At the Movies: The Wolverine

I’m relieved to report that “The Wolverine” is a much better film that its predecessor, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

It’s a mixed bag, though, and won’t rate among the great Marvel movies. Instead it sits somewhere comfortably in the upper middle.

The film opens with  Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) living as a recluse in the Canadian wilds, still haunted by the death of the woman he loved, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). And I mean literally haunted. They engage in conversations when he’s sleeping or unconscious.

imagesDuring one such nap Logan drifts back to the Second World War, where he saved a Japanese soldier from the nuclear bomb explosion over Nagasaki (That’s right, The Wolverine is atomic-bomb proof). That soldier,  Ichirō Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), goes on to become a wealthy businessman.

But money won’t buy immortality, so on his deathbed Yashida sends one of his trusted aides, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), to fetch The Wolverine. Logan returns to Japan where Yashida claims he can end Wolverine’s curse of immortality by passing it over to him.

Logan declines the offer and is ready head home but becomes intrigued by Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). When Mariko is attacked at her grandfather’s funeral, Wolverine finds himself caught up in a very deadly family feud.

“The Wolverine”  tells an intriguing, straightforward story that’s much better than the disjointed mess that was his previous film. It’s almost a bit too straightforward — no one should have any trouble figuring out who the bad guy is behind everything that happens. I was surprised that Logan was surprised.

Hugh Jackman continues to prove that, while he may not have been the first choice, he was the perfect choice to play Wolverine. He plays tender and psychotic with equal skill and he does nice work as the stranger in a strange land.

There are some nifty action scenes, such as a fight on a bullet train and Wolverine’s battle with the giant Silver Samurai.

On the downside there are pacing problems —  the movie is slow to get moving — and things get silly with the introduction of mutant villain Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). Viper brings a cartoonish quality to the proceedings that doesn’t fit the film’s more serious tone.

My biggest problem with the film is one scene — a moment so out-of-place in a Wolverine story that it ranks up there with Superman breaking Zod’s neck. I refer to the scene near the end of the film where Logan is headed to a tower to rescue Mariko and is confronted by a dozen ninjas.

Logan then proceeds to run towards the tower. Wolverine doesn’t run from a dozen ninjas. Wolverine jumps headfirst into a dozen ninjas, kills them all, then walks to the tower. Why did he run? Did he think he could outrun a dozen ninjas? Did he think they would just stand there dumbfounded and watch him run away, instead if impaling him with dozens of arrows until he collapsed?

Pardon me for nerding out but I don’t know what director James Mangold was thinking. If he thought the sight of Wolverine doggedly marching on as ninjas keep shooting him in the back was inspiring and courageous — he was wrong. It just looked silly.

Do not bother seeing this in 3D. Do bother to stay through the credits.

 

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