The Wolverine (2013)

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The Wolverine (2013)

Post  BoG on Sun Nov 09, 2014 2:08 pm

This was the 2nd solo Wolverine film, after X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). Wolverine became the most popular X-Man in the comics back in the seventies and the same held true for the movie version, as played by Hugh Jackman, here in his 6th film as the character. As was eventually revealed in the comics, Wolverine's regenerative powers also grant him immortality or something close to it. Most of the plot and his character arc follow up on the events of X-Men: Last Stand (2006), when he was forced to kill Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, who also appears here as a figment of Wolverine's imagination). Beset by guilt and depression, Wolverine a.k.a. Logan has settled into a new life as a recluse in the Yukon; he spends most of his time in the woods and only ventures into the nearby town for supplies.  Of course, he doesn't stay in the area much longer; an emissary from Japan, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), fetches him to return to her homeland with her, to meet with a dying rich businessman named Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada).
So, this is Wolverine's Japan adventure, influenced by a famous 4-issue comics mini-series from 1982 by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. The first scene in this film reveals who this Yashida guy is: way back in 1945, Logan had rescued him in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp when the A-Bomb hit Nagasaki. Logan also meets Mariko (Tao Okamoto), Yashida's granddaughter, for whom he eventually will develop strong feelings. Ostensibly, Yashida wants to repay Logan for saving  him and offers to turn him into a normal man, so that Logan can escape the curse of immortality.  Despite Logan's personal misgivings about his endless life, he rejects this proposition.  But, the plot thickens: at night, a slumbering Logan is visited by a female mutant called Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who poisons him with her breath; he thinks it's another of his delusions.  The next day, however, during a battle at Yashida's funeral, Logan finds that his injuries do not heal as quickly as they used to. He goes on the run with Mariko.

The hook with this one, in-between all the standard action scenes (notably on top of a bullet train), is that Logan/Wolverine is more vulnerable than is usual for him. Going up against all the ninja-styled combatants in this film, he would have easily outmatched them with his healing ability. As it is, he is sorely tested in this one during the middle act; a simple bullet to the leg legitimately cripples him.  The mystery and revelations have to do with a rather unoriginal plot involving who gets to take over the running of a huge corporation - it's the usual money issues amid inner-family squabbles.   In the final act, when Wolverine regains his full power, they find a way to still take him out and test him - first with a bunch of arrows and then with  essentially a larger version of himself, The Silver Samurai.  In the comics, The Silver Samurai was merely a large warrior with a special sword; in this film version, it's a huge exo-skeleton or armored suit (like Iron Man) which is worn by the true villain of the piece. Its power is such that it can even remove Wolverine's claws as a threat, something usually thought to be impossible.
The real revelation is what the true evil is and the true villain of the piece (warning about the video clip below as it's a spoiler). It's a little out of left field and there's not much character development for this villain, so we never care much or understand what really motivates him.  This plot turn is what raises questions about Logan's supposedly humanitarian act in the first scene of the film. It might suggest that he shouldn't have bothered - the cynical outlook which fits this anti-hero. However, in that analysis, we forget that his actions of long ago also resulted in the eventual birth of Mariko, an exceptional heroine of the modern era. So, what we have here is the old yin-and-yang at play. The film also does a pretty good job of capturing the flavor of the locale, Japan. It's just too bad that most of the fighting is the usual cartoon-like action we get nowadays from computer wizards. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10
Wolverine Trivia: Viper is another villain from the comics, but in the comic books, she was not a mutant but just an efficient killer & terrorist, usually fighting Captain America or SHIELD. The mid-end credits scene - which is 2 years later - contains cameos by Ian McKellen as Magneto and Patrick Stewart as Xavier, hinting at what was to come in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).  The Wolverine was actually the lowest-grossing film domestically of the 7-film franchise, but it did do better overseas.
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