Directed by James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee
For all the things that “The Wolverine” manages to do right, ironically what I loved most about the film is what it doesn’t do.
Director James Mangold carves out a solid Wolverine storyline in the Land of the Rising Sun and somehow avoids delving too deeply into action schlock territory.
Even while Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine slices and dices some ninjas and Yakuza in the process.
The film chronicles the life of Logan, aka Wolverine, as he tries to recover from the traumatic events of “X-men 3.”
Hell, I’m still recovering from that movie.
(Fuck you, Brett Ratner!)
Anyways, Logan feels guilt for the death of Jean Grey and has become a vagabond of sorts in the wilds of Canada.
When a figure from Logan’s past during World War II sends a mutant to find and bring him to Tokyo to repay a debt, Wolverine finds himself in the middle of a national conspiracy involving the Yakuza and group of assassins known as the Black Clan.
After the farce of 2009’s “X-men Origins: Wolverine” it was hard not to have low expectations for the latest film about the famous adamantium clawed mutant but somehow Mangold not only managed not to piss me off but also impress me with the film’s overall execution.
(Fuck you, Taylor Kitsch!)
It would have been really simple for Mangold to take the easy route with this movie.
The ingredients were there; Wolverine, ninjas, samurai, Japan.
It’s prime ingredients for a quick cheap blockbuster for the drooling masses.
Mangold does stray into this territory plenty of times during the film but he also takes plenty of refreshing risks in a film that didn’t need to do much to make a profit at the box office.
Mangold manages to make time in between the slicing and dicing action scenes, that the fan boys crave, for some genuinely poetic moments involving Logan and his quest for redemption and find peace with himself.
There’s a great metaphor that Tao Okamoto’s character, Mariko, creates in a scene when she compares Logan’s quest for redemption with the Nagasaki atomic bomb dropping, stating that basically in the face of so much darkness all things can eventually find peace.
It’s a great scene in a movie you would otherwise think would be bereft of and I’m glad Mangold trusted the audiences would have big enough attention spans for it.
(Rogue: “You used to have feelings and depth! Where have they been all this time?!”)
It was also nice to see Mangold not try to shove too many Japanese themes and culture down the throats of the audience.
As a half Japanese American I often have had to sit through movies that take place in Japan/Asia like this where directors always seem to over emphasize the “samurai” and their proud “warrior culture” and “spirituality.”
(What a proud warrior race…)
I could write a whole other review about all the crazy stupid shit that was shoved into “The Last Samurai” alone but I won’t get into that today.
Once again, in a movie like this, it would have been really easy for Mangold to go down the road of cliché and have a scene where Hugh Jackman sits underneath some cherry blossoms, talking to a Buddhist monk about chi, while drinking green tea served by a Japanese lady in a kimono.
Look, it’s a different culture, we get it, but the Japanese have a lot more to them than just the samurai.
There are scenes that of course stray into this cliché, such as an over dramatized kendo match, overly acrobatic ninjas and of course a giant Silver Samurai but none of it is forced fed into the viewer or over emphasized on the audience.
This could have easily devolved into “The Last Samurai: With Claws” but it didn’t and I’m glad.
(Alternate ending for the film directed by Edward Zwick…)
As for the stuff all the fan boys came to see, the action scenes will definitely not disappoint.
There’s plenty of great wire-fu, sword fighting and Hugh Jackman cutting up ninjas and Yakuza to please the most ardent Wolverine fan boys.
(Dude, that’s the Wolverine fighting a guy in samurai armor! Cool!)
What made them great though was the fact that none of the scenes felt over the top or repetitive.
Okay, the action scene on top of the train was definitely over the top, as well as Logan’s fight with the Silver Samurai but it’s so inconsequential to the overall quality of the movie that it shouldn’t bother too many people.
Again, this could have easily went down the road of cliché and over the top and shoved an overabundance of useless action scenes into the movie like “Origins” but somehow Mangold once again strays away from it and the result is a well-executed action film.
None of the action scenes feel forced and they all played a part in the story instead of being there for the sake of having an action scene like most other action schlock.
Overall, “The Wolverine” has enough story to please X-men fans and enough action for the fan boys to enjoy.
It’s not perfect but it’s a damn good Wolverine flick and dare I say the best X-men movie since “X-men 2” (yes, better than “First Class”).
So if you want to see a good action movie this summer or a good Wolverine story or both, this is the movie to see this weekend.
Also stay after the credits; you will not be disappointed…
*cough* “X-men: Days of Future’s Past” *cough*
3.5 out of 5