*** (out of 5)
July 26, 2013
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
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Whenever I sit down to review a superhero movie – in particular, a Marvel film – I feel like a broken record. I find that I have to start off by reminding the reader that I never read the Marvel comics as a kid. So, when things turn out different than the original comics, I am indifferent. Sometimes, I’m downright happy with the result.
This was the case with films like “Fantastic Four” (which severely changed the Doctor Doom character) as well as, more recently, “Iron Man 3” (which gave us a very different version of The Mandarin). It’s for this reason that I was actually fine with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” I didn’t think it was a great film, nor was it the best “X-Men” movie by a long shot. But I had no idea who Deadpool was, so when he was given what fans considered a failed screen treatment, I was none the wiser.
Based on what I’m hearing from my Marvel-reading friends, James Mangold’s “The Wolverine” is much more authentic to the source material. I can respect that, as it’s always nice to see the die-hard fans of the original material get their just service. However, this doesn’t make the film any more or less likeable for me.
I’m conflicted with “The Wolverine,” probably more so than with any other film that has been released this summer. There were elements that I really enjoyed, and in comparison to the other summer tent poles, I can really get behind the film.
However, there’s several other things that bothered me, and not just a little.
This movie takes place after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” in which Logan (Hugh Jackman) had to kill Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) to destroy the Dark Phoenix. Logan has gone into seclusion, literally hiding in a cave and pining over his lost love. One day, he’s approached by a mysterious girl named Rukio (Rila Fukushima), who takes him to Japan to meet with a man he has known since World War II. Logan is given the offer to lose his immortality, but he is unsure. Eventually, he gets wrapped up in a Yakuza political hit and finds himself suddenly unable to regenerate.
As I understand it, this story is lifted pretty faithfully from the comic books, and that helps make it work as a whole. I liked the idea of having a relatively intimate one-shot story that isn’t meant to be the end-all-be-all of X-Men movies. It’s really just a story about Logan and his journey to accept himself.
I also liked some of the action sequences (though a couple of them seemed out of place for the relatively low-key nature of the film that Mangold is presenting). I also like Hugh Jackman in the title role, and it reinforces the idea that I can’t picture anyone else as Wolverine.
However, the negatives of this film are pretty strong. The biggest obstacle I had with this movie was that it practically drips with angst. There’s at least five near-identical scenes in which Logan interacts with a dream version of Jean Grey, and they rarely reveal anything new. He mopes about through half the movie to the point that I felt like I was in a “Twilight” film.
I understand that the emotional struggles of Wolverine are essential to the characters from the books, but Mangold simply lays things on too thick. Let’s move on, can we?
The other problem I had with this film was several cast members. Rila Fukushima is fine, offering a neat character with some power behind her. However, the main love interest of Mariko (Tao Okamoto) falls flat. Okamoto is as flat of an actress as I’ve seen in a while, and she has practically zero chemistry with Jackman.
Similarly, Svetlana Khodchenkova who plays the mutant Viper is gorgeous and has a great body, but that’s about it. She can’t act to save her life, and her screen presence had me wishing for January Jones in “X-Men: First Class.” Khodchenkova is the perfect example demonstrating that just because you’re beautiful doesn’t mean you are cut out to star in movies.
In the end, I was okay with “The Wolverine” as a summer popcorn movie. I just wish it wasn’t trying so hard to not be one because that is where it fails.