Superhero Spaghetti Sukiyaki Western Mash – The Wolverine [2013]

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July 26, 2013 by bck1402

wolverine_ver6Stars Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee and Famke Janssen

Directed by James Mangold

Based on the acclaimed 4-part mini-series turned graphic novel by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine takes Logan to Japan and into the world of Japanese politics, ninjas and the Silver Samurai. The original story shone a light on Logan and did compare him to the likes of a samurai while dealing with a warrior’s honour.  In short, it is the story that the comic fans, the Wolverine fans, would love to see adapted into a movie.

So, the comic book fans will note the references, from the bear at the beginning to the numerous characters putting in an appearance, including one who isn’t in the comic story. Some of plot will be familiar except one major plot development, which has popped up in the recent issues of the Wolverine comic. The deal with the Silver Samurai is something different, and a bit of a surprise especially for this anime fan (there’s a hint).

While the key elements of that story are here in this movie, there was no way they were going to exactly adapt that story. An updating would have to be considered. The pacing in a comic mini-series might not work in a movie. The action beats would also have to be altered. Then, you need a whole different kind of villain so that it would be surprising and unpredictable, even to the long-time comic reader. So, how did they really do?

The early reviews complained about the pacing, the direction, the overall plot and the necessity of having Famke Janssen in a negligee. I don’t think it was all that bad, but then, it wasn’t all as good as it could have been. Mind you though, this is still a decent mark up from the last solo Wolverine outing (that being X-Men Origins: Wolverine), but not up to the mark of the last Wolverine appearance (that being X-Men: First Class). The plot is more reminiscent of a Western, and even star Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold have mentioned Clint Eastwood classic The Outlaw Josey Wales as a major influence – a particular movie I still haven’t settled to watch, and one not readily available to watch around here. So, I can’t make any comparisons there.

However, the flow of the story does resemble that of a Western with the world weary warrior stumbling into a town with problems, and gets caught up with the town’s politics or gangs. Said town in this case being Tokyo. If you’ve seen enough of those Westerns, then the flow of the story here should really be of no surprise. The action beats and the slower dramatic moments that show off the essence of the main character are typical of the genre. And that’s the driving force. Logan here, set way after X-Men: The Last Stand, is a haunted man, weary of the ghosts (one in particular although we do hear more midway through the movie) and almost at a loss of what his life should be. It definitely gives Jackman something to chew on after playing the same character five times before over the last 13 years.

On a side note, it might be interesting to find out what did happen to Logan between X-Men: The Last Stand and this one. It would have to end on a depressing note for Logan to end up the way he is at the start of this movie.

Rila Fukushima shines as Yukio, a carefree warrior in the comics, a more spirited and logical foil to Wolverine here who can hold her own in a fight. She also seems to have a curious, possibly mutant, ability. Tao Okamoto glows a Mariko, who is less of a wallflower plot point here as she was in the comic. Mariko, like so many in those Westerns before, is the catalyst around whom much of the plot revolves, even for Logan. The woman who gives the warrior purpose, even when he’s not quite aware of it. Then there’s Famke Janssen returning as Jean Grey who’s haunting Logan’s dreams. Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova slithers about as Dr Green (or Viper as she’s listed in the credits, although she’s barely called that in the movie). Aside from Will Yun Lee as Harada, none of the other actors really make an impact, though not to say that they’re entirely insignificant either. Let’s just say that Jackman doesn’t really have any competition in the alpha male stakes.

While the plot and story might test the patience of some of the viewers – it might be the kind of story that might have done well a few decades back or be considered excellent for a direct-to-cable movie – the action set-pieces are quite top notch. A highlight might be the bullet train fight (seen in trailers), and they’ve wisely kept the Silver Samurai battle out of the previews. I’m a traditionalist tho, so the fight set-piece I enjoyed was more in the middle, a sword fight sequence between Yukio and Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada). That alone, was worth the price of admission for me and everything else was a bonus.

So, no, I did not find the movie boring as some might and the story worked well enough where the movie was concerned. The numerous twists within the tale were not too difficult to predict and the Silver Samurai itself was intriguing to see on screen. The fight scenes were ace and the acting wasn’t grating. In all, it is a decent and above average action flick with some dramatic characterisation going on. It may not meet everyone’s expectation given the pedigree (X-Men, X-Men United, X-Men: First Class) that it comes from. It doesn’t try to one-up the others, and it blazes its own path, doing its own thing – and does it well. It does leave you wanting though, although I can’t really say wanting for what. There is the feeling that it could have been better. Maybe the resolution of the story isn’t quite as satisfactory as it could have been. Given the massively effects heavy ending, maybe they had to trim the budget elsewhere, drop a few other things, crop the story beats or something. Maybe it’s that feeling you get when something doesn’t seem quite right, like how in (Fast and) Furious 6, we had that runway that seemed way too long, and here… well, you’ll know it when you see it.

Oh yeah, as it was with the phase one Marvel movies, there is a bit of a payoff in a post titles (not after all the credits, just the main titles) scene that set’s up the next movie. It does feel a little detached, like it was directed by Bryan Singer instead of James Mangold. So, you’ll want to sit around for a while after the movie proper ends.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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