The Wolverine

***½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 4.50 out of 5)
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“You don’t want what I’ve got.”

The Wolverine

The H-Bomb: Several years after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan (Hugh Jackman), a mutant once known as Wolverine, has given up the super hero life in favor of living as a hermit in the woods, where he is haunted in his dreams by his late lady friend, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). One night, after scuffling with some scumbags in a local bar, Logan is approached by some bug-eyed Japanese chick, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who has been sent by a wealthy old acquaintance of his, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), to bring him to Japan. Once upon time, way, way back, Logan saved Yashida’s life. Now, Yashida is dying of old age, and he wishes to see his immortal friend one last time.

After some persuading, Logan agrees to go, so long as it’s just for a day (famous last words). When he visits Yoshida by his death bed, he finds out that the old man didn’t simply wish to say goodbye, he wants something from Logan… something that Logan is not ready to give. Later that night, Yoshida passes away, and the next day, at his funeral, all hell breaks loose as some mysterious goons attempt to kidnap his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Tasked with acting as her guardian, Logan finds himself being hunted across Japan by Yakuza, Ninjas, a duplicitous American doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova), and God knows who else as he tries to figure out who wants them dead and why.

As if that isn’t enough, Logan notices that when he gets injured, he doesn’t magically heal up the way he’s supposed to. He seems curiously… mortal. In order to get to the bottom of what’s happening, Logan has no choice but to confront his inner demons, dust off his adamantium claws, and once again become the Wolverine. Let the hacking and slashing begin…

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really give a damn about X-Men. I saw the first film in theaters, and it more or less shot in one ear and out the other. When X2 came out on DVD, I rented it, pretty much the same thing happened, and I never bothered with any of the X-Men films after that. I’m not at all suggesting they’re bad movies (though I hear the third one is kind of shitty), they just never hooked me in. However, I have always been intrigued by the Wolverine character, and by Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of him. He brought such charisma and such a perfect air of belligerent badass that I’ve always found him utterly compelling in the role. I was even interested in checking out X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but the overwhelmingly negative word of mouth on that one kept me away.

Now, we get Jackman’s second stab at a standalone Wolverine film, the “forget the last one, this time we got it right” movie, The Wolverine. Directed by James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma), this latest spin-off of the X-Men franchise is about two thirds of a damn terrific movie. Eschewing the typical comic book campiness, The Wolverine is actually structured and plotted more like a conspiracy/chase film, one that favors intrigue and characterization over bombastic action set pieces. That’s not to say there isn’t any action, because there most certainly is, plenty of it, including a fantastic fight set on top of a speeding bullet train, it’s just that the story and the characters are the driving forces here.

This, naturally, means that Jackman would have to rely on more than his physical prowess, which is itself impressive, in order to carry the picture, and he does exactly that. This is a conflicted, tormented Wolverine who’s running from his past, while trying to cope with his new found mortality, and Jackman brings his A game. This is his sixth time playing the character, and you’d think he’d be getting tired of it by now, but alas, he continues to play Logan with uncanny conviction. He is given immeasurable support by Japanese actresses Okamoto and Fukushima, both making their feature film debuts. Fukushima, in particular, is impressive as an ass kicking psychic mutant who knows her way around a Samurai blade.

Less impressive is Janssen, reprising her role from the first three X-Men movies. There’s nothing wrong with her performance, the problem is that the movie overuses her. All we needed were one, maybe two dream sequences with her, to get across that Logan feels guilty over her death. But we get scene, after scene, after scene… she pops up several times through out the film to lay the guilt trip on him, and it got really redundant really quickly. But, that’s a rather minor criticism.

A major criticism would be the film’s entire third act. As stated, the first two thirds of The Wolverine play out like an awesome, gritty thriller, even if the opening asks us to believe that one can survive a nuclear blast by hiding in a well. Then the last third happens, and all the cool grittiness and brooding character development goes right out the window. Set entirely inside a James Bond villain lair, with CGI mutant morphing and a giant, robotic Samurai straight out of Sucker Punch, The Wolverine basically turns into a big, loud, dumb comic book movie, the kind of which it spent so much time trying not to be. Add on to that a tacked on post credits scene that’s meant to set up X-Men: Future of Ass’s Past or whatever the fuck it’s called, and we’re stuck with two thirds of a great movie that totally derails in the final act. Tragic.

But, up until the 100 minute mark, The Wolverine really is one hell of an entertaining flick, with a tour-de-force showing from Jackman and a surprisingly engaging story. I liked it so much it has made me interested in checking out the older X-Men movies (and even the first Wolverine film) to see if maybe I can get into them. If you’re an X-Men fan, it’s required viewing. If you’re not, then it might just make you into one.

 


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