The Wolverine

*Insert shit Japanese pun here*

The Wolverine (2013)

The X-Men franchise is one of the time-hoppyist series around. We’ve had prequels, even earlier prequels and a buttload of sequels. It’s all going to get more confusing with the forthcoming Days of Future Past which will mash the First Class lot together with the established cast of the first three films in a time-spanning Avengers style ensemble pic. I have to say though, they’ve done a good job keeping the timeline pretty coherent all things considered.

“I’ve been trying to find you for over a year. My employer’s dying, he wants to thank you for saving his life. It’s an honour to meet the Wolverine.”

The Wolverine unsurprisingly tells the story of Logan (Hugh Jackman). We catch up with him years after the events of The Last Stand. He’s exiled himself and is living rough in the mountains. He’s tracked down by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who has been asked to bring him to Japan on behalf of the ailing magnate Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) who had his life saved by Logan decades before. Wolvie travels with her and soon discovers a plot to kidnap Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) to get in on some sweet ransom cash action. The Wolverine is loosely based on a popular and critically acclaimed ’80s miniseries dealing with Logan’s first solo adventure. For the most part, the story is solid, giving us a fish-out-of-water take on the now very familiar Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is always a pleasure to watch as Logan. He nailed the part long ago, but it never feels like he’s treading the same old ground or phoning it in. I get the feeling he likes playing the character as much as I enjoy seeing him in the role. The Wolverine is a more successful personal story than the widely hated X-Men Origins: Wolverine. As much as I liked Tao Okamoto, her only job seems to be standing around looking beautiful, so of course Logan falls for her instead of the kick-ass Rila Fukushima who manages to be both interesting and handy in fights. The only weak point was Famke Janssen reprising her role as Jean Grey. I don’t have a problem with Janssen at all, it’s just that the various dream sequences with her in are definitely movie low points. She just lies around in lingerie spouting all of Logan’s internal dialogue that they couldn’t be arsed to weave into the narrative. I never really bought the whole Jean/Logan relationship in the films anyway, but I soon learned to stop paying attention whenever Logan was sleeping as it meant another clunkily written chunk of fuck-all was going to happen.

Straight from the off, I felt the film was in good hands. It opens with a unnervingly quiet harbour view before showing some bombers coming in to fuck up Nagasaki nuclear style. It’s a well done sequence and the sheer spectacle of watching a nuclear blast totalling the lovely Japanese shoreside is both devastating and awesome at the same time. I like seeing Wolverine in wartime settings. More please. Whilst Wolvie’s Japanese trip seems to consist purely of things American audiences would expect from a film set in Asia, it’s not really a problem. There’s a genuinely funny and awkward moment where Logan and Mariko hide out at a love hotel which plays well. I feel the film could have done with more of these little moments as the only reason these characters fall in love is because he protects her all the time and they’re both attractive people. Mariko needed to be something pretty special for Logan to get over Jean and I just didn’t feel it. Yukio had more going on. Anyone have her number?

When I saw Hoborine living rough in the mountains, I had a thought hit me that sent an icy chill down to my stomach:  “Oh shit, I hope they haven’t gone all ‘gritty’ with this”. Thankfully, this turned out to not be the case. There’s dark stuff in it, but its not afraid to keep the tone out of the bleak doldrums other superhero films are finding themselves in. Plus, there’s a scene in a bar when Logan confronts some hunters that is classic Wolverine and made me smile broadly. In fact, all the action is well done. There’s a stunning sequence on top of a bullet train that’s the best train sequence I’ve seen since Spider-Man 2. Wolverine’s healing ability has been suppressed in this film, so most of the fight scenes have raised stakes as people can actually hurt and stop him. It’s the first time we’ve since Wolverine physically vulnerable to anyone other than Magneto and it works really well. My one qualm is that some of the fights felt pretty toothless, with people getting slashed and stabbed by Wolverine’s famous claws but there being very little resulting blood. I didn’t want it to turn into a gorefest or anything, but X2 managed to get away with quite a bit. A lot of it looked like blood and injury had been digitally removed. My guess is that when it comes down to releasing it on DVD/Blu-ray, they’ll pull a Hunger Games and include the slightly meatier cut.

My only other real problem was Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) who ends up as a pretty weak villainess. She’s just not given that much to do and she reminded me quite a lot of Batman & Robin‘s Poison Ivy, with the penchant for sucking face with her victims and generally hamming it up. Anything that reminds me of that dungheap of a film is going to have points taken off. The impressive-looking Silver Samurai is also of little consequence, but you can’t win ’em all.

“I can do this all day, you twisted mutant bitch!”

The Wolverine is pretty decent. It’s not good enough to get excited about, but it’s an entertaining enough flick. Think of it like 2008’s Incredible Hulk, solid on its own, but mostly made to bring the story in line with forthcoming “event” pictures. Speaking of which, stay after the credits ya droolmonkeys.

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