Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: The Wolverine

Non Spoiler Review:
Hugh Jackman returns to his iconic role in the sequel to 2009's lacklustre X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Set many years after the events of X-Men 3: The Last Stand, Logan has isolated himself in the wilderness to brood over the death of Jean. His seclusion is ended when an emissary hunts him down, bringing news a man he saved decades before wants to settle an old debt before he dies. Returning to Japan, Logan finds himself wrapped up in a family rivalry as he tries to come to terms with the ghosts of his past.

In addition to Jackman, The Wolverine stars Tao Okamoto as Mariko, Rila Fukushima as Yukio and Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper. Famke Janssen also returns as Jean Grey for some dream sequences. James Mangold (Walk the Line) directs.

Wolverine remains one of the more popular super-hero characters on screen, but it begs the question if he warrants another standalone film. However, given the dismal and depressing Last Stand, I was pleased to see him back and dealing with the fall out of Jean's death. After all that he's gone through, Logan feels tired, and it works well as the basis for this story. Moving the setting to Japan is a welcome change of pace with some interesting new characters.

As expected, Wolverine's mutant healing ability figures as the main plot point. There's a hefty amount of romance for an action movie, and I found it refreshing here, where a different director could easily have made this just a hodge-podge of elaborate action sequences.

The co-stars played well against Jackman. The villains, however, were nothing unique and their identities and motivations came as no surprise when they finally presented themselves. There were some entertaining fight sequences (with ninjas, of course), while one bullet train sequence stood out for its implausible gravity-defying antics.

Ironically enough, the after credits scene is the high point of the movie, and makes The Wolverine feel like a glorified prequel to what is coming up with the next X-Men film. Logan works best in the company of what will likely be a great ensemble cast.

When all was said and done I was left satisfied at the conclusion of Logan's journey. While it served more as a denouement to X-Men 3 with the presence of Jean Grey's spirit, I really learned nothing more about the tortured Wolverine than I already knew from the other films. Logan just isn't a strong enough character to carry any further sequels on his own now that we've seen both his origin and the ramifications of losing his love. The Wolverine won't be a memorable film, but it's entertaining enough and still fits within the continuity of the established X-Men franchise.

While it isn't worth the price of sitting through in a theatre unless you're a die-hard fan, it's well worth a watch on the movie channel for those casual fans who want to be completest with their X-Men viewing. But by the end you realize it's just a layover on the way to X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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