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THE WOLVERINE (review)

wolverineTHE WOLVERINE
Written by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank
Directed by James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima
 

Jean Gray: This isn’t going to end well. Everyone you love dies.

Wolverine is arguably perhaps the most popular X-Man out there. You would think that spinning him off into his own film series would prove to be a simple process but has, thus far, proved a bit tricky. The difficulty, from what I can tell, has been centered around tone. Wolverine, as embodied (emphasis on the “bodied”) brilliantly by Hugh Jackman, who has now played this incredibly demanding character in no less than seven X-Men films, is moody and difficult to be around, which is fine because he isn’t interested in being around anyone anyway. How do you expand a character like that from a significant presence in an ensemble piece to the central focus of a feature without going too dark or without sacrificing the character in favour of mainstream success? With THE WOLVERINE, I don’t think they’ve fully figured out the answer but they’re getting pretty darn close.

The first Wolverine standalone movie was X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Aside from about ten minutes where Jackman ran around naked in a field, that film did not work. The fact that there have been no “Origins” films for any other X-Men characters since then is another sign of this failure. So it was decided that Darren Aronofsky would direct the next Wolverine movie. With the success of the Christopher Nolan Batman series altering the way comic book movies are conceived and received, Aronofsky, who helmed BLACK SWAN and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, seemed an inspired choice. Sadly, he had to bow out at some point. He was then replaced by James Mangold, who, when he is on, makes movies like WALK THE LINE and COP LAND. When he is off though, he makes movies like KATE AND LEOPOLD. Fortunately for Wolverine fans, Mangold was on here – not Aronofsky-on, but on all the same.

The Wolverine

THE WOLVERINE takes place some time after X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. Logan, as the Wolverine is known to his friends, is hiding out in the Yukon, living in a cave on a mountain, like the animal he obviously believes himself to be. He is having visions of Jean Gray (Famke Janssen), the woman he once loved and had to kill in order to save her from her own powers at one point. Clearly, he is far from over it and wants nothing to do with society. Well, good old society manages to rope him back in when he is invited to Japan to say goodbye to a man who played a significant role in his past. In case you’re unaware of Wolverine’s particular mutation, I mean, aside from the adamantium claws that spring from his fists, he has the ability to heal himself in nearly any circumstance, making it very unlikely for him to die at any point. This journey to Japan provides him with an opportunity to reverse his immortality, so that maybe one day, he can actually be put out of his misery.

the-wolverine-home

Wolverine’s indestructibility can take away from the suspense of it all, so it was refreshing to see the character in such a vulnerable light for a change. When faced with the actual prospect of death, Logan starts to realize what he would actually lose if he were to die, and subsequently begins to open himself up to life and others again without even realizing he is doing it. It is this kind of subtlety that Mangold weaves into THE WOLVERINE when no one is looking. That foundation becomes a solid ground for some of the most exhilarating action sequences I’ve seen this year, most of which feature a great deal of impressive martial artistry. Mangold isn’t able to hold it all together until the somewhat exaggerated climax of the film, but he does something that I did not expect going in at all. He puts the Wolverine back on the right track and, more importantly, hints at a successful future.

3_5

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4 (80%) 2 votes

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