Another Friday, another superhero movie. Hasn’t it felt like that for…months? This weekend it is Hugh Jackman’s turn to impress us with all the fancy dieting and exercising he has been doing to sport the physique that does justice to Logan/Wolverine. Strictly speaking I’m not entirely sure if The Wolverine counts as a sequel to 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine but we’re back in a narrative featuring just that character. The rest of his super-powered friends are not in the picture.
During early media releases for this film director, James Mangold tweeted pictures from movies that influenced/inspired his take on Logan’s continued journey. Claiming to make a movie inspired by titles like Chungking Express, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Samurai Trilogy, Floating Weeds, Black Narcissus, Happy Together, 13 Assassins, The French Connection, Chinatown and Shane… those are some fighting words. But I have to say this one really came together very nicely.
For one thing, this movie really does not play like your average “Wham, Bam, say bye-bye to several city blocks” action flick that has been turning up with alarming regularity in recent months. For another, the female roles are really well fleshed out.
Rila Fukushima plays Yukio, the woman who brings Logan to Japan at the behest of a dying man whose life he saved several decades earlier. And Tao Okamoto plays Mariko, the old man’s granddaughter. Ms Okamoto plays beautiful and delicate in a way most actresses would be hard-pressed to replicate. And Ms. Fukushima portrays the character of an orphan with an aptitude for violence—who is cursed with the ability to see a very specific facet of the future—in a way that lifts the character way over the one-dimensional hoopla that surrounds most comic book heroines (I’m looking at you Scarlett Johansson).
The filmmakers have fun with the sound design, the actions sequences, and the storytelling. Unlike the Avengers movie, The Wolverine is not played for easy (or any) laughs. This is a brooding character story and Mr. Jackman’s physique is matched very well by his intensity; he genuinely is Wolverine.
The action sequences bring genuine tension into play. By setting significant portions of the film outside the traditional city paradigms, the filmmakers were able to stage actions sequences that imperil characters we actually care about (instead of the usual faceless citizens of some major metropolis). The night-time sequence featuring the ninjas was worth the price of admission all by itself.
The Wolverine has genuine heart, and characters undergoing—and overcoming—all kinds of turmoil. It is a sad truth that those are not qualities one can take for granted in our blockbusters these days. I doubt it will shatter any major box office records but I think this is one of those movies that will withstand the test of time.
Final Analysis: The Wolverine is a movie I’d rank up there with the first two Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman movies. I look forward to revisiting it sometime in the future.
My Advice: You’re probably exhausted by the prospect of dragging yourself to the multiplex to watch another superhero movie, but I recommend this one. Go see it on the big screen.