The Wolverine came in on my Summer’s Most Anticipated list at #14. For some reason I wasn’t putting too much stock in the first sequel to the original X-Men trilogy. Or because X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn’t as mind-blowing as X2 or X-Men: First Class. Regardless, with this so-so summer of movies, I think my anticipation grew for this look at a character Hugh Jackman has portrayed four and a half times.
The premise is set up without much wait. We are taken back to the time of WWII in Nagasaki Japan where Logan is a prisoner of war. Heroically, he saves a Japanese soldier named Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi, Ken Yamamura) from the devastating nuclear bomb, shielding his body with his own. It was quite ballsy to show such a horrific scene, but it was needed to set the stage for these two characters. Logan then wakes up from this vision to Jean Grey who he killed in The Last Stand. These two sequences which somewhat hinge on the viewer seeing previous movies hold a lot of weight to the central character’s conflict. We are to understand that Logan is a war torn soldier with a heavy past of loved ones lost and eternity weighing on his soul.
When he is called into Japan to say goodbye to the soldier he saved, Yashida offers to end his eternity to save his own life. Logan refuses and Yashida dies. At his funeral something happens to Logan to weaken his abilities to repair himself, making him vulnerable and weak. I bring this point up to show that like Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, to really know who a character really is, you have to strip him/her of what makes him/her to get to the core. And by doing this it creates the possibility that the hero may die. If there are no stakes, we have no reason to care.
From here, the plot really got muddy. Politics, business and love interest get in the way of the mission of breaking down Logan to how his past effects him. We are never really sure who is who, who’s allegiances lie with whom, and why we should care. I never understood why Wolverine was so invested with these people he just met. The stars didn’t align with the plot.
Jackman’s Wolverine will always be infectious and charismatic. He understands who he is playing and he sells it with every line and like Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, there can be no replacement for his character. His “bodyguard” Yukio was amazing in her action and her actions; she was fun to watch even though her line delivery was mumbled more than articulated. The rest of the cast didn’t have any other stand-outs, but did I really go for them or the title’s namesake?
The action was fast, tight and never really overused. There was movement toward a goal in most of the fight sequences to let us care what the outcome would be. I think the cosmetics were the best part of the movie, the setting of Tokyo was amazing, the action was a blast and the acting was exceptional. But the most important element which is the script needed more work to fully drive home the Wolverine’s struggles with his past and what he wanted to do with his future.
Verdict: just wait… Either for Redbox or when the theaters clear. It runs in the middle of the pack of action-adventure.
And by the way, if you talk during any movie in the theater, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Summer’s Best of List (So far)
1) Star Trek: Into Darkness
2) Pacific Rim
3) Iron Man 3
4) Man of Steel
5) Monsters University
6) The Wolverine
7) Now You See Me
8) After Earth
9) This Is The End
10) Only God Forgives
11) The Great Gatsby
12) World War Z
13) The Lone Ranger