Review: The Wolverine

The WolverineBack in 2009 we received in my opinion one of the poorest written, character bloated, and frankly insulting big budget comic book movies to date. Playing on the love of the Wolverine character, Fox Studios decided it could just throw anything at the fanbase and make it stick. Thankfully fans and critics alike rejected X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Four long years later, Fox makes another attempt at capturing the essence of the popular Marvel hero. The James Mangold directed sequel picks up years after the events of X-Men 3 where we find our titular hero in a self induced exile. Roaming around with an overgrown beard and a severe chip on his shoulder, Logan AKA Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), lives in the forest and interacts with other humans as little as possible. Haunted by visions of the ghost of former X-Men teammate Jean Grey, Logan has promised her and himself that he would shy away from violence. Unsurprisingly, this lasts about 10 minutes into the movie before he is forced to act when he witnesses some moral injustice. During his falling off of the non-violence wagon Logan meets a woman from Tokyo named Yukio (Rila Fukushima).

Yukio tells Logan that she knows who he really is and that her employer would like to see him in Tokyo. Her employer is a former acquaintance named Ichirō Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). Yashida has been in Logan's debt after being saved during the bombing of Nagasaki in World War 2. Wanting to finally repay the favor, Yashida offers to take Logan's immortality, which he sees as a burden on Logan, and let him finally die. At the request of Yashida, Logan finds himself asked to protect Yashida's granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) as one last favor for an old friend.

During a funeral, Logan is attacked by the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime syndicate), who attempt to kidnap Mariko. The sequence of the fight is quick paced and closely shot. While I don't care for close shot action it wasn't horrible here. I think its a lazy choice and I wish the method would go out of style really fast. Outside of that the scene was shot wonderfully. There is an expertly shot bullet train scene soon after that I thoroughly enjoyed. This for me was the highlight of the film. The movie up until this point works well. Feeling more like an old school Japanese mobster film more so than a big dumb summer movie throwaway.

The film then has a very distinct drop off that was rather bothersome to me. In the final act it seemed as if everyone was rushing to tack on a superhero element. As a fan of superhero movies I don't have a problem with ridiculous moments of guys flying around in spandex with capes. However, tone matters. The Wolverine up until the finally third of the movie was vastly different tonally. This was jarring and really made the final showdown less impactful. Had the tone been consistent I think I would have enjoyed it more. Originally, Darren Aronofsky was to direct The Wolverine, but later left the project. Its very clear to me that Aronofsky's vision for the infamous Japanese saga remained looming over the project long after his departure. Mangold attempted to make an Aronofsky type film, but fell short. Not being able to make the moments between the great action set pieces interesting was a fault that can't be overlooked. Logan and Mariko's relationship was put front and center at times but really failed to be that interesting. I sadly cared more about Logan and the ghost of Jean Grey's oddball interactions more.

While not nearly as bad as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this movie made a valiant attempt at presenting a character that surprisingly is far more complicated than Hollywood seems to admit. Hugh Jackman at this point is Logan/Wolverine, and embodies the character whole heartedly. He brings a sense of familiarity to the role with this being his 6th time playing him. Rila Fukushima works well as a caricature of an anime character. She does great work in playing as the sidekick of Wolverine. Tao Okamoto is a pitch perfect Mariko from the original comics. Quiet and deliberate in her actions and exuding a stereotypical level of Japanese conservatism. The movie is a step in the right direction for Fox Studios who is trying to rebrand themselves and keep up with the Disney owned Marvel franchises. The Wolverine is a surprisingly interesting film and will surely cause debate in the fanboy community. A slow burning Japanese gangster film with a decent superhero pay off in the end. Go see The Wolverine.

[easyreview title= "Review of The Wolverine" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.5" overall= false]