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The Wolverine - Movie Review

2 stars

James Mangold’s The Wolverine is a comic book movie that attempts to atone for the sins of 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine by bringing a more grounded and wounded Weapon X to the story while, at the same time, promising to be more adventurous and thrilling for fans of the character.  It achieves one of those two items.  Hugh Jackman has hung up his song-and-dance shoes to return as the character and serve as the film's producer.  But director Mangold – the jack-of-all-trades director at the helm of Walk the Line, Girl, Interrupted and the off-putting Knight and Day – doesn’t quite deliver on what he has promised.

Taking its inspiration from the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Marvel samurai-minded comic book miniseries from the 1980s, The Wolverine is a leaner and meaner affair … for a while … and then it succumbs to what it promised to not be and has our hero fighting against this summer’s second sword-wielding bigger than big robot after conducting his own open-heart surgery.  The movie works for about 45 minutes before the gritty yakuza ground below it begins to sag and reveal the harebrained nonsense at its heart.

Mark Bomback and The Usual Suspects' Christopher McQuarrie penned the script but – outside of a few more vulgarities and a lot more bloodless stabbings – there’s little indication that this film offers anything more inspired than a countryside chase through the enchanting Far East – especially when the duo rips action tropes straight out of the 1970s and then wallops its audience upside the head with a fortress-bound finale the size of He-Man.

It’s Wolverine (Jackman) repeating the moves and attitudes of Dirty Harry as he – after a World War II-set prologue which sets the stage for its Japan location – unwillingly finds himself protecting a heiress named Mariko (Tao Okamoto) from the attacks of the Yakuza and a newly introduced mutant named Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) after he is summoned to Japan by a soldier he once saved from the atomic bomb.

Mangold and company ignore the ending of Origins and place this one at the end of X-Men: The Last Stand, in which Wolverine is wrestling with his guilt over killing his former lover, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).  Wearing revealing negligees only, she appears to Logan in a series of unfortunately cheesy dream sequences and provides the motivation he needs to lose his self-healing powers and bring justice to fallen grizzly bears as a mountain man.

It is strawberry-haired Yukio (Japanese fashion model Rila Fukushima) who reminds him that he is a soldier.  Yukio accompanies Wolverine to Japan and gives the story a much needed shot in the arm with her own interesting backstory and katana-wielding skills.   When the narrative begins to fall into predictability, her character – rather interestingly – helps him navigate a strange land with strict codes of honor.  She never becomes a focal point but she should be.  Fukushima deserves it.

Mangold’s eight action scenes are highlighted by only two expertly conducted battle sequences: the bullet train stage – a fight on the top of a 300 mph speeding train – and a ninja attack that sees our hero downed by several hundred arrows in the back.  The rest of the battles – including the heckling-worthy finale - are giant letdowns.  While the change of location is nice and atmospheric, Weapon X and Jackman deserve a script with a lot more bite to it.

Yes, Logan becomes mortal and yet – in spite of being taken completely out of his comfort zone – the real shocker is that The Wolverine is still the stuff of Saturday-morning cartoons.  This is his sixth appearance as Wolverine but Jackman – who debuted as the character 13 years ago – shows no signs of stopping.  It’s a part he was born to play and if the post credits shocker (and lead-in to X-Men: Days of Future Past) is any indication, the best is yet to come.

Sadly, The Wolverine is hardly a game-changer for the character and “stand alone” X-Men movies.  It has its moments but, frankly, Mangold’s film needs a bit more samurais, ninjas, and vicious yakuza thugs (you know, everything he promised) to make the impact it deserves.[/tab]

[tab title="Film Details"]

The Wolverine - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.
126 mins.
: James Mangold
: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima; Famke Janssen
: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
Tagline: When enemies rise... when immortality ends... the ultimate battle begins.
Memorable Movie Quote: "What they did to me, what I am, can't be undone."
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Website: www.thewolverinemovie.com
Release Date: July 26, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.

Synopsis: Based on the celebrated comic book arc, this epic action-adventure takes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the most iconic character of the X-Men universe, to modern day Japan. Out of his depth in an unknown world he faces his ultimate nemesis in a life-or-death battle that will leave him forever changed. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality, emerging more powerful than we have ever seen him before.[/tab]

[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

No details available.[/tab]

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