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Movie Review: 'The Wolverine'

The Wolverine

Starring Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada
Directed by James Mangold
Rated PG-13

I’m not going to sugarcoat this, 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine was shit.   The movie, which reportedly cost $180 millions dollars to make, not only looked like that $180 million went to something else that wasn’t the budget of the film, but the story, direction, the pacing of the movie, it was a huge mess.  I don’t blame Hugh Jackman though. The guy, from the very beginning, has always tried to make Wolverine something really awesome and for the most part he has.  After the every fan and his mother cried foul on the waste of two hours known as Origins, Jackman has always stated that the next Wolverine movie would rectify all the missteps from the first one.  I’ve never doubted Jackman when he said that, really just based on what he’s always brought to the character.  The good news, The Wolverine is a huge step forward for the character and for me erases all the hatred I had toward Origins.  The bad news, Wolverine should’ve been R rated.

Walking into The Wolverine, my expectation level wasn’t very high.   I don’t know if that was just me being overly cautious to not get my hopes blasted out of the water due to trailers that really didn’t excite me or if it was just remembering back to walking out of seeing X-Men: The Last Stand, hating that movie, then seeing Origins and feeling that the franchise was ready to be fitted with a toe tag.  But walking out of The Wolverine, I felt a sense of relief, that Jackman made good on his promise, that that the X-Men franchise, be it the X-Men movies themselves or any future Wolverine films, can hold off on that toe tag for a little while longer. 

The Wolverine, in case you aren’t aware, is based on a short series of comics from Frank Miller and Chris Claremont, which has Logan going to Tokyo Japan.  But before that, the movie opens with Logan (Jackman) living his life as a recluse, trying to not be the Wolverine anymore.  But that part of him is the reason for a visit by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who has been summoned by her boss to find Logan and bring him to Japan so that he may make good on a dying wish to thank Logan for saving him during the bombing of Nagasaki during WWII.  After some reluctance, Logan agrees.  Once in Japan, he finds that his old acquaintance Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), wants to ‘cure’ him of his immortality so that his suffering will end.  But this wouldn’t be a superhero movie if the plot was that simple.  Soon, Logan finds himself protecting Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and dealing with the sudden realization that his immortality is disappearing, thanks to the overzealous doctor/mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) and Yashida’s own son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada). Their plan is to not only to eliminate Mariko, but to make good on Yashida’s request to rid Logan of his powers.

The one thing that really stands out for The Wolverine is how it doesn’t look cheap.  Even down to Wolverine’s claws (in Origins, the CGI on those bad boys was absolutely laughable).  It also helps to shoot the movie in somewhere as picturesque and flush with color as Tokyo, but to make the CGI look minimal is pretty outstanding.  Director James Mangold also does a good job at not only keeping the pace of the movie really flowing, but creating two actions sequences (one involving a bullet train and the showdown at the end of the film) more exciting than anything I saw in Iron Man 3 or Man of Steel.   The movie is also helped by the martial arts element in the picture and Mangold, who isn’t really known for being an action director, keeps you from wondering what is going on.  The best way to describe it, think of how Sam Mendes directed Skyfall and then you’ll have a pretty good idea of how Wolverine is.

The story, well it miles ahead of what was in Origins, but it has a few flaws.  The villian in Wolverine is anything but memorable, in fact it’s the weakest part of the story.  Wolverine also includes Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who appears intermittently throughout as sort of an inner conflict that Logan has to deal with.  But the story wouldn’t have suffered by keeping her out of the story altogether.  The same goes for Harada (Will Yun Lee) a character from Mariko’s past that may be a good guy, may be a villan, he could have been cut as well.

As I stated before, I wish The Wolverine carried an R rating, because the tone, the characters and the story call for it.  That shouldn’t be a deterrent from seeing this mind you because rest assured Wolverine fans; I think you’ll more than enjoy this one.  And stick around during the credits there is a great scene that sets up where the future is headed in the X-Men world.

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