Friday, January 24, 2014

The Wolverine

Directed by James Mangold.
2013. Rated PG-13, 126 minutes.
Tao Okamoto
Rila Fukushima
Hiroyuki Sanada
Svetlana Khodchenkova
Brian Tee
Hal Yamanouchi
Ken Yamamura

During World War II, Wolverine (Jackman) was a POW in Japan and was kept in a covered well near Nagasaki. How he let this happen is a mystery since it truly does appear that he’s letting them hold him. He shields a young Japanes soldier named Yashida (Yamanouchi) who jumps down into the well with him, thus saving his life after an Atomic bomb has been dropped on the nearby city. Yashida witnesses our hero’s self-healing powers and the two get to know each other a bit while waiting for it to be safe to leave the well. When they do, they go their separate ways. Fast-forward to the present and the young soldier is now a wealthy old man on his deathbed. He arranges for Wolverine, who of course doesn’t age, to come to Tokyo, presumably so he can thank him one last time for what he did all those years ago. In reality, he’s found a way to usurp the man’s healing abilities for himself and wants our hero to agree to the process. Wolverine doesn’t, Yashida dies and the old man’s goons come after our hero anyway. They are also after Mariko (Okamoto), the old man’s granddaughter whom he left everything to. Of course, she’s on the run with Wolverine.

As expected, this is a movie with lots of action. Wolverine is definitely not shy about using his claws, either. This makes it about as brutal as a PG-13 flick can get. It has all the violence of an R-rated feature with almost none of the blood. All of it is shot very nicely and perhaps the best part is that our hero is not some perfect fighter. He takes his lumps during some spectacular sequences. My favorite of which is an amazing battle on top of a moving bullet-train.

Honestly, the action is the easiest part of the movie to deliver on and it does. The trickier part is what happens between fight scenes. Thankfully, the movie manages to pull it off. The story holds together pretty well and dives into our hero’s psyche. For his part, Jackman presents Wolverine as compelling a figure as he has ever been on the big screen. The real genius of the movie is its simplicity. The last solo feature for our hero, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as well as the ensemble movie before it, X-Men: The Last Stand suffered from overload. There were way too many mutants and just as many plotlines. This time things are pared down so that it really is about one guy. This keeps us engaged in the movie, instead of pulling us in thirty different directions.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I didn’t come into this one expecting much at all. My apprehension was completely the product of my feelings about that first Wolverine movie. This time, the powers that be found the right balance between action and drama, making it an engrossing tale. It doesn’t go as deep metaphorically as a full-blown X-men movie, but it is intriguing and fun at the same time.


  1. Though the action definitely gets in the way of the story at times, most of this still works due to the fact that the Wolverine is a very interesting, and at times, compelling figure to watch on screen. Especially given that Jackman is so good at playing him down to a T by now. Good review Wendell.

    1. Thanks, Dan. Jackman certainly has the role down to a science, so much so that he IS Wolverine.