Saturday, August 03, 2013

Film Review - The Wolverine

The Wolverine is the sixth movie in the tent pole X-Men franchise. Hugh Jackman has been starring as Wolverine for more than a decade and is as fierce, savage, and misunderstood as ever in this sixth film appearance and second solo lead outing. The first Wolverine film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), was and continues to be largely reviled.  While The Wolverine does improve upon its predecessor, and constitute one of the long running series peaks, it is doubtful that it will change your mind on the franchise if you haven’t been convinced by the previous efforts.

The Wolverine is set mostly in Japan and, reminiscent of the 007 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, much of the story, setting, and even action is crafted to vibrantly highlight Japanese culture and custom. Wolverine battles ninjas and yakuza in Japanese gardens and through the streets of Tokyo. More than a few shots are framed by beautiful bright pink lotus trees and through the story Wolverine eats with chopsticks, dons a kimono, and even fights with a samurai sword.
As the title suggests The Wolverine is intensely focused on the title character. Aside from a few surprise cameos by Famke Janssen as her character Jean Gray there is scarcely another recognizable star to accompany Hugh Jackman. He successfully bears the weight of the film largely on his own throughout the two hour running time. There are a few welcomingly involved support characters from the mostly Japanese cast such as Tao Okamoto as the love interest and Rila Fukushima as the sidekick but largely the movie is carried by its namesake character.

Hugh Jackman is up to the task and is truly in top form as his most iconic and beloved character. Despite being thirteen years older than when he first appeared as Wolverine in X-Men he somehow seems to have only become bigger, stronger, and meaner. Like Sean Connery in his last James Bond films Hugh Jackman’s aging in the role has served only to season and experience him – he is every bit as believable as the character as he ever was, if not more so.
The Wolverine is surprisingly refreshing at a time when superhero fatigue could be setting in for movie goers. In contrast to the big budget spectacle films that have dominated the box office this year, The Wolverine feels personal, contemplative, and even intimate. The location oriented approach and grim, shadowy visual style make what is still a film with a $100 million plus budget feel almost “indie” and “artsy” compared to heavyweights like Man of Steel and Iron Man 3. This approach serves The Wolverine well but there are also still plenty of explosions, chases, fights, and spectacle to get excited about. At the very least The Wolverine follows up nicely on 2011’s X-Men First Class and beautifully sets up next year’s highly anticipated X-Men Days of Future Past while at best the film marks a new high note for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Grade: B-
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk/Page