Review: The Wolverine

For the record, this is an improvement over the mess that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman has never been much more intense in his role as Logan, the seemingly immortal anti-hero who just wants a quick way out of this existence rather than see all those whom he loved fall by the wayside.  He is continually haunted by the ghost of Jean Grey/Phoenix (Famke Janssen), even as he is called out of his hiding place somewhere in the Canadian wilderness.

It just so happens that an old WWII friend of his, Ichiro Yashida, has established a formidable business empire since a certain mysterious gaijin saved his arse from the detonation of the A-bomb in Nagasaki.   Unfortunately, Ichiro-sama is about to kick the bucket, so he decides to pass his holdings over to his granddaughter, Mariko (much to the outrage of Mariko’s own father – and Ichiro’s son, Shingen, whom he has cut off because of his Yakuza ties)  As a token of gratitude, he sends Mariko’s adoptive sister – a telepath named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) – to seek Logan out and bring him to Japan.

There is a reason why Ichiro is keen into passing the Yashida fortunes to Mariko; she is about to marry a rising star in Japanese politics, thereby ensuring the company’s continued protection.  Needless to say, Shingen then dispatches ninjas led by his half-brother Kenuichio (Will Yun Lee) to crash the funeral and kidnap Mariko.

Eventually, it is revealed why Ichiro was so keen into meeting up with Logan; he wanted to get his own regenerative powers to prolong his life (having witnessed it firsthand more than a half-century back)  In his quest to do so, he allies himself with Viper (Russian model Svetlana Khodchenkova) an Eastern European biochemist with a penchant for skin-tight getups and the ability to secrete toxins on demand as well as resist all manner of poison.

Wolvie then finds out how it feels to lose his much-vaunted regenerative powers after a brutal fight with Yakuza goons, when he and Yukio find themselves forced to hole up in a “love hotel”.   Upon reaching Mariko’s house, he finds out that he was implanted with some kind of bug that has been interrupting the regenerative factor.

After getting his self-heal back, he and Yukio then head north to the Yashida clan’s ancestral house, where Ichiro’s devious plan is revealed.  Viper unveils The Silver Samurai – an exoskeletal armour piloted by Ichiro possessing a pair of heated adamantium katana blades capable of slicing through even Wolverine’s own claws.

The deserved deaths pile up and  everything gets neatly wrapped up just so that Wolvie can get back in GTFO mode and grow his hair.

The bullet train fight scene is truly breathtaking in terms of execution and photography (for maximum satisfaction, go see it in a 3D cinema); however, that pales to the showdown near the Yashida ancestral house, where Wolverine slowly recovers his self-heal even as his back is studded with roped arrows, no thanks to Kenuichio and his ninja archers (a frame worthy of a Grant Morrison comic book).  The attempts at comedy are surprisingly sublime; I did find Mariko’s initial revulsion over Logan’s unkempt appearance rather humorous, as well as the mansion help’s attempts to give him a proper Japanese-style washing and Yukio briefing him about chopstick and love hotel etiquette.

Aside from Jackman, the only other watchable character appears to be Yukio, who is good at underplaying (beneath that chestnut-red hair which she wears well).  I  felt pity that the characters of Kenuichio and The Viper were rather under-written given their potential importance.  However, that is justifiable given the plot-heaviness already evident in this enterprise (and we’re talking J-dorama levels here)

Marvel Animation: Wolverine (2010) trailer

The end-credit bonus scene (spoiler alert) shows Wolverine in a tense showdown with Magneto, only to be broken by the appearance of a certain bald man on a wheelchair (you know who I am talking about here) (end of spoiler)

In spite of my relative misgivings throughout the film, I was thoroughly satisfied with the performances.  You can easily forgive the option of director James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk The Line) to focus on the dramatic angles over superheroic feats in his take on the fanboy-sacred myth, and the resulting compromise is worth watching.

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