July 25, 2013
"The Wolverine" begins with a scene at the end of World War II with the bombing of Nagasaki. Under such harsh circumstances, Logan (Hugh Jackman) strikes a friendship with a Japanese soldier, Yashida (Ken Yamamura).
Fast forward to the present time, Yashida (now played by Haruhito Yamanouchi), now the taipan of a big business enterprise, summons Logan to Japan to say his parting words as he lay dying on his amazing futuristic deathbed. When he gets there though, Logan got more than what he bargained for, as his very immortality lay on the line.
Hugh Jackman is the perfect Wolverine. By now, we all know looks the part and acts the part from previous X-Men films, and this film is no different. Logan will experience something new in this film that challenged him like nothing before, and Jackman was more than able to project that challenge. We will feel his pain. He carried this heavy film like no other actor could.
Logan will have two Japanese ladies behind him. First is Mariko (the beautiful Tao Okamoto), the statuesque granddaughter and future heir of the Yashida fortune. Second is Yukio (the anime-cute Rila Fukushima), a quirky red-haired ward of Yashida who was also a very able sword fighter. Both ladies performed very well in their respective roles.
There is only one other mutant in this mix -- the sinister Viper with her lick of deadly poison. The actress who plays her, Svetlana Khodchenkova, knew no subtlety though. She was too over-the-top, with all her exaggerated actions and facial expressions.
This film is a very heavy drama with occasional bursts of spectacular action. Some fans looking forward to nonstop slash fights may be disappointed. The best fight scene was that breath-taking one on the roof of the bullet train, and that happens in the first hour. I also enjoyed all the well-orchestrated Japanese-style sword fights and archery scenes, but these were fewer than I expected. The final battle with the Silver Samurai was also very thrilling, but the way that fight ended I felt was wanting in punch.
Save for a brief scene about a bath and another in a love hotel lobby, there was absolutely no relief from the overwhelming angst that pervades this movie. Everybody was frowning, scowling or angry almost the whole time. And this film lasts for more than two hours. Some viewers may find all this rage too much to take. Viewers who are queasy may find this film too bloody. There was even a scene of "open heart surgery", though I was amused with the medical inaccuracy shown there.
I found this a very well-made film by Director James Mangold. I liked the intense Wolverine it painted. I liked the Japanese setting and cultural references. I liked the artsy scenes featuring Famke Janssen as Jean Grey. I really like the extra scene during the final credits. Now that was a most uplifting moment and a really exciting preview of things to come. That was the only scene where a hint of a smile even crossed Logan's face.
However, as a whole the tone may have been too turgid and intense to be considered entertaining. Fans should go watch it as it is a very good film, but do not expect it to be as commercial as the other X-Men films for the average moviegoers. 7/10.