Movie Review #744
Directed by James Mangold. Screenplay by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank. Produced by Hugh Jackman, Hutch Parker, and Lauren Shuler Donner for Donners’ Company, presented by Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Marvel Entertainment, made in association with TSG Entertainment and Ingenious Media, and produced in association with Big Screen Productions. (Uncredited: Bad Hat Harry Productions.) Starring Hugh Jackman as Logan, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee, Ken Yamamura, and Famke Janssen. Credited cameos: Shinji Ikefuji, Hiroshi Kasuga, Kimi, Keiko Matsumoto. Uncredited cameos: Ian McKellen as Magneto, Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. Premiered in London on July 16, 2013. Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation in wide release on July 26, 2013. Also released in the UK on July 25, 2013. Rated PG-13: sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language. Runs 126 minutes. Extended Edition runs 138 minutes.
Forgive me if I’m about to sound like a total geek. But it’s always fascinated me that the X-Men have been so often labelled as “superheroes.” Yes, they come out of comic books, but so does Tintin. Much like the X-Men, Tintin saves the day from time to time, but isn’t a superhero. Spider-Man is a superhero, mainly because he saves the entire city on multiple occasions. The X-Men are stated from the very beginning of the series to be “mutants,” not superheroes. Their story has always been about fighting for equality and not being seen as inferior.
But when Wolverine takes the stage, we can’t help but see him as a superhero. Maybe not so much in 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, as in 2013’s “The Wolverine”, a reboot that gives us a good lot of what we want of the character. It’s clear that this is its own story from the first ten minutes of the movie, and maybe even the title hints at it, too: this is the first in the X-Men series to not feature the word “X-Men” in the title.
And for an X-Men movie, “The Wolverine” breaks acres of new round. Actually, this really isn’t so much a movie of that series as we’ve expected. James Mangold has noted that the movie was inspired by roots of noir and western, and indeed “The Wolverine” draws more heavily from “Kill Bill”, “Blade Runner”, and “The Third Man” than it does Stan Lee. Maybe this movie most deviates from its comic booky nature by giving us an in-depth portrait of the Wolverine. The character is a spectacular idea, and for a while, a well executed one. Unfortunately, not everybody’s playing second fiddle to Jackman here. Jackman meets someone while he’s traveling abroad, I’m sorry, but that individual has to play second fiddle to him. I love seeing Hugh Jackman as a flawed hero, plagued by his past and endangered in his present, but when someone else is also given a backstory, they run the risk of seeming better than Hugh Jackman.
This wouldn’t matter if the emotional drama wasn’t such a huge part of “The Wolverine”, but it is. Fortunately, there’s the promised half of the movie for which Jackman is ringleader. Of course I’m referring to any one of the action sequences, which are all pretty familiar, and just so implausible, but well choreographed. The movie is set in Japan. I’m guessing that’s because some sort of karate started in Japan, so when everybody is depicted as a skilled martial artist who can put a samurai sword to good use, we’re used to the Hollywood stereotype. Okay, at this day and age, it’s not the most “politically correct” way to go about making a movie, but it’s still a whole lotta fun and excitement. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano
Postscript: I just discovered that the wolverine is a member of the weasel family. The moniker sounds sadly unthreatening for Jackman, now that I’m aware of this.