Monday, July 29, 2013

The Wolverine Review

The Wolverine Review

Wolverine is my favorite superhero, I am fairly sure I have made that point before. The X-Men are some of my favorite heroes ever put to comic illustration but Wolverine stands high above the rest of the fray. He has one of the most unique superpowers and origin stories ever written for comics. He is the ultimate badass appearing in comics today, he seems like a guy I'd surely get a beer with if I had the chance. I love Batman quite a bit too, but let's face it. As awesome as Batman is, Wolverine would own him in a fight. That is clear as day.

In 2009, I went to go see "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," when I talked about the X-Men 2013 Comic-Con footage, I gave a laundry list of reasons to hate that movie. I don't consider that an origin movie, it is a bastardized fan fiction that somehow got greenlit. I couldn't believe Fox could completely destroy the credibility of my favorite comic book character, but through it all he lived on in film. Now in 2013, we got "The Wolverine."

"The Wolverine" is not a sequel to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" it is a sequel to X3. We meet Logan in Canada, but certain events which took place in X3 haunt his dreams, the X-Men have disbanded and Logan is on his own. This is a very different Logan we are used to seeing, but he is still just as badass. During WWII, Logan was POW in Nagasaki, on the day America dropped an atomic bomb on the city, Logan rescues a Japanese officer from the blast.

Years later, Logan is approached by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who speaks for the officer he saved, the officer is dying of cancer and wants extract Logan immortality. While Logan views his mutant power as a curse, he refuses to part with it. He has nightmares of becoming mortal, but they are just dreams right...?

...Wrong, and soon enough, Logan is on the trail of how he lost his powers, why the officers granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is getting kidnapped by Yakuza and why this is all happening. Of course, Logan's solution is simple, questions and claws.

I am very happy that for once we actually have a "good" stand-alone Wolverine film. Yes folks, its true, "The Wolverine" is actually good. This is not another embarrassment, not even close. It isn't the most flawless, perfect Wolverine film that could ever be made. But, good God, we got a good Wolverine film. Something I don't feel bad about putting on my DVD shelf, something that really respects the character and how he's been written over the years, the joy this revelation fills me with is unbearable.

Hugh Jackman has basically become Wolverine at this point, he has perfected the art of the character. If Jackman ever retires from the character, the next actor will have huge shoes to fill. Just as Robert Downey Jr. embodies everything that makes Iron Man who he is, the same can be said about Jackman and Wolverine. This time, Jackman has the best version of the character ever written and he throws himself into it in the best possible way. Fukushima as Yukio is a great discovery, and she gives great life to the most badass female ninja ever committed to film. I hope to see this budding actress in more action later down the road. The Japanese cast over all is very good. Hiroyuki Sanada plays Mariko's brother, if you remember how noble he was in "The Last Samurai," let me just say that Sanada can be a greasy, evil villain as well. Sventlana  Khodchenkova plays Viper, the mysterious mutant behind Logan loosing his powers, she is also very effective.

I love that this story is written so well. Director James Mangold and screenwriters Christopher McQuirre, Mark Bomback, and Scott Frank have crafted a very human yet epic superhero film. For the first time ever, Logan is written very well. The awkward clumsiness, jokey cuteness and constant screaming is put on the back-burner and Wolverine becomes a full-fledged character. I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing that is to see. But don't be fooled, the action set-pieces in this film are astounding. When story and action can come together in equal measure, the result is breathtaking. So is the result (mostly) throughout "The Wolverine."

I get a minor hang-up with the third act. There are so many twists and turns throughout this entire movie that it almost feels like too much story. If they just focused on a couple key points, I think the film would have been better overall. I like story but too much of it is a bad thing, just as too much of anything is a bad thing. Plus, the characters get a lot sillier near the end of the film, but the final battle is pure fun. (Especially when Logan goes head-to-head with The Silver Samurai!) One thing I also found annoyingly interesting is what happens to Logan at the end. Logan will loose something very important to his character, something dear to him. How they address this in the future (i.e. X-Men: Days of Future Past coming May 23rd 2014) will be very interesting. But right now, I couldn't believe he lost that.

Oh and did I mention Days of Future Past? Because you will want to stay after the credits. Yes a set-up for the upcoming movie is after the credits. It leaves you with a big, epic cliffhanger that you will want to purchase a time machine and go forward to May 2014. My smile got really big and I almost wanted to get up and clap! 2014 needs to hurry up and get here.

For now, "The Wolverine" is a great start and thankfully a good film. I almost teared up to finally see something that respected how cool this character can truly be and how compelling a story you can gain from him. While its not perfect, its bold and that's good enough. I hope to see more stand-alone adventures with Logan and Yukio. Because the setup for these two to go around and kick butt is impossible to resist. A good Wolverine movie exists, now I can die a happy man.


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