After the death of Jean Grey (Famke Jansen), James Logan (Hugh Jackman) still has yet to recuperate and wakes up almost every morning in a pile of his own sweat. He hasn’t been able to shake the memory of her away for a long time, and as a result, has yet came back to the real-world. He spends his time in and around the Canadian wilderness, where he occasionally goes into town, and if so, only to cause a bit of trouble for hoodlums who deserve it. One night however, he gets a rude awakening from a Japanese lady named Mariko (Rila Fukushima), who informs him that a guy who’s life he saved during World War II, is now dying of cancer and would like to see him, one last time. Logan is hesitant at first, but ultimately accepts knowing that they wouldn’t have a random chick come all this way for nada. Once he actually arrives in Japan, Logan realizes that something is not all too right with these mob-bosses and comes to terms with the fact that his visitation may have more meaning than just a simple chit-chat about life. It may have something to do with the after-life and most importantly: Logan’s life.
To be honest, I was not really looking forward to this flick. Any bit of excitement or jitters I may have had in my sleep were all lost once Darren Aronofsky backed-out. Well, actually, it was before that too. Remember a little old movie called X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Yep, I do, you do, we all do, which sucks because Wolverine is such an awesome character to build off of, that it’s a total shame that his one and only opportunity to branch out and take the world by storm was screwed over because Hollywood felt like it was time for the world to see will.I.Am as a superhero. But you know what? Life goes on, the pain settles, and eventually, you get over it all and realize that there’s still a light of hope for everybody’s favorite, steel-clawed superhero and what a light of hope it truly is.
Something felt different about this movie right from the start, and I think it has to do with the fact that it doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. No, not in the way where instead a light, rousing romp of a flick, it was a dark, depressing melodrama about some dude coming to terms with the powers that have been bestowed onto him. Nope, something was different here and I think it’s because we know this character so well by now, that it doesn’t matter if we aren’t introduced to where he’s come from or what he’s been up to. We are just sort of plopped-down in the middle of his life as it’s happening, without a single clue as to what’s happened before, or in the meantime since we last saw him. I liked that approach because we were constantly moving forward with this story and getting to the juiciness of it all, and not folding back into time, where everything we saw and heard before, is told to us again.
All movies, especially superhero ones, should be moving forward with their story and that’s why I knew I was off on a good foot with this flick and ready for an unforgettable ride. That’s exactly what I got, if not more.
Once Logan shows up to Japan, the movie becomes slightly like a Japanese, kung-fu movie where you have people doing all sorts of crazy moves and actions that you haven’t quite seen in any other superhero movie, up until now. But then again though, it doesn’t get all Kill Bill on our asses neither; there’s still plenty of ass-kicking, high-adrenaline action that comes in and busts our rumps every once and awhile, and keeps the blood flowing and the interest-rates up. To me, this felt like the type of superhero movie that knew what it was, but wasn’t going to shell out for anything less or more. It stuck with what it knew it could do, and didn’t turn my head away at all.
Some moments did get a little comic book-y, especially by the end, but overall, director James Mangold keeps his head above the rest of the current, and allows for his material to breathe some newly-found life into it’s character and it’s story. It helps an awful lot that the story is placed in Japan, an area that’s able to make any simple tale pop, sizzle, and crack, but it also helps that Mangold doesn’t allow for this material to get too serious or too dark. There’s plenty of times where it could have gone straight for the soapy melodrama, but rather continues to entertain us, or build more and more on the story. The story we have here is actually pretty compelling and surprising in the places it turns to, which is a huge change-of-pace for a simple genre of films like the superhero ones. You feel like everything’s already been set in stone for this genre, until one like this comes around and shows you that not only can the game change up a bit, but it can do it so effortlessly as well.
Great directing job on Mangold’s part. However, I’m still of the opinion that Aronofsky’s version would have made it a hell of a lot more interesting to see. Then again, this would have been the same movie done by the same dude who made everybody’s favorite, and probably only, “ass-to-ass scene”. Yup, it’s THAT guy.
But if there’s anybody that really deserves all of the credit and praise here, it’s non other than Mr. Hugh Jackman himself, playing Wolverine for about the 5th time, and never getting showing signs of it getting old or worn-out. Jackman isn’t really doing anything insanely original with his latest act as Logan, but he doesn’t need to be when this character is already so interesting and likable. We care for the dude right from the start, because we know that no matter how many times he may lose his temper and the claws come out, there’s still a simple-minded, lovable human-being underneath all of it, and in the end, will do the right thing for the better of mankind. As I said before, I wasn’t really looking forward to another movie that was dedicated to ALL of Wolverine, ALL of the time; but I was still happy to be reminded how wrong my initial-feelings were. Another Wolverine flick may be pushing it, but this will do for now.
Jackman is so good though as Logan, that it almost steals the rest of the movie from everybody else in this cast. Not to say that nobody else is good here, but it’s obvious who the more comfortable worker is here and who’s the one that really has the charm and the presence to make this sometimes-goofy material work. That is with the exception of one performer in this movie: Rila Fukushima as Yukio, the kick-ass, samurai-sword-wielding side-kick of Logan’s. When I first saw Fukushima, I thought her character was going to be another one of those quirky, Japanese gals that was not only out-of-place being beside Wolverine, but also say and do strange things (because all Japanese girls are freaks, right?) Well, I was surprised to see that not only did the movie treat her with enough love and respect as they did with their titled-character, they also did it in a way to where you want to see more of her, doing whatever it is that she can do just to ensure us that she’ll be on the screen more. It’s surprised me to know that Fukushima never acted in anything before this and I hope that this means she’ll get more roles, especially in more American movies because I think she’s got the energy and the general likability to make it all work. Everybody else is fine, but she’s the one who comes close to walking away with the whole show. However, she comes close, but doesn’t run away with it. That’s Wolverine’s job, and it’s one that I’m glad he has and hope that he continues to have.
Consensus: May not change the game of the superhero flick, or even expand on it either, but The Wolverine definitely does one thing right: Entertain the hell out of you, even when you least expect it to. Take that, Zack Snyder!
8 / 10 = Matinee!!