First, just let me get this off my chest.
UNLEASH THE BEAST!!!!!!!
I think I was in the freakish minority who didn’t hate “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” as much as the general public did. It was heavily flawed and a hodgepodge of good ideas that were unrealised or under-developed, but was it terrible in the sense of say “Showgirls”, “Troll 2” or the latest cinematic homicide committed by Paul W.S. Anderson that was “The Three Musketeers”? No, it really wasn’t. Hugh Jackman ran with it like a champ, Liev Schreiber made a far more convincing Sabertooth than Tyler Mane and it had some nice moments. In saying that though, a lot of the reasons why the movie failed was because of the subject matter himself- Wolverine.
See, Wolverine aka Logan is an enormously popular character and for good reason- he is a hard-ass badass who deep down has a heart of gold, kinda like a hairier, angrier Dirty Harry. Apart from his animal savagery, the reason why so many people love him is that he is still a compassionate, caring individual- you just need to dig really deep to see it. “Origins” focused far too much on Wolverine’s badass side and while it was awesome to see Jackman go into LOGAN ANGRY! LOGAN GIVE CANADIAN WELCOME! mode, there wasn’t much else to him. The movie concentrated far too much on Wolverine’s outer strength and “fuck you” attitude rather than his inner vulnerabilities that endear him to his audience.
Fortunately, James Mangold’s vision of “The Wolverine” looks far deeper into Logan’s tormented soul and how it has shaped the choices he makes and the actions he takes without forsaking his imposing nature. In retrospect, the movie somewhat follows the basic plot of “Pinocchio”, Wolverine learns what it is to be alive and has hopes of becoming a real man- above everything else, the movie serves as a character piece rather than “another X-Men movie”. Wolverine is living in a state of emotional inertia after his mercy killing of Jean Grey who was possessed by the Dark Phoenix and he is contemplating on whether or not it is worth it to merely exist in the world rather than live in it. When he is approached by a mysterious woman connected to his past, he realises all is not as it seems and not all is well. Apart from being a blockbuster with it’s action, I would actually considering this film to be more of a drama. Sure the circumstances are dramatically heightened and the characters are equally so, but it allows to viewer to see a tough male hero in such a naked light, which is not something we are traditionally permitted to see given the macho nature of many other action/science fiction films. So what if the main character can produce claws, has a healing factor and is prone to fits of immeasurable rage, we see Wolverine’s soft inside and what makes him tick and it works. I found myself far more intrigued by what Wolverine was as a thinking, feeling creature rather than a beast.
Mangold knows the necessity of balance and he is able to balance Logan’s personal problems with the bigger ones and it goes without saying the action scenes are as satisfying as you can imagine. They are far more cleaner, comprehensive and well-choreographed than “Origins” was because passion was the name of the game rather than simple expedience. You see Wolverine fight like a brute, fight like a man and fight like the noble warrior all of these styles have their own identity and every hit he receives you feel because he feels it. Wolverine gets messed up pretty bad here, not just physically but mentally. By the end of the film, he still faces an uncertain future and the story of his life is far from resolved, but he has become a changed man from what he has experienced during the course of this particular journey. It goes without saying that Jackman shines here.
The rest of the cast are respectable as well with some dependable familiar faces in the form of Will Yun Lee and Hiroyuki Sanada, as well as some fresh new ones such as the delightful Rila Fukushima (who I think I have lesbian urges for) as the mysterious and charming Yukio. Even though some of them are not given the opportunity to become whole figures like Jackman is, they do well with that they are given though some do not do and you remember them gleefully.
Naturally there are a few issues. Please take note this is my opinion only!
I found the love story between Logan and Mariko Yashida (Tao Okamoto) to be far too rushed- when it comes to forming a relationship between a male and female character, it doesn’t need to be a romance, sometimes it can work just as well or better as a deep bond or a trusting platonic relationship. There was nothing wrong with the acting, but the progression of Logan and Mariko’s connection felt a little too forced and obligatory when it didn’t need to be there in the first place. I understand this romance was in the comic source material, but once again, creative license isn’t a bad thing to have if you know how to wield it. Sometimes meaningful glances and deep words work wonders compared to an obligatory intimate embrace.
The other element that I didn’t really take to is the whole Silver Samurai deal. Once again, yes, it was in the comic and served a purpose, but when you have a story that is so concerned with dealing with the character of Wolverine, throwing in a huge adamantium robot seems superfluous but in the end, this is really just a minor quibble.
At the end of the claw though, this is perhaps the Wolverine movie a lot of us have been waiting for. It was beautifully conceived, well-crafted and it finally grounded the character in such a way we wanted to see him- human. Thank you James Mangold for all you have done. Now, when’s the next movie?
4/5 Mad Logans
Review written by Bea Harper