When one thinks of iconic portrayals of characters, you usually think of Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, Shuichi Ikeda as the voice of Char Aznable, or more recently, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is also part of that list, and in his fifth go (or sixth if you count his cameo in X-Men: First Class) as the iconic mutant, he still manages to bring something new to the character. Thank god, as comic book fans are finally treated to a Woverine film worthy of watching.
EDIT: Check out Starshine’s opinion here.
The Wolverine is a “pseudo” sequel to 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. In the beginning of the film, we are introduced to a “war” weary Logan, who has been living in the Canadian wilderness. Logan is still tormented by the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who he was forced to kill in The Last Stand. Jean appears to Logan throughout the film in dreams, which helps show the guilt Logan is living with.
However, this is important as the film is a journey of healing and acceptance of past actions. This journey begins when Logan meets Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a servant of a dying man who Logan saved during the bombing of Nagisaki. The old man, whose name is Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), requests Logan’s presence in Japan. When Logan arrives, Yashida offers to “take” his immortality (healing factor) from him so that he may grow old and die. In a life as long and tormented as the one Logan has been living, this is quite the offer.
Director James Mangold draws influence from the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller storyline in the comics. Yet he’s also able to craft his own tale. The dynamic between Logan and Yukio was definitely a highlight of the film. Not only was their dialogue a blast, but Yukio’s “ability” to foresee death was a contrast of sorts to Logan’s invulnerability. This became more relevant as Logan’s healing factor became weaker throughout the film (due to something I won’t spoil here). Seeing Logan become vulnerable for a change helped move along the plot point that although he’s lived a hard life and the prospect of actually dying sounds nice, we are who we are and must live with our actions.
Another great dynamic in the film was that of Logan and Mariko Yashida (Tao Okamoto), the granddaughter of Yashida and Logan’s love interest. Mariko is upgraded from a mere damsel-in-distress in the comics to a deeper character, one who has her own demons. Logan is able to gradually heal emotionally through Mariko, while Mariko is able to come to terms with the fact she is her own woman, capable of many things.
As I mentioned earlier, this movie not only about living with past actions (“we are who we are”) but healing, and while Logan may be able to heal physically without problems (except for instances in this film), emotional scars can take a long time to recover. We see this type of healing happen through his interactions with Mariko.
Although most performances were stellar, there were a few that fell flat or were one dimensional. Mariko’s father Shingen Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada) and her childhood friend Harada (Will Yun Lee) come to mind. The only other mutant present in the film is Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), and while she does a decent job in her scenes, she still comes off as a typical femme fatale. I should mention that I appreciated the lack of mutants besides Logan in the film outside of Viper. Instead of an action film with super powered people running about, we’re allowed to view a story and character centric one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of action, yet I was pleasantly surprised at a more narrative driven super hero film.
Speaking of action, the fights are pretty awesome. Well, except for this one bullet train scene that felt pretty jarring for me personally. I know many reviewers have criticized the somewhat “cartoony” climax, but I wasn’t bothered in the slightest. The jarring nature of the bullet train scene I believe is more egregious.
Ultimately, The Wolverine was a very enjoyable film, and by far my favorite this summer. It’s Jackman’s finest performance as the grizzled Wolverine, and the mythos is explored like never before. Viewers should be pleasantly surprised with the focus on story, and there’s still plenty of action for fans of the genre. Comedic bits are thrown in (the love hotel scene comes to mind), but it’s not overdone. And if you’re a fan of Japan in general, the country is greatly featured. You might say, “Duh, of course, it’s set in Japan,” but just because a film is set in a country doesn’t guarantee you get a great experience. In The Wolverine, you definitely do.
–Hugh Jackman’s greatest performance as Wolverine, with the mythos being explored like never before
–Dynamic relationships between Wolverine and Yukio and Wolverine and Mariko
–Focus on story and character development
–For the most part, great action
–Some flat and one dimensional performances
–Certain viewers might be turned off by the lack of other mutants
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