MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Hugh Jackman as LOGAN
Tao Okamoto as MARIKO
Rila Fukushima as YUKIO
Hiroyuki Sanada as SHINGEN
Svetlana Khodchenkova as VIPER
Brian Tee as NOBURO
Haruhiko Yamanouchi as YASHIDA
Will Yun Lee as HARADA
Famke Janssen as JEAN GREY
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: James Mangold
BY KEVIN CARR
Over the past decade and a half, I have thoroughly enjoyed the resurgence of the superhero genre into a full-fledged blockbuster race. Sure, there have been some stinkers out there – like the one-two punch of “Daredevil” and “Electra” as well as the WTF-able “Catwoman” disaster. However, for the most part, I have enjoyed the films as a subgenre of both science fiction and action.
So, even a not-so-great superhero movie for me is still an enjoyable ride. Of course, because the “X-Men” movies have been so genuinely good, it seems I’m really hard on “The Wolverine.” When I saw it this summer, I downgraded it with a 2 1/2-star review, comparing the numerous weepy dream sequences with Jean Grey to the “Twilight” movies. (I have a friend who still hasn’t forgiven me for that comment.) However, revisiting it on Blu-ray, I realize it’s still a decent film, though probably my least favorite of the entire franchise (which does include its predecessor “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” thank you very much).
The plot is lifted from a specific arc in the comic books, which jazzed a lot of fans but ultimately left me cold. As much as I can respect being true to the original source material, if you haven’t read these particular books, their downsides are all-too-glaring on the big screen. I think it’s great that director James Mangold honored the source of the Wolverine comic books, but some things might have been lost in the translation to appeal to someone who doesn’t read the books (which is, honestly, most of the people who would likely see the movie).
The story follows Logan (Hugh Jackman) in the time frame after “X-Men: The Last Stand.” He feels massive guilt about having to kill Jean Grey to save the world. He’s also flashing back to his earlier wandering life, which includes being near ground zero during the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. In present day, he is tracked by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a young Japanese woman who brings him back to Japan to meet with his old friend Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) from Nagasaki, who is now a wealthy businessman close to death.
Yashida promises Logan a cure for his immortality, but he dies before it can happen. However, when the Yakuza tries to kidnap Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Logan comes to her rescue, and they end up on the run.
Sometimes it’s a relief for me that the same things bother me in a movie on Blu-ray as do in the theaters. “The Wolverine” is such a film. I was annoyed again at the egregious amount of time spent on the mopey Jean Grey dream sequences (which I suppose were necessary to justify bringing Famke Janssen into the cast). Similarly, while there were some new boundaries set by Logan and the Wolverine character, the villain arc and antagonists were painfully trite.
Tao Okamoto was easy on the eyes, but her painful lack of on-screen personality and chemistry with Hugh Jackman makes it no surprise she had not acted before this film. Similarly, the evil mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) was a wasted effort, employing a starkly attractive actress with no real acting ability, at least when she’s delivering lines in English (since Khodchenkova has been honored eastern Europe for her acting over there). In fact, the only female character that had any sort of charisma was Fukushima, who was practically forgotten about in the middle of the film.
Still, as a comic book movie, “The Wolverine” isn’t bad. It has some decent action sequences, including an extended multi-sequence that begins at a funeral and ends on a bullet train (part of which looks much better on the Blu-ray than in RealD in theaters). It’s also nice to see Jackman deliver a more rage-fueled and berserker-esque Wolverine character.
The best part of the film is the very end, which serves as a bit of a set-up for the upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” bridging the original origin movie to a modern installment in the series.
The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD that include UltraViolet capabilities. Bonus features are limited in number but have some good material. The 54-minute, multi-part “The Path of a Ronin” examines the movie from the development to design to its integration with the other films. There’s also an alternate ending that is more for the geek-centric comic book-reading fan base than the casual viewer. Finally, there’s a “X-Men: Days of Future Past” set tour with Bryan Singer and access to the Second Screen App, which allows you to watch the movie with integrated content on your mobile device.