, I am happy to report that this latest Wolverine movie completely ignores that last film, the story basically unfolds as if that last Wolverine film had never happened. And I am also happy to report that The Wolverine is a solid film, a good Wolverine movie at freaking last! All you need to know is that you should see this one as a continuation of X-Men: The Last Stand (2009). So what exactly made The Wolverine not suck?
This time around we meet up with Wolverine as he is trying to forget his connections with the X-Men; he can’t deal with the fact that he essentially killed the love of his life, Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand (2009), so he’s gone off to Canada to live a life of solitude, disconnected from everyone. He’s still a do gooder, but he wants to be left alone. Unfortunately for him, the past won’t let him be. You see, in 1945, during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Wolverine saved a soldier named Yashida from the atomic blast. The man feels a debt with Logan, and so as Yashida lies in his death bed, he wants to see Logan one last time, to thank him for having saved his life. But Yashida wants more than to thank Wolverine. As it happens, after Logan saved his life, Yashida ended up becoming the head honcho of a major corporation that specializes in technological advances and so, Yashida wants to use this high tech to somehow extract Wolverines healing factor. The problem is that extracting Logan’s healing factor would kill him. Yashida thinks Logan will agree because Logan sees his immortality as ‘a curse’. The question arises: will Logan agree to do the process, or will he find a reason to continue living?
The first thing that worried me about this film was James Mangold directing. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing because Mangold has directed some decent films in his time, Copland (1997), Girl Interrupted (1999) and 3:10 to Yuma (2007) come to mind, but in my opinion he is not one of those directors who has a distinctive style or anything, he doesn’t put a stamp on his films. Plus, I mean we had Darren Aronofsky almost direct this one and that prospect got me jazzing my pants. Sadly, it never came to be and we got Mangold, a director I see as a ‘directors for hire’, kind of like Joe Johnston. These are directors who do a good job of directing a film, it will look great, it’ll tell it’s story, but the film wont have a stamp on it, it wont be unique in any way. These directors simply do their job as directors, they follow the studios requests and voila! a product is sold. If I had to say something distinguishes a Mangold film is that he gets good performances out of his actors, he focuses on the characters and the story, which of course is a good thing on any film, and in the end its something that benefits this particular film, because Wolverine is a character that's begging to be explored.
Good thing is that on this film we get to know Logan better than any other X-Men or Wolverine film that’s been released. This movie is not just one action sequence to the next, or one crappy cgi filled moment to the next, nope, on this one we spend some quality time with the character. Kudos to the writers for coming up with some really cool moments in terms of things that can happen to Wolverine, as a comic book geek, I was enthralled with some of the events that unfold here, not gonna spoil it though! The film does a good balancing act between character development and solid action. Ever wanted to see Wolverine battling a bunch of ninjas? You’ll see it here. Ever wanted to see Wolverine go up against an atomic bomb? It happens here. There’s this awesome sequence where a bunch of bad guys chase Logan on top of a bullet train, cool stuff. Exciting! But we are not left without the more introspective moments, moments were we see Logan falling in love anew or moments when Logan remembers the love of his life, Jean Grey. Also, this is the first film of all these X-Men/Wolverine films that made me realize that essentially Logan's an immortal? Kind of like Highlander (1986)? They really put a focus on this aspect of the character which they hadn't done so much before, so we get Logan dealing with some of the issues that an immortal has to deal with, like watching his loved ones die.
The only complain I might have is that it was a bit too similar thematically speaking to films like Prometheus (2012) and Blade Runner (1982), because all these films are about a person close to death that’s searching for eternal life, which brings the movie down a notch in terms of originality, but aside from that? It’s all cool in my book. The villains were cool, I have to admit I loved the way they depicted ‘Viper’ the snake lady with the poisonous tongue…cool character, truly a threat to Logan. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was great, this is the sixth time he has portrayed the character, and well, by now he’s got it down flat. This Wolverine is a bit closer to what Wolverine is like in his solo stories, alone, depressed and pissed off, always on the edge. I still have to wonder what Darren Aronofsky would have done with the character, Aronofsky ended up not directing because he wrote a script that was too ‘R’ rated, and much darker in tone, the studio didn’t want to mess with their kid friendly golden calf, so Aronofsky dropped out. With this kind of film, the studio wants it to be PG-13 because they want to aim it at kids, and Aronofsky didn’t want to make a kids film, he wanted to make a serious take on the character. I’d say that Mangold managed to deliver the goods for the studio (the film still ended up being PG-13) but at the same time, it’s not all that kid friendly, its PG-13 but it’s not strawberry shortcake. I mean, Wolverine is spewing profanities left and right on this one. Wolverine says bitch, asshole, he says shit quite a few times…and finally he utters the king of all profanities “fuck” on one occasion, because that’s what the MPAA allows on a PG-13 film. You get to say one fuck, so you better use it wisely! I guess this was the studios version of giving the film an ‘edge’. There’s also a scene in which Wolverine walks in on a bad guy as he is with a bunch of prostitutes walking around in their underwear, but that’s as far as the “edge” on this film goes. Bottom line is that maybe some scenes might be a bit too much for little kids.
Ninjas always make any movie that much cooler
And speaking of little kids, I saw this one on a packed theater filled with little kids! It was a cool experience because I got to see a bunch of kids hollering and cheering for Wolverine every time he did something cool or heroic, I mean I actually saw this little kid super excited during the train sequence, it took me back to when I was a little kid. At the same time, I saw another little kid next to me say something like “enough!” when the movie got a little too talky. What us adults call character development bores the hell out of the kids. So anyways, that’s my two cents on The Wolverine, not a bad movie at all, not the piece of crap I was expecting and it’s a million times better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. One more thing, after the movie is over, wait for the extra ending that will have you salivating for the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), which will reunite the X-Men from the past and the future in one gigantic, orgasmic comic book movie. This film will mark the return of Bryan Singer to the X-Men franchise which he helped launch with the highly successful X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003). Anxiously awaiting that one, it looks promising!
Rating: 4 out of 5