Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: The Wolverine (Film)

My original plan was to rent X-Men Origins: Wolverine and review it before this one since that is the only X-Men movie I haven’t reviewed on this blog but unfortunately I kept putting it off and putting it off until I ended up just saying “Screw it, let’s just move on” (Which may be my real life mantra. That’s kind of depressing now that I think about it). I will say that, while I don’t want to completely spoil all my thoughts on that flick, the first Wolverine evil was easily worst X-Men movie ever made. It’s biggest problem was that far too much crap and characters were jammed in there (Seriously, why was Gambit in that movie at all?!).

This brings us to The Wolverine. It seemed like Fox was very serious about making a good Wolverine movie since initially they hired Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler) to direct. Sadly the acclaimed director dropped out when he realized he’d have to be in Japan for a year and was replaced by James Mangold who is…a pretty good director. But after watching his films 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line I wasn’t sure he was very good at doing endings (especially with 3:10 to Yuma which was a fantastic movie until the last five minutes ruined everything). Now, like with Pacific Rim, most of what I’ve heard about this film has been extremely positive with most people agreeing it was far and beyond better than the original. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or have gone back to check out the archives you will probably be aware that Wolverine is one of my most hated characters in superhero comics. I once wrote a long blog about why. (He’s not as bad as Barry Allen though; f**k that guy). But I’m a huge Hugh Jackman fan so I’m willing to give it a chance.

Oh by the way; Fox had prior to this film announced their intention to create their own shared superhero universe following the massive success of The Avengers. In theory the shared universe would include the X-Men and the Fantastic Four with this film starting the trend (well, technically it would make the original film retroactively the trend starter, but whatever). So in addition to its own film we may need to look for clues for possible future films seeing as X-Men: Days of Future Past and the FF are both right around the corner.

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: This review contains major spoilers. On the bright side they weren't particularly good plot twists but you should still proceed with caution]

Hmm, I wonder how old Logan will handle this: reasoning or decapitation?
It’s been some time since the X-Men were lured into a battle with Jean Grey after she’d been driven insane by her powers and Logan (Jackman) was forced to kill her. Now he’s living alone in the Yukon, having sworn a vow to never kill again and with only a local grizzly bear to keep him company. However one day, after getting into a fight with a bunch of hunters, he is confronted by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a Japanese mutant who works for Yashida (Will Yun Lee) the owner of the Yashida zaibatsu and a man Logan had shielded from a nuclear blast at Nagasaki (…the f**k?) decades prior. According to Yukio Yashida is on his death bed and wants to thank the former X-Man for saving his life all those years ago. Hesitant at first Logan eventually agrees to fly to Japan to meet his “old friend”. He has no idea that he’ll soon become the centerpiece of a deadly game of familial and corporate conflict.

I’ve said before that while I dislike the Wolverine character in the comic I liked his movie counterpart more due to how charming and likable Hugh Jackman is. This film is no different as Jackman once again does a good job with what has become his signature character. In addition I thought he had tremendous chemistry with Rila Fukushima, even though the character of Yukio wasn’t exactly done correctly (Yukio wasn’t a mutant in the comic, just a badass). The best parts of this film, without question, were the scenes of the two kicking butt and otherwise working together. The fact that a sizable portion of the film separated them was to its determent. Honestly speaking I could watch those too all day and I would be far more interested in a movie focusing on the two of them having adventures around the world than watching this upcoming film X-Men: Days of Future Past. Give me something called “Wolverine/Yukio: Blood Money” or “Wolverine/Yukio: Dead Man’s Hand” and I’ll be first in line.

Also I know this will sound a bit weird but I found myself really attracted to Fukushima in this flick. I think it was the shape of her head in conjunction with the hair color.

Not to mention I got a thing for ladies who are expert swordsmen
[Note: Rila Fukushima is a model, not an expert swordsman]
Anywho the rest of the cast do their jobs fine but I wouldn’t say there were any stand outs. I will say that for the first two thirds of this film I was really into the plot which is something I NEVER thought I’d say about a Wolverine movie. It make sense though since this film is (loosely) based on the original Wolverine miniseries from 1982 which was made with the sole purpose of showing a different side of Wolverine than we had seen previously. That story was political more than anything and this movie has had that vibe too. I liked that the major conflict was considerably more grounded than your average superhero film, especially an X-Men one. For the most part it’s a guy (one that has super powers but a guy nonetheless) just trying to keep the woman he just met from being murdered by the Yakuza and maybe find out why she’s being targeted along the way. It felt like it owed more to The Dark Knight than, say, the Avengers and unlike Superman or Spider-Man Wolverine is the type of character who could benefit from that sort of “realistic” (*coughcough*) and darker take on superhero films. The action was pretty good and I think I enjoyed the train scene for what it was. It was pretty much the best way to present a Wolverine film…though I have to wonder how the police never seemed to get involved hen a hairy foreigner left of atrial of bodies across Japan but whatever.

Oh and hey; a lot of people spoke Japanese in this film. This doesn’t happen nearly as much as you think it should in these types of films where the natives of a country we spend a whole movie in don’t speak their own language (and in some cases have English accents on top of that). So that was cool.

Wolverine at a funeral where he didn't kill the guy being buried? Crazy!
Anyway you might be saying to yourself “Wow, Beta, I can’t believe you liked a Wolverine movie so much. This is kind of out of character for you.” You’d be right; I was really shocked how much I was enjoying this film in the theater…until we got to the third act. Do you recall in my Lone Ranger review when I said the film was basically lousy but the third act was so fun it ended up saving the movie for me? Well this movie does the opposite: everything was going good until that third act and suddenly everything started getting really goddamn stupid. Where the first 2/3rd of the film were nice and simple and fun the last act introduces explanations for the main villain’s plot…and his plot turned out to be extremely convoluted and complicated. Basically, it turns out, that Wolverine’s buddy Yashida wants his healing factor and comes to the conclusion that the best way to get it is to turn it off for most of the movie for no real reason whatsoever (because if you want to steal an invincible man’s powers the best thing to do is to turn them off so he can get killed by any number of things before you get the chance) and use a samurai robot suit to suck the powers out of him. How does that work exactly, seeing as his powers are tied to his DNA? They never say! Magic, I guess! I’ve heard several theories that seem plausible but none of them were said in the film so I can’t count them as canon. “Lazy writing” is the answer to how it works. Hell, why didn’t steal his powers way earlier in the film when they apparently took the time to install a power dampening robot into his chest. “Should we remove his powers now since we’re already here?” “No, let’s go get some smoothies now and deal with him later." Anyway “Wolverine versus the Yukuza/corrupt politicians/corporate sociopaths" is a cool movie but “Wolverine versus and crazy-ass old man in an Iron Man Samurai Suit” is a kids cartoon. Maybe if the first part of the film wasn’t so grounded then the reveal at the end wouldn’t have seemed so out there and weird. The movie was going well but those last scenes exposed this film as a poorly written mess.

Now that pretty much ruined the movie for me but on a less important note that would not have really bothered me that much had the climax not been so bad The Wolverine is not very good at adapting comic book characters. All the X-Men films play fast and loose with character sin their films to the point where it’s practically the franchise’s calling card (the Juggernaut having nothing to do with Professor X, Lady Deathstrike basically was a completely different character, Havok possibly being Cyclops’ father rather than younger brother….and that whole “Deadpool” disaster in the last Wolverine flick) and it’s not the worst here but it certain seemed like the filmmakers did not give a shit at all. Now Yukio being a mutant (and having pink hair) is fine and worked well enough for this film and Mariko being slightly more capable than a helpless victim is appreciated but the changes to Viper are odd. In the comic her only powers are being a really good fighter and being really smart (though not a scientist) but here she has snake themed abilities and is referred to as being a mutant. Um, okay, that seems like a very unnecessary addition to her character. And Shingen Yashida, who was well known from the comic for beating the f**king piss out of Wolverine with a bokken (a wooden sword), has his role from the original miniseries streamlined like crazy to the point that he’s basically a joke here.

But the worst of it is Kenuichio Harada, better known as The Silver Samurai and one of the few memorable villains from Wolverine’s rogues gallery (after Sabertooth and Lady Deathstrike, arguably). He’s mainly famous for two things: 1) wearing samurai armor made of silver metal and 2) his mutant ability to channel energy through his sword. In this movie he’s a human archer who wears a lot of black clothes (and is a ninja or something). So…why the f**k would you even bother having the Silver Samurai in the film if you weren’t going to use him? Couldn’t you just have an original character playing that role? Also, on a creepy and surprisingly relevant note (See: Sword Art Online), in the comic Harada is Mariko’s half-brother and in this movie they’re ex-lovers. Gross. This movie is really gross.

Pictured: A silver samurai
Not Pictured: A character from a Wolverine comic
And on the nitpicky side of things: Wolverine with bone claws is lame. It’s always been lame it’ll always be lame. They tried him having bone claws in the comics during the 90s and no one liked it. They need to fix this for the next film. I don’t know how they’ll do it but they need to figure it out. Also I liked that the film ended with Wolverine and Yukio going off to have more adventures (aside from the logic as to why Wolverine would ever leave Japan after winning the love and a hot, rich and powerful woman who he seems to like him back) as it implies a possible sequel where the two kick ass on a global scale (“Wolverine/Yukio: The Treasure of the Lost Lamp”: Coming 2015). However then the stinger during the credits somewhat puts a damper on that as we see Wolverine several years later with Yukio nowhere to be found. As I haven’t heard anything about Rika Fukushima appearing in X-Men: Days of Future Past I have to assume we won’t be seeing here for a long while if ever again. That sucks.

This is a much better film than X-Men Origins: Wolverine but that’s like saying that punch to the mouth is a lot better than a kick to the balls. The beginning and middle of this movie were great and I loved the team of Wolverine and Yukio. Had things not degraded so quickly I would have probably given this flick a pretty good grade. As it is this picture feels like a convoluted mess that had a tastes of being highbrow (or at least highbrow for superhero comics movies) but in end couldn’t handle it. It’s simple: if the first act involves your protagonist fighting poachers in a bar and the second acts has him fighting gun wielding gangsters having him fight a super villain in a mutant power sucking robot suit in the third act will make your movie look kind of dumb. Add to the fact that the plot doesn’t seem very well thought out then you have a disappointing film that could have been the best superhero film of the year. I hate to say this but Wolverine deserved better than this.

Also you can't argue that he doesn't wear that suit well
I give The Wolverine 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


-Wolverine and Yukio make a great team

-The action is good

-The first and second acts are actually very entertaining


-The third act pretty much negates what I just said

-Weak, convoluted writing

-Badly adapts several key charters from the comics (And made siblings lovers as a result. Gross)

And in regard to its connection to the Fox Superhero Universe: the movie seems to directly set up to X-Men Days of Future Past in a pretty intriguing (if canonically impossible) way. It’s not a lot but neither was Tony Stark’s brief encounter with Nick Fury in the first Iron Man movie. If nothing else Fox did a much better job making me excited for more films than Warner Bros. did with Man of Steel. I'm at least moderately more interested in the next X-Men movie than I was previously.

Logan and Yukio will return in
"Wolverine/Yukio: The Desolation of Smuag"

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