Friday, July 26, 2013

“The Wolverine” – Sharp

It’s been four years since X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released and I’m fairly sure my opinion of it has changed since then. Thinking about it now, I remember it being a subpar movie with bad special effects that just rehashed a story we already got in X2. After reading that old review, it’s clear that I was partially out of my mind back then. Not only did I say it was worth every penny, but I said to go see it again. While I stand by the body of the review (as poorly written as it was; it’s clear that I wrote it before my wife became my full-time editor), that rating was insane and I promise I won’t do it again until the next time it happens.

The reason I bring that up is that I want you to know that I’m not going to give The Wolverine a good rating just because Wolverine was my favorite comic book character as a kid (a fact I mentioned in that past review). I’m going to give it a good rating because it was a really good movie.

Unlike the Origins movie, The Wolverine looks forward by continuing Wolverine/Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) story after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. After killing Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), he has taken to living in the forest and spending each night having nightmares in which he is lying in bed with Jean, then killing her. He’s questioning his humanity and who he is and wishing that there was a way he could end his pain. As the secondary story, we’re shown a flashback of Logan saving Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), a Japanese soldier, from dying at Nagasaki when the atomic bomb is dropped. Back in the present day, he is confronted by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who is sent by a dying Yashida to find Logan and bring him back to him in Tokyo so that he may repay Logan before he dies. Yashida offers Logan a way to die; that he can transfer Logan’s healing ability to himself and make Logan mortal. Even though Logan declines the offer, it’s the beginning of Logan’s journey having to face his fears – and yes, even death. And, in case a deep dive into Logan’s psyche isn’t your cup of tea, relax – there is also plenty of action.

While Logan is battling his inner demons, he’s also trying to protect Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) from would-be kidnappers who want control of Yashida’s vast business empire. There are shootouts, lots of chases, and many bad guys shredded by Logan’s claws. But even these scenes are steeped with Logan facing those demons. Somehow, he has lost his ability to regenerate from injuries quickly and is slowly dying from gunshot wounds. Plus, he starts to have feelings for Mariko and is forced to confront those feelings while still carrying a torch for Jean. Now that I think about it, if you take away all of the killing, the movie is a lot closer to a Nicholas Sparks movie than any fan-boy could ever imagine.

What I like about the movie is that it feels much different than all of the other X-Men movies. It’s far more concerned with exploring Logan than anything that is going on around him. Sure, there are some quasi-political statements in the background (animal cruelty, the dangers of medical advances in genetics, and the never-ending brow beatings for the U.S. using nuclear weapons), but the movie smartly keeps the focus on Logan throughout the film. They could very easily have been distracted by Yukio (another mutant) or the action sequences, but somebody out there refused to let that happen. Instead, they are treated as support to Logan – just as they should be – making the movie that much better.

If there’s one flaw with this movie it’s the closing scene after the resolution of the conflict. As carefully crafted as the rest of the movie was, this scene felt contrived, alien, and even an afterthought (I won’t spoil if for you, but I’ll tell you it has an airplane it so that you recognize it). I understand why they did it – to transition to the mid-credits scene that is a set-up for the next movie: Days of Future Past (coming out May, 2014) – but, it just felt wrong and out of place. What they should have done was cut the final scene out entirely and replace it with Logan waking up from another nightmare a couple of years in the future. Then, just replace the location of the bonus scene and the end of the film would have felt much more satisfying. Maybe I’m being a little too critical here, but then maybe I’m just out of my mind again.

Rating: Do not ask for any money back and not just because of my obsession with Wolverine.

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