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The Wolverine Review

The Wolverine Review

The Wolverine

Written By Bryan M Zarpentine

Hugh Jackman takes center stage, once again without his X-Men co-stars by his side, as he reprises the role of the immortal hero Logan in The Wolverine. Director James Mangold breathes new life into Wolverine saga, as he adds a rich storyline, introduces characters unknown to the X-Men universe that are played by unknown actors, and does his best to avoid producing another generic superhero-action film. However, while Jackman gives a strong enough performance to carry the movie from beginning to end, Mangold struggles to find the right balance between telling a story and delivering the kind of action sequences we’ve come to expect from a movie like this. As a result, The Wolverine is nothing more than an average superhero movie.

The movie begins in confusing fashion, with a dream within a dream sequence. The first dream is Logan having a flashback to the time he saved a Japanese man from the atomic blast in Nagasaki, an event that will ultimately set in motion the plot of The Wolverine. He awakes from that dream to find himself in the first of several hallucinatory dream sequences in which he is alongside Jean Grey, played by Famke Janssen. After accidentally sticking his claws through Jean, killing her, Logan wakes up from his dream startled and distraught.

It is then that we finally see what Logan is up to a significant period of time after the conclusion of The Last Stand. He is removed from civilization, living in the woods, alone and angry, and rejecting his Wolverine moniker. The nightmares that he just experienced have become a common occurrence, causing him great psychological stress. When he heads to the nearby town to confront a hunter that left a bear to suffer rather than kill it, Logan’s claws come out (literally). However, during his fight with the hunter, a Japanese woman named Yukio, played by Rila Fukushima, intervenes. Yukio informs Logan that she has been looking for him for quite some time, and the true plot of the movie gets underway.

Yukio has tracked Logan down at the request of Yashida, played by Hal Yamanouchi, an ailing Japanese tycoon from Logan’s past that Yukio says wishes to say goodbye to Logan before he dies. Logan hesitantly agrees to fly to Tokyo, but he is angered when he gets there and finds out that Yashida has ulterior motives for wanting to see him before he dies, and those ulterior motives pertain to Logan’s healing ability and immortality, which then become the primary theme of the film and a constant source of conflict for Logan, both physically and internally.

Upset at Yashida’s proposition, Logan has every intention of leaving Tokyo and returning to his secluded home in the woods, but before he can, he is drawn into the drama surrounding Yashida’s family, his imminent death, and the issue over who will inherit his business and all the money that comes with it. Soon after this, more than 30 minutes into the film, the first true action sequence takes place.

The audience will start to grow a little impatient by having to wait so long for the kind of action they were expecting, but the plot up to that point should hold the attention of the audience until then, as Mangold intentionally delays the first major action sequence as a way develop a meaningful story-line. The plot isn’t so much complex as it is mysterious, which helps to draw in the audience. The dream sequences that Logan experiences, as well as the surreptitious nature of Yashida’s request and the unfamiliar but intriguing characters keeps the audience engaged until the first fight scene.

That first fight scene is a full out battle royal. It combines a gang-style gunfight with traditional Japanese Samurai fighting, with Wolverine’s patented claws thrown in as the ultimate x-factor. The scene is obviously a welcome change after it took so long for the plot to unfold, but while the scene was entertaining, it was also a bit amateurish and showed Mangold’s inexperience directing action movies. There were so many individuals involved in the fight and so many moving parts that the entire sequence became chaotic and difficult to follow. The guns were boring compared to the Samurai fighting and Logan’s use of his claws, and even those parts of the sequence were unspectacular. The focus of the fight should have been primarily on Logan, but it wasn’t, which was a mistake, especially considering he is the titular character and the main focus of the movie.

Ultimately, the fight scene led to a chase through the streets of Tokyo, which could have been choreographed better, but it did provide a scenic look at the Tokyo cityscape, which added another dimension to a fairly ordinary chase scene. The chase scene ended with Mariko, Yashida’s granddaughter, played by Tao Okamoto, emerging as the second most important character of the film. Mariko escapes the fight and subsequent chase, slipping onto a bullet train bound for southern Japan, where her family lives. Logan has boarded the train as well, and despite his earlier plans to flea Japan, he insists that he accompanies her as her bodyguard to ensure her safety, which becomes his main objection for the remainder of the movie.

Mariko and Logan attempted escape on the train sets up arguably the best action sequence of the movie, which is a fight scene between Logan and Mariko’s attackers on top of a train that’s moving 300 miles per hour. The scene so obviously defies the laws of physics, but it is the most entertaining part of the movie, as the magic of Hollywood takes over. The scene moves fast, but the actors, especially Jackman, sell it well, as they hang on for dear life while also trying to win the battle.

Following the train scene, the action ceases for a while, as the plot slows down. The movie switches back to Logan’s internal struggle, and adds a new dimension regarding the bond and relationship that develops between Logan and Mariko. It is here that the movie begins to lose focus and Mangold begins to lose the audience. Things begin to jump around too much, and although the plot begins to come together and some of the mysteries are revealed, it is too late. Mangold tries to save the film, attempting an epic scene in which Mariko watches as Logan collapses, not having the strength to fight through an onslaught of more than 20 attackers without being captured. However, by this point, not even the final plot twist in the midst of the movie’s final fight scene can fully re-engage the audience.

Although the movie fell apart a bit towards the end, there are plenty of positives that came out of it, the first of which is Jackman’s performance. He’s obviously a veteran of playing the part by now, and it shows. He physically looks the part of Wolverine, and he does well with all the stunts that come along with playing the role. Even more impressive is how he portrays the character internally. Mangold devotes a lot of the movie to Logan’s inner struggle and the demons he faces psychologically, and Jackman meets the challenge of having to portray that, often without using words, which makes his performance all the more impressive.

However, this movie was not without its cons. First and foremost: the dialogue. At far too many times, the dialogue is unnatural, as if the movie is trying too hard to be dramatic and ominous, especially in the early part of the movie before the action starts, when in reality, the plot should be strong enough to hold the attention of the audience. Also, the profanity used in the movie is unnecessary. Profanity is not something that a hero like Wolverine should be using frequently, and in this movie, it’s as if profanity was put into the dialogue just for the sake of having profanity in the movie, making the dialogue sound even more unnatural.

The biggest gripe in this movie is the so-called love story that develops between Logan and Mariko. It’s obviously rare for any movie be without some kind of love story, but in The Wolverine it is unnecessary and detracts from the rest of the plot. The relationship between Logan and Mariko works fine as a hero trying to ensure the safety of someone in need, making the romantic relationship between the two unnecessary. Furthermore, there is absolutely no romantic chemistry between the actors, and the difference in age between the actors makes any romance between them seem unlikely and a bit creepy. There is little build up to the start of their romantic involvement, which makes it rather forced and out of the blue as well, confusing the audience and taking their attention away from what’s important.

Ultimately, The Wolverine gets three out of five stars. There are more than enough disappointing moments to knock it down to two stars, but Jackman’s effort and portrayal of the titular character saves it. Mangold gets credit for attempting to find a balance between action and story, despite failing to do so. The plot is interesting, and there are enough decent action sequences, but there’s nothing to make this movie stand out above others in its genre, which is why it gets a mediocre three stars.

Finally, a word for the wise, stick around for a couple minutes after the credits start to roll, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Release date: July 26, 2013 (USA)
Director: James Mangold
Prequel: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Screenplay: Mark Bomback, Christopher McQuarrie
Producers: Hugh Jackman, John Palermo, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner

Pros: Hugh Jackman’s strong performance carries the movie; an interesting plot line that is set up well and has a nice twist at the end; and quality supporting performances from unknown actresses Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima.

Cons: Poor dialogue throughout; cheesy super hero one liners that draw cheap laughs because they’re bad, not because they’re clever; the movie loses focus late; and the director’s inexperience in action movies is evident

Review Rating 3/5 Stars