Film review: The Wolverine is a comic book blast

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Held hostage by his own immortality, The Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman), mutates his way through a thrilling superhero flick. Photo credit Ben Rothstein. Held hostage by his own immortality, The Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman), mutates his way through a thrilling superhero flick. Photo credit Ben Rothstein.

Now that we’re six films into the X-Men series, it’s about time we got one that can stand on its own. It’s not that viewers should skip all the other X-Men films—but seriously, skip Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, the truly wretched X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Bryan Singer’s original X-Men—but Hugh Jackman is captivating enough and the story appropriately straddles silly and thrilling well enough to make The Wolverine a hell of a ride.

Is it all that original? Will it please fan boys? Why is it set almost entirely in Japan? The answers to those questions are “not really,” “I don’t know,” and “to capture the overseas earnings 20th Century Fox so desperately craves.”

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to what makes Logan/Wolverine (Jackman) the perfect subject for a superhero movie. He hates himself, which is a great start. He’s a mutant, and mutants are outcasts that jus’ plain folks fear, a well-established trope in the other X-Men movies that mercifully takes a backseat here.

Worse, Wolverine is an outcast among mutants. As far as we know—and I’m going strictly on the movies, not the books—he can live forever, never really ages, and never gets close to people. Everyone else gets older and dies.

Speaking of the dead, Famke Janssen pops up in various dream sequences as Jean Grey, Wolverine’s one true love and the most recent source of his everlasting pain (he killed her at the end of X-Men: The Last Stand—spoiler alert). It’s nice to see Janssen, but her scenes are almost laugh-out-loud awkward. Fortunately, they come and go pretty quickly.

The story—not that it matters—has Logan holed up in the woods somewhere, living between some rocks, downing booze, and trying to forget he’s Wolverine. He’s such a regular fixture in the forest that he’s made friends with a grizzly bear (it’s not as dumb as it sounds).

One day, hunters poison the bear. Wolverine acts out in retaliation. A Japanese woman, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), trailing him and coming to his aid when he confronts the hunters, convinces Logan to come to Tokyo to say goodbye to a man he saved in Nagasaki in World War II.

The old man, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), now a successful businessman with an enormous conglomerate, wants Wolverine’s immortality. Wolverine says no. Not surprisingly, everything then turns to shit.

What’s fun about The Wolverine is the way it alters genre conventions. For example, Logan needs Yukio’s protection much more than she’ll ever need his. And Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), around whom a major plot point revolves, seems like something of a wimp, but she’ll occasionally throw a knife into someone’s face. There are no damsels in distress here. Another nice surprise is just how little mutant powers play into The Wolverine’s story from scene to scene, even if the plot involves mutants.

All in all, The Wolverine is goofy fun, complete with a ridiculous series of stunts on top of a bullet train. It’s a good way to spend an evening in the air conditioning. Stay for the credits.

The Wolverine  PG-13, 126 minutes, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

 

 

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973-4294

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979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX
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