Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wolverine Movie Review

Hugh Jackman is The Wolverine

Who's the Caveman?

It took serious cahoonas to make a superhero movie with just one star (albeit one as charismatic as Hugh Jackman) and a storyline that takes part almost entirely in Japan; but James Mangold's The Wolverine breathes new life into a once-promising series... sprinkling bits of humor amidst some truly spectacular action sequences, en route to one amazing rock 'em, sock 'em affair.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Hugh Jackman returns as Wolverine in this sequel to the member of the X-Men's first solo outing. Mark Bomback and The Usual Suspects' Christopher McQuarrie penned the script, which takes its inspiration from the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Marvel miniseries from the 1980s dealing with the character's adventures in Japan as he fights ninjas in the ceremonial garb of the samurai. Knight and Day's James Mangold directs.

What’s Best: Jackman's Wolverine is the ultimate anti-hero, irreverent to a fault, 'I don't have time for this sh*t,' or 'Go fu*k yourself pretty boy,' as he claws his way through countless bad guys. Almost every other comic book hero has to don a suit, and rely on cool gadgets to dispense justice; but not Wolverine. He gobbles up bullets and samurai swords without uttering so much as a whimper. Jackman's raw physicality is a marvel (pun intended) to admire and behold; but it's his vulnerability, that makes this turn so enjoyable. Allowing Logan to feel pain and not instantly recover, was a stroke of genius.

With Logan suddenly vulnerable to harm, it allows co-stars Rila Fukushima (Yukio) and lovely Tao Okamoto (Mariko) to shine... particularly Yukio, who shows off some fancy sword skills in an Alaskan bar, and during an especially cool fight with Mariko's corrupt daddy (Hiroyuki Sanada.) Speaking of cool, a rooftop tussle between Logan and a sticky Yakuza, atop a speeding bullet train is worth the price of admission alone... quite possibly the best fight scene since the showdown in The Matrix Revolutions.

What’s Not: The ending (which the future Silver Samurai describes as 'madness,') pushes the bounds of sensibility, culminating in a Thor-like, super robot showdown that seems to come out of nowhere... but not enough to undo all the good will collected along the way. Even this stretch remains entertaining, thanks to some dynamite special effects.

Best Line: When Logan and Mariko wind up in a "love hotel," the pair has to decide between three available rooms, 'Dungeon, Nurse's Office or Mission to Mars?' Once there, Logan goes under the knife, producing this gem from Mariko after Logan almost carves up his surgeon afterwards, 'You've already cut him once or twice while he was stitching you up!' Last but not least, a simple "Well done," to Mariko's grandfather (Haruhiko Yamanouchi as Ichirō Yashida) after introducing his beautiful oncologist. Subtle humor, but it works very, very well.

Overall: Mangold & co. had their work cut out for them after 2009's relatively disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine. There are so many superheroes out there, it's hard to find a way to stand out; but Mangold provides a clean canvas for Jackman to work with (and slash his way through.) The Wolverine is a totally different kind of superhero movie, focusing on style and subtlety instead of cheesy CGI and an outlandish storyline. Ichirō warns, "Eternity can be a curse." Not so in this case, despite the film's 126-minute runtime. Best of all, Mangold balances the ultimate alpha male with three strong (yet beautiful) women... none of whom beg for your attention.

P.S. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Russian knockout Svetlana Khodchenkova 'I was hired in part for my discretion,' as the aforementioned oncologist/mutant Viper: She rivals Rebecca Romijn's Mystique as the best female villain in a long, long time. Keep an eye out for a well-heeled Viper (in disguise) capturing a most chaotic memorial service on her cell phone: She's pretty darn awesome. Then again, so is The Wolverine.